Page images
PDF
EPUB

very good, and shows of what he was capable when removed from the arena of party politics and the feverish agitation of the turf. Some of his characters also (looking merely to effect) are admirably drawn; the distinctive traits judiciously selected, and the lights and shades artistically worked in. Take, for example, his Luttrell, his Lady Harrowby, or (best of all) his Byron. What too often mars the workmanship is the fastidiousness, the cynicism, the irresistible tendency to find spots or mingle bitters with the sweets :

•Medio de fonte leporum Surgit amari aliquid quod in ipsis fontibus angat.? Where was the necessity for spoiling the touching tribute to Lady Worcester by the remark, that her defects may be ascribed to her education, and to the actual state of the society in which she lived;' feeling, as he should have felt, that the surviving members of that society, including those nearest and dearest to her, would regard the observation as a slur? Or why accept without inquiry the statement that she died in the arms of Dr. Hume, when any member of the family would have told him that she died in the arms of her husband, with her mother and two sisters in the room?

* Let blameless Bethell if he will, excel

Ten metropolitans in preaching well.' •Whom did Pope mean?' asked Boswell after quoting this couplet. I don't know, Sir,' replied Johnson, but, depend upon it, he meant to vex somebody. Greville has been suspected of the same charitable intention when, the day after his arrival in town, after taking Panshanger on his way from Newmarket, he writes :

My journal is getting intolerably stupid, and entirely barren of events. I would take to miscellaneous and private matters if any fell in my way, but what can I make out of such animals as I herd with and such occupations as I am engaged in ?'

His first meeting with Macaulay at Holland House is graphically told, and his altered estimate of the brilliant essayist at a subsequent period is one of the few instances in which his change of opinion may be accepted as an indication of the fact. Macaulay was a very different man in 1833, when Sydney Smith called him a book in breeches, from what he had become in 1850, when Greville sets him down as 'a marvellous, an unrivalled (in his way), and a delightful talker.' Brougham is overdrawn; although it was no easy matter to exaggerate either

the

or his coceaking of strville's vernacWords whi

the marvellous range and flexibility of his intellectual powers or his eccentricities.

In speaking of style, we make, of course, the Horatian allowance for blots. Greville's vernacular epithets are in exceedingly bad taste, and he has favourite words which he commonly misapplies. The imputation of madness is peculiarly annoying, because it affects the family as well as the individual. But it is a frequent imputation with Greville. Erskine was mad, so was Brougham; so were both the Kings he served under ; Wilkie was rather mad;' indeed, every one guilty of the slightest oddity or eccentricity is mad; and, tried by this criterion, most of us are mad: semel insanivimus omnes.

Vulgar' and 'vulgarity,' again, are of constant occurrence, when common,''common-looking,' or 'coarse,' would be more appropriate. Poor William IV. is vulgar as well as mad. Washington Irving is rather vulgar' (he was not at all). Thiers is ' a little man, about as tall as Sheil, and as mean and vulgar-looking. As to Macaulay, “it was not until he stood up that I was aware of all the vulgarity and ungainliness of his appearance.' In each of these instances the term is misapplied and the observation superficial

"In Conrad's form seems little to admire,

Though his dark eyebrow shades a glance of fire;
Yet, on the whole, who paused to look again,

Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men.' At a dinner duly recorded, “Lord Holland said that Fox made it a rule never to talk in Johnson's presence, because he knew all his conversations were recorded for publication, and he did not choose to figure in them. Did it never occur to Greville, or his editor, that other people might feel like Fox? that this practice of journalising, conducted on such principles, may end by becoming the plague, the bane, the curse of society? Fixing and perpetuating current scandals to be mistaken at no distant period for facts, is like condensing noxious vapours instead of allowing them to evaporate into thin air, or bottling and laying by decoctions of laurel leaves without labelling * Poison' on the flasks. It is not only the great that must be content to live like bees in a glass hive:

All their faults observed, Set in a notebook, learn'd and conn'd by rote.' It is not only kings and princes that must refrain from being easy, careless, and communicative in the presence of any member of their suite. No one of any rank or station will be safe. No one, man or woman, can be sure at any distance of time, that some careless expression may not crop up against them, to wound a relative or alienate a friend : that some long-forgotten calumny, some scandal refuted and lived down, may not be suddenly revived when the lapse of time, or the nature of the charge, has rendered disproof impossible. Mr. Reeve states, or means to state, that he has sought to publish nothing which could give pain or annoyance to persons still alive.* In other words, he conceived himself invested with a discretionary power of suppression, and has exercised it with the best intentions. Then how, without admitting to be right what we feel to be wrong, are we to avoid questioning his knowledge of the world, his acquaintance with society, his experience of the ordinary springs of action, of the commonest feelings that influence mankind ?

one, “The only omissions I have thought it right to make are a few passages and expressions relating persons and occurrences in private life, in which I have sought to publish nothing which could give pain or annoyance to persons still alive.'-Preface.

