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gradually digressed from the unfortunate to the more successful ; from the qualities of the dead to the circumstances of the living. Each told in his turn the later occurrences and adventures which had fallen to his own share. Each recounted, with that animation, which is peculiar to men in speaking of themselves, where he had been, what connexions he had formed, what difficulties he had encountered, what varieties of destiny he had enjoyed, or endured.
But, as communities, in one point of view, are only collected masses of individuals, the fortunes of particular persons are always interwoven, more or less closely, with the fortunes of nations ; and the consequence was, that they, who began with the mention of their own concerns, soon found themselves launched into more comprehensive themes, topics of more universal interest, vicissitudes more striking and important, than any which merely affected themselves; in short, the great changes of scene which had taken place, and were taking place daily, on the theatre of the world. They found themselves insensibly engaged in the consideration of those matters, which an Englishman, however he may complain, has, almost alone, at once the liberty and ability to discuss ;-the existing posture of affairs throughout the civilized globe, the present condition of the several European powers their future prospects; the foreign relations and domestic economy of their own country ; its various interests; its laws, constitution, and finances; the frame and habits of its society; the character and progress of its general literature; the influence and management of its periodical press; together with the thousand other momentous subjects, which form a part of political and social philosophy. All these points passed rapidly under their examination ; but, in canvassing them, they had yet time to discover, that their sentiments were far from coinciding with those of any person, or any set of persons, who are supposed to give a tone and bias to the public opinion. And the more they conversed or thought, they more they discerned, that the points of difference were weighty and fundamental. No party, and no publication, exactly expressed their re
ligious, political, or literary creed : and it seemed little to be expected, in the existing system of things, that any such party or such publication should appear.
But, instead of detailing the particulars of the ensuing discourse, or tracing the steps by which they arrived at their conclusion, we shall content ourselves with stating the conclusion itself. It appeared the general opinion, although, perhaps, a very extravagant one, that if a number of men, properly qualified for the undertaking, should form themselves into a society, upon fixed and determinate principles, devote themselves to great public objects with a sincere and ardent spirit, and pursue them firmly and consistently without looking to the right or to the left, they might be more serviceable to the State, than any established Institution or Association; and certainly of more use than all the Reviews of the day, added to all the Magazines, piled upon the backs of all the Journals.
“ And why should not we," said one of the party, who will hereafter be distinguished by the name of the Projector, “ why should not we form the ground-work at least of such a Society? The first requisite, I trust, we should all possess,-an honest determination to do our duty; and, what is more, although we wanted the capacity to instruct and improve the public, we should have no interest in perverting or misleading it.”
These words were no sooner uttered, than the idea was caught by all present with enthusiasm. Warm with patriotism, and, it may be, somewhat flushed with wine, what were they not already in imagination ? they overlooked the magnitude and difficulties of the project; they at once constituted themselves a Council of universal Censorship ; a Court of Appeal from every other Tribunal; a perpetual Committee of Public Safety ; a Board of Inquiry, Superintendance, and Control. . They seemed invested for life with that special power, which was granted to the Roman Consuls only on the most pressing emergencies—to provide “ ne quid res-publica detrimenti caperet.'
Who, in fact, has failed to remark, that at certain moments of our being, and in a certain temper of mind, there is an immediate awakening and electrifying effect in the proposal of any plan, which carries with it the appearance of magnificent grandeur or comprehensive utility ? The young grow warm with the heat of their own boiling imaginations; and the old are inspired by contagion from the young
There were also attendant circumstances, which, with regard to many of those assembled, served to diminish, in some measure, the apparent temerity of the undertaking. They were idle; they were either familiarly acquainted with their own country in every point of view; or they had come home to spend the remainder of their days in it, after having resided, during youth, either in foreign kingdoms, or in the more remote parts of the British empire. They were men of the world, and not authors by profession. They were unaccustomed to swear by the dictates of any patron, or preceptor, political or literary; they had no inclination to take their opinions upon trust, and evade the trouble of thinking for themselves. Removed from the infection of party-spirit, unwarped by the bias of mere personal connexion ; and, having been thrown, early and late, among men, not only of various ages and professions, but of almost every nation under heaven, in almost every degree of civilization, they had escaped, or fancied they had escaped, the thraldom of many prejudices, which are sure to fasten themselves, like ivy clinging round an old wall, upon such as have lived long in the same place and with the same companions. In a word, they had leisure, experience, opportunities of information, confidence in themselves; and, in the fervour of the moment, they forgot all their deficiencies.
