Page images
PDF
EPUB

ducing the representation to the King was not replied to, and towards its conclusion was received with affected laughter. On three India questions of minor moment, whether owing to the unpopu.

.. larity of himself, or of the subject, he was overpowered by continued and violent vociferation. And on another of these occasions, instead of threatening, like a distinguished modern leader * of Opposition, not long ago, when similarly assailed, " to speak for three hours longer," he stopped short in his argument to remark, that “ he could teach a pack of hounds to yelp with more melody and equal comprehension."

At another time, having occasion to rise with papers in his hand, a rough-hewn country gentle man, who had more ear perhaps for this melody of the hounds than for political discussion, exclaimed with something of a look of despair, " I hope the Honourable Gentleman does not mean to read that large bundle of papers, and bore us with a long speech into the bargain." Mr. Burke was so swoln, or rather so nearly suffocated with rage, that, utterly incapable of utterance, he ran out of the House “ Never before," said the facetious George Selwyn, who told the story with great effect, "did I see the fable realized-a lion put to flight by the braying of an ass.”

Muzzling the lion was in fact the colloquial term used at the time for these attempts to prevent him from speaking; and as several of Mr. Pitt's younger friends were among the principal actors

* Right Honourable George Tierney.

concerned, the Minister was accused of promoting it. It is certain that he then thought him his most formidable opponent, chiefly on account of the variety of his powers, which made it difficult to give him, whát Mr. Fox's more straight-forward mode of attack commonly received, a complete answer. The same reason, that of muzzling the lion towards himself, has been assigned for the Minister allowing the inquiry into the conduet of Mr. Hastings to go on, after having in the first instance decidedly put his face against it.'' 11 An able anonymous writer of that day expresses his surprise at the indecorous interruptions" given, to a man possessed of an eloquence with which all that remains of antiquity must lose in the competition ;!! but the truth was, they had been so frequent towards other popular men, that on a motion by Sir George Saville, a session or two before, the curious spectacle was exhibited of the Speaker (Mr. Cornwall), severely reprimanding a large body of Members in a long speech, as :“ a set of gentlemen who spent most of their time elsewhere, and did not deem it necessary to attend to any part of the debate, in order that they might decide with decency, or vote with conviction.' - In the month of April, when, on account of being so lately ejected from office and from public favour, an act of respect became additionally kind, the University of Glasgow elected Mr. Burke its Lord Rector, and re-elected him in the following November. His installation drew a large concourse of spectators, including all distinguished for rank or eminence in the surrounding country, anxious to see a man of whom they had heard so much ; seve, ral of the literati, among whom was Professor Dugald Stewart, accompanied him from Edin. burgh. An elegant speech expressed his thanks for the honour done him, his regard for the learning and talent assembled within the walls in which they were, and esteem for the national character, by which he confessed he had been favourably impressed. "They are a people,” said he, in a conversation with Mr. Windham, “ acute and proud, of infinite pretension, and no inconsiderable performance; and, notwithstanding their offensive egotism and nationality, which it seems a point of conscience to push down every body's throat, on the whole very estimable.” He afterwards took a tour to the Highlands, and found not only, an increase of pleasure, but of health, from the journey. :11

In the autumn, his house at Beaconsfield was entered in the night, and robbed of a quantity of plate and other articles of value; in allusion to the conveyance which it appeared brought the thieves from London, and carried them and their booty back, he, used familiarly to term it the curricle robbery. Not long afterwards he found time to draw up for a distant relation, Mr. E. P. Burke, the outline of a course of “ Lectures on Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce," intended: 'to be filled up and delivered by that gentleman at Merchant Taylor's Hall, Bristol; they are said to haye borne the stamp of his characteristic genius,

knowledge, and comprehensive acquaintance with commercial principles and history.

About the same time, death withdrew from the world his old acquaintance Dr. Johnson, from whom, in the vicissitudes of 27 years, no estrangement occurred to interrupt their mutual admiration and regard. Visiting him in his last illness, with some other friends, Mr. Burke remarked, that the presence of strangers might be oppressive to him.

No, Sir," said the dying moralist, " it is not so ; and I must be in a wretched state indeed, when your company would not be a delight to me.” He followed him to the grave as a mourner ; and in contemplating his character, applied to it a fine passage from Cicero, which might equally suit his own-Intentum enim animum quasi arcum habebat, nec lunguescens succumbebat senectuti. When some one censured Johnson's general rudeness in society, he replied with equal consideration and truth, “ It is well, when a man comes to die, if he has nothing worse to accuse himself of than some harshness in conversation.” He often remarked that Johnson was greater in discourse than even in writing, and that Boswell's Life was the best record of his powers; in 1790, he became one of the committee formed to erect a statue to his memory.

During the summer, he received a visit from his old friend Mr. Shackleton and his daugher, an ingenious lady, already introduced to the reader under the name of Leadbeater, who, charmed with the situation, wrote a short poem descriptive of the scenery, the mansion, and a faithful sketch of its owner, of which the following forms the introduction.

All hail, ye woods, in deepest gloom array'd!
Admit a stranger through your rev'rend shade,
With tịmid step to seek the fair retreat,
Where Virtue and where Genius fix their seat :
In vain retiring from the public gaze,
Not deepest shades can veil so bright a blaze.

Lo! there the mansion stands in princely pride;
The beauteous wings extend on either side ;
Unsocial

pomp

flies from the cheerful gate,
Where hospitality delights to wait ;
•} A brighter grace her candid smile bestows,

Than the majestic pillars' comely rows.
Enter these ever-open doors, and find
All that can strike the eye, or charm the mind :
Painting and sculpture there their pride display, :
And splendid chambers deck'd in rich array.

But these are not the honours of the dome
Where Burke resides, and strangers find a home;
To whose glad hearth the social virtues move,
Paternal fondness, and connubial love,
Benevolence unwearied, friendship true,
And' wit unforced, and converse ever new,
And manners, where the polish'd court we trace,
Combined with artless nature's noble grace.

*

[ocr errors]

When the sad voice of indigence he hears,
And pain and sickness, eloquent in tears
Forsakes the festive board with pitying eyes,
Mingles the healing draught,t and sickness fies;
Or, if the mind be torn with deep distress,
Seeks, with kind care, the grievance to redress.
This, this is Edmund Burke--and this his creed
This is sublime and beautiful indeed.

† There was in this (as indeed in every other part of the character) something more than mere poetic compliment of

U

« PreviousContinue »