Is it not pain or annoyance to a Sovereign to find such terms as beast, dog, ass, blackguard, buffoon, coward, applied to her uncles and immediate predecessors on the throne ? Are the whole Royal Family of England supposed to be wanting in sensibility and self-respect ? Can it be otherwise than galling to one nobleman to have an indiscreet conversation brought up against him, or to another to be told that he tamely submitted to an insult for the sake of place? Is it not pain or annoyance to a gentleman to be accused of depreciating an honoured brother, or to a lady to be made to bear witness against a revered father? Is it consistent with any known code of honour or courtesy to insinuate that a woman of rank took a fancy for a convict and sought a private interview with him in his cell? or to print in plain language that a charming actress, after undergoing a sort of persecution for her good looks, lost them and became something like a bore? Will Mr. Reeve make no allowance for natural feelings of any kind ? for filial love, brotherly affection, honest pride, or excusable self-love? Does he suppose a new peer likes to be told that he is one of a horribly low set, or a great landed noble, that he would be utterly insignificant without his broad acres ? The book fairly bristles with points of annoyance. It is running over with deleterious or dangerous matter; and to hurry edition after edition through the press, without regard to consequences, is to act like the lighterman who steers a loosely-packed cargo of gunpowder and benzoline through a populous district, with a fire in his cabin and a lighted pipe between his teeth.

populous

There is another consideration which might well have impressed the necessity of greater caution upon Mr. Reeve. The reputation confided to him, of which at all events he assumed the guardianship, was at stake. To what has it been brought? Ubi lapsus? Quid feci? By asserting that he has simply obeyed instructions, he cuts the ground from under us when we try to find excuses for Greville, but he does not strengthen his own position. He was surely free to disobey instructions which affected third parties or compromised his friend. If the living Greville had sent him a libellous, treacherous, or improper letter for publication, would he have published it?

There are people who think it a mitigation that the principal sufferers or complainants belong to the higher class, that monarchy and aristocracy are the main objects of attack. But even monarchy and aristocracy, princes and nobles, are entitled to fair play. Let them be subjected to the fiery ordeal of public discussion (which they have stood and will stand again) by all means. They claim no immunity. Bare the mean heart that lurks beneath a star'; but don't defame or libel them: don't distort their conduct or motives: don't set down all the bad you hear about them and suppress all the good ; and if they occasionally cry out or turn upon their assailants, don't rail at them like the

fishmonger who cursed the eels for not lying still to be skinned. : “A mixture of lies,' says Bacon, .doth ever add pleasure.

Doth any man doubt that if there were taken from men's minds vain opinions, false valuations, imaginations as one would, and the like vinum dæmonum, but it would leave the minds of a number of men poor shrunken things.' If this book were subjected to a similar operation—if vain opinions, false valuations, and imaginations as one would—if all the ingredients to which its popularity is mainly owing were taken from it, the result would be much the same: it would be left a poor shrunken thing, a thing of shreds and patches, like Jack's coat (in the • Tale of a Tub') when the gold lace and embroidery were stripped off. No amount of correction or revision would remove the all-pervading taint of cynicism, or confer the inestimable quality of truth.

We are not aware that we have overstepped by a hair's breadth the strictest limits of literary courtesy in our strong condemnation of this book. We have tacitly assumed that Greville wrote the most objectionable passages without a view to publication, and that Mr. Reeve published them without intending to injure or annoy anybody. What is done cannot be undone.

But

But a grave error has been committed, which must not and (we think) will not be repeated. We venture to prophesy that the remaining portions of the Journal will not see the light in our time-certainly not in the same crude, mischievous, unsatisfactory form. Nor will the world be much the losers should any meditated publication of the same sort be deferred for the next hundred years. If contemporary history cannot be written without the aid of such memoirs, we had rather do without contemporary history -We can wait; for it is our firm conviction that any information or entertainment which may be derived from them is far more than counterbalanced by the annoyance they create, the distrust they inspire, the angry feelings they foster, and the false impressions of character and conduct they diffuse.

WONDE

ART. II.-1. Compendium Theologiæ Moralis. Auctore P. Joanne

Petro Gury, S.J. Romæ, ex Typographiâ Polyglottâ S. C. de

Propagandâ Fide. 2 vols. 1872. 2. Casus Conscientiæ. Auctore P. J. P. Gury, S.J., Theologiæ

Moralis Professore. Editio in Germaniã Prima. Ratis

bonæ, 1865. 3. Compendium Theologie Moralis ad usum Theologiæ Candida

torum. A J. P. Moullet. 2 vols. Prati, 1846. 4. La Chiesa e lo Stato del P. Matteo Liberatore, D. C. D. G. Seconda Edizione, corretta ed accresciuta. Napoli, 1872. TONDERFULLY supple as may seem to be the Mechanism

of the Society of Jesus (a sketch of which we gave in our last Number), it constitutes the mere skeleton of a system that derives animation from essences of doctrine too subtle to be compressed within the bounds of palpable provisions. Of such essences there exists but one visible symbol, the mystic letters A.M.D.G. (ad majorem Dei gloriam) conspicuously emblazoned as a sacred sign on the frontispiece of every work, structure, or creation, with which the Order acknowledges itself to be identified. Through the motto abbreviated into these four initial letters the Society of Jesus ostentatiously advertises itself as in possession of a superior knowledge in divine things, that can furnish means of specific efficacy for ensuring the upward progress of humanity towards a state of purified existence capable of reflecting the bright imagery of God's enhanced glorification. No other religious corporation has ever put forth kindred pretensions. It will be our endeavour to inquire what particular lights of thought and doctrine mark off this Jesuit illumination

from

« PreviousContinue »