In the midst, however, of their splendid anticipations, it was asked by one of the more prudent, “Is there not a story in Herodotus of a nation, which used to form their schemes at night over their cups, and afterwards re-consider them in the calmness and sobriety of the morning ; thinking this the most likely method to retain a proper mixture of enterprise and discretion ? It would be as well, I think, for us to follow the example, although I have no desire to cast a damp over the general enthusiasm ; and, for my own part, in any project which aims at public benefit, infinitely prefer a noble rashness to cold and timid calculation. Suppose, then, we adjourn for the present to think over the matter by ourselves; and agree to meet again, on some morning appointed, for the purpose of further deliberation, and the final adjustment of our plan."
This advice was approved ; a day was fixed; and the party separated. Such was the origin of the Council of Ten. We may here add, that a coincidence of number gave rise to the selection of the name.
Such was the origin, indeed! we hear it said, with a sireer-an accidental speech at a convivial meeting ! Well; be it so: many great events have been the result of accident. As we wrote down this proposition, we at first intended to corroborate it by arguments and illustrate it by examples ; but we have determined, although we are at the very commencement of our career, to resist the temptation of displaying the stores of our knowledge and the accuracy of our memories ; for, upon reflection, we begin to suspect, that, however new and paradoxical the assertion may be, there are some of our readers, who are erudite enough to have heard it before, and others, who will be kind enough to take it for granted. But we cannot help expressing our belief, that when instances are hereafter mentioned, in which the agency of chance has been conspicuously and beneficially manifested, the formation of the Council of Ten will be always added to the number.
And yet this agency is more apparent than real. There must, in every case, be predisposing circumstances, before it can operate; the combustibles must be laid before there can be a casual conflagration. On the other hand, to change the allusion, when the scales are equally poised, a feather may drop in, and turn the balance. We therefore flatter ourselves, as we would gently whisper into the ear of any one, who ventures to sneer at the accidental origin of our undertaking, that such an accident could not have happened to men, who had not often meditated on the best means of serving their country, and who did not possess some ability to serve it in the bargain.
But why should we get vehement in fighting with shadows? The public, we feel sure, are already on our side,
and anxious to hear more of us. We shall therefore take this opportunity of the dispersion of our Council, to introduce its members severally to the world, and give a more particular delineation of their several individual characters. They are individuals, although for good and sufficient reasons, we have chosen to give them merely generic appellations. Those idly-busy and officious gentlemen about town, who occupy themselves with every man's business but their own, and imagine that their penetration extends over the whole variety of persons and things, may exert their ingenuity in endeavouring to distinguish the portraits, and recognise the features of some among their numerous acquaintance.
THE PRESIDENT. The first person to be introduced to the public is, of course, our president; who will be more generally designated by the appellation of “ the Censor.” In order to appreciate his character, it will be necessary to give a brief sketch of the events of his life. They are neither many, nor remarkable; but will serve to illustrate the progress of his mind.
Easy in his circumstances, and engaged in no profession, he had married in youth a woman, whom he deeply loved. His own taste, probably, was in favour of contemplation and retirement: but his wife was a person of a high and ardent spirit, who, well knowing his integrity and superior talents, continually pointed out to him the great prizes of influence - authority --reputation, which the lottery of politics holds forth to an English gentleman; and at length kindled in his soul the vivid flame of honourable ambition. Many years of his life were in consequence devoted almost entirely to the task of fitting himself for public life. All his early attainments—all his more mature meditationswere made to bear upon this object. Again, and again, he perused in manhood, the philosophers, historians, and orators, who had charmed him as a boy. Nights and days were consumed in the study of man: in tracing through all