« AnteriorContinuar »
armies of self-exterminating foes. Poor child ! immortal child ! Slight were thy trespasses on this earth, heavy was thy punishment, and it is to be hoped, nay, it is certain, that this disproportion did not escape the eye which, in the algebra of human actions, estimates both sides of the equation.
Lord Byron was of opinion that people abused Horace Walpole for several sinister reasons, of which the first is represented to be that he was a gentleman. Now, I, on the contrary, am of opinion that he was not always a gentleman, as particularly in his correspondence with Chatterton. On the other hand, it is but just to recollect that in retaining Chatterton's MSS. (otherwise an unfeeling act, yet chiefly imputable to indolence), the worst aggravation of the case under the poor boy's construction, viz., that if Walpole had not known his low rank "he would not have dared to treat him in that way,” though a very natural feeling, was really an unfounded one. Horace Walpole (I call him so, because he was not then Lord Orford) certainly had not been aware that Chatterton was other than a gentleman by birth and station. The natural dignity of the boy, which had not condescended to any degrading applications, misled this practised man of the world. But recurring to Lord Byron's insinuations as to a systematic design of running Lord Orford down, I beg to say that I am no party to any such design. It is not likely that a furious Conservative like myself, who have the misfortune also to be the most bigoted of Tories, would be so. I disclaim all participation in any clamour against Lord Orford which may have arisen on democratic feeling. Feeling the profoundest pity for the "marvellous boy” of Bristol, and even love, if it be possible to feel love for one who was in his unhonoured grave before I was born, I resent the conduct of Lord Orford, in this one instance, as universally the English public has resented it. But generally, as a writer, I admire Lord Orford in a very high degree. As a letter-writer, and as a brilliant sketcher of social aspects and situations, he is far superior to any French author who could possibly be named as a competitor. And as a writer of personal or anecdotic history, let the reader turn to Voltaire's Siècle de Louis Quatorze, in order to appreciate his extraordinary merit.
Next will occur to the reader the forgery of “Junius.” Who did that ? Oh, villains that have ever doubted since Junius Identified! Oh, scamps-oh, pitiful scamps ! You, reader, perhaps. belong to this wretched corps. But, if so, understand that you belong to it under false information. I have heard myriads talk upon this subject. One man said to me, “ My dear friend, I sympathise with your fury. You are right. Righter a man cannot be. Rightest of all men you are.” I was right-righter-rightest ! That had happened to few men. But again this flattering man went on, “Yes, my excellent friend, right you are, and evidently Sir Philip Francis was the man. His backer proved it. The day after his book appeared, if any man had offered me exactly two thousand to one in guineas, that Sir Philip was not the man, by Jupiter ! I would have declined the bet. So divine, so exquisite, so Grecian in its perfection, was the demonstration, the apodeixis (or what do you call it in Greek ?), that this brilliant Sir Philip—who, by the way, wore his order of the Bath as universally as ever he taxed Sir William Draper with doing-had been the author of ' Junius.' But here lay the perplexity of the matter. At the least five-and-twenty excellent men proved by posthumous friends that they, every mother's son of them, had also perpetrated 'Junius.””
“ Then they were liars," I answered. “Oh no, my right friend,” he interrupted, “ not liars at all ; amiable men, some of whom confessed on their deathbeds (three to my certain knowledge) that, alas ! they had erred against the law of charity. ‘But how ?' said the clergyman. 'Why, by that infernal magazine of sneers and all uncharitableness, the “ Letters of Junius.”' 'Let me understand you,' said the clergyman: ‘you wrote “ Junius”??Alas ! I did,' replied A. Two years after another clergyman said to another penitent, . And so you wrote “Junius”?? 'Too true, my dear sir. Alas ! I did,' re
One year later a third penitent was going off, and upon the clergyman saying, * Bless me, is it possible ? Did you write “Junius”?'he replied, 'Ah, worshipful sir, you touch a painful chord in my remembrances-I now wish I had not. Alas! reverend sir, I did.' Now, you see,” went on my friend, “so many men at the New Drop, as you may say, having with tears and groans taxed themselves with ‘Junius' as the climax of their offences, one begins
to think that perhaps all men wrote · Junius.'” Well, so far there
But when my friend contended also that the proofs arrayed in pamphlets proved the whole alphabet to have written “ Junius,” I could not stand his absurdities. Deathbed confessions, I admitted, were strong. But as to these wretched pamphlets, some time or other I will muster them all for a field-day ; I will brigade them, as if the general of the district were coming to review them; and then, if I do not mow them down to the last man by opening a treacherous battery of grapeshot, may all my household die under a fiercer “ Junius”! The true reasons why any man fancies that " Junius ” is an open question must be these three :
First, that they have never read the proofs arrayed against Sir Philip Francis ; this is the general case.
Secondly, that, according to Sancho's proverb, they want better bread than is made of wheat. They are not content with proofs or absolute demonstrations. They require you, like the witch of Endor, to raise Sir Philip from the grave, that they may crossexamine him.
Thirdly (and this is the fault of the able writer who unmasked Sir Philip), there happened to be the strongest argument that ever picked a Bramah-lock against the unknown writer of “ Junius” apply this, and if it fits the wards, oh Gemini! my dear friend, but you are right-righter-rightest; you have caught “ Junius ” in a rabbit-snare.
THE REVOLT OF LABOUR.
HE disturbances and disruptions in the political world have
an extraordinary importance for those whose business it is to prepare for the next general election. Up to the time when Mr. Parnell's manifesto appeared, the course for either side seemed to have been definitely marked out. “ Home Rule!” was to be the battle-cry on the one hand; on the other, “No Dismemberment of the Empire !” It must have been understood that the issue of the conflict would be determined in England, where the returns were far more doubtful than in Scotland or Wales; and yet the party managers on neither side seemed to suspect that the fight might be fought on other grounds than that which they had chosen. The Gladstonian leaders would not see that while the mass of their English supporters had never much interest, because never much belief, in the political woes of Ireland, they had tired of hearing of those woes and had discovered others of their own. On the Conservative side the party officials did not appear to understand that Socialist Radicalism was preparing for them some questions that would swallow up Home Rule in due time; nor did they seem conscious that their followers were even more sick than their foes of an Irish question which would have gone to rest long ago but for the stirrings and strivings of rival politicians. To be sure, the Eccles election did bring some awakening to the commissioned party-men who are to direct the field in the next great electoral contest. It is at the polls that these gentlemen seek information of what the public mind is most concerned with, and the Eccles election enlightened them by the only evidence-except mob-parade—that ever seems to strike upon their vision. Then it became more clearly understood that there is a newer thing than Home Rule; that the Radical Socialist doctrine has seized upon the hopes and the imagination of the multitude, and that before long they might have to adjust their electioneering tactics to the discovery.
At that time, however, the general election looked a long way off—two years, perhaps ; while in two months, in two days if need be, sufficient stove-heat can be got up to ripen an entirely new crop of party principles. Then, all on a sudden, the Gladstone-Parnell explosion ; of which it is enough for my present purpose to say that it has produced these results amongst others : In what it has revealed it has yet more disgusted Englishmen with Home Rule as the grand question of the day ; the distractions it has brought upon the Gladstone-Parnellite alliance strongly invite the Government to dissolve Parliament before the humiliating confusion of their foes can be healed; and the utter discredit into which Home Rule has fallen suggests to both parties that those candidates are most likely to win in England who turn from the subject, and take up others in which Englishmen are more nearly and deeply concerned. In other words, both parties will be driven to readjust their electioneering tactics sooner than they expected.
In doing so, they will probably begin by asking themselves a question which both would prefer to answer in the negative. The heavings of popular discontent which we see about us in so many directions, are they likely to continue? Is the importunity of which they are a sign likely to increase ? That it is widespread we know, for it extends to every quarter of the civilised world ; but may it not be a temporary movement amongst our own sober, orderly, and sensible people ? These are grave questions, considering how much depends upon the accurate Yes or No. Upon party leadership they press for an answer that must be acted on at no distant time ; and the consequences may be serious if party leadership on either side fails to come to right conclusions. This will appear when we consider that if the so-called Revolt of Labour is taken for a passing agitation, the party directorates may be more inclined to humour it and profit by it than if it were seen to be a revolt indeed, and therefore not to be trifled with for mere election purposes.