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striking out sparkles of truth, if not merit, is at least felicity.
Here I might have rested. But when I found that the great advocate, Mr. Erskine, condescended to resort to these bumper toasts, as the pure and exuberant fountains of politics and of rhetoric, (as I hear lic did, in three or four speeches made in defence of certain worthy citizens, I was rather let down a little. Though still somewhat proud of myself, I was not quite so proud of my voucher. Though he is no idolater of faine, in some way or other Mr. Erskine will always do himself honor. Methinks, however, in following the precedents of these toasts, lic seemned to do more credit to his diligence as a special pleader than to his invention as an orator. To those who did not know the abundance of his resources, both of genius and erudition, there was something in it that indicated the want of a good assortment, with regard to richness and varicty, in tho magazine of topics and commonplaces which I suppose he keeps by him, in imitation of Cicero and other renowned declaimers of antiquity.
Mr. Erskine supplied something, I allow, from the stores of his imagination, in metamorphosing tho jovial toasts of clubs into solemn special arguments at the bar. So far the thing showed talent: however, I must still prefer the bar of the tavern to the other bar. The toasts at the first hand were better than the arguments at the second. Even when the toasts began to grow old as sarcasms, they were washed down with still older pricked election Port; then the acid of the wine inade somo amends for thic want of anything piquant in thc wit. But when his Graco gave them a second transformation, and brought out
the vapid stuff which had wearied the clubs and disgusted the courts, the drug made up of the bottoms of rejected bottles, all smelling so wofully of the cork and of the cask, and of everything except the honest old lamp, and when that sad draught had been farther infected with the jail pollution of the Old Bailey, and was dashed and brewed and ineffectually stumined again into a senatorial exordium in the IIouse of Lords, I found all the high flavor and mantling of my honors tasteless, flat, and stale. Unluckily, the new tax on wine is felt even in the greatest fortunes, and his Grace subunits to take up with the heel-taps of Mr. Erskine.
I have had the ill or good fortune to provoke two great men of this age to the publication of their opinions: I mean Citizen Thomas Paino, and his Grace the **** of
I am not so great a leveller as to put these two great men on a par, cither in the state, or the republic of letters; but “the field of glory is a field for all." It is a large onc, indeed'; and we all may run, God knows whero, in chase of glory, over the boundless expanse of that wild leath whose horizon always flies before us. I assure his Grace, (if he will yot give me leave to call him so,) whatever may be said on the authority of the clubs or of the bar, that Citizen Paine (who, they will have it, hunts with me in couples, and who only moves as I drag him along) has a sufficient activity in his own native benevolence to dispose and enablo him to take the lead for himself. He is ready to blasphcme his God, to insult his king, and to libel the Constitution of his country, without any provocation from me or any encouragement from his Graco. I assure bion that I shall not be guilty of the injustice of charging
Mr. Painc's next work against religion and human society upon his Grace's cxcellent speech in the Ilouse of Lords. I farther assure this noble Duke that I neither encouraged vor provoked that worthy citizen to seek for plenty, liberty, safety, justice, or lenity, in the famine, in the prisons, in the decrees of Convention, in the revolutionary tribunal, and in the guillotine of Paris, rather than quictly to take up with what lie could find in the glutted markets, the unbarricadocd strccts, the drowsy Old Bailey. judges, or, at worst, the airy, wholesome pillory of Old England. The choice of country was his own taste. The writings were the effects of his own zcal. In spite of his friend Dr. Priestley, he was a free agent. I admit, indeed, that my praises of the British government, loaded with all its incumbrances, clogged with its pcers and its beef, its parsons and its pudding, its commons and its bccr, and its dull slavish liberty of going about just as onc plcases, had something to provoke a jockey of Norfolk,* who was inspired with the resolute ambition of becoming a citizen of France, to do something which might render him worthy of naturalization in that grand asylum of persecuted merit, something which should entitle him to a place in the senate of the adoptive country of all the gallant, yenerous, and humanc. This, I say, was possible. But the truth is, (with great defcrence to his Grace I say it,) Citizen Painc acted without any provocation at all; he acted solely from the native impulses of his own excellent heart.
IIis Grace, like an ablc orator, as he is, begins with giving me a great deal of praise for talents which I do not possess. IIe does this to entitle limsell, on the
* Mr. Painc is a Norfolk man, froin Thetforil.
credit of this gratuitous kindness, to exaggerate my abuse of the parts which his bounty, and not that of Naturc, las bestowed upon me. In this, too, he has condescended to copy Mr. Erskinc. These priests (I hope they will cxcuse me, I mean priests of the Rights of Man) begin by crowning me with their flowers and their fillots, and bedewing me with their odors, as a preface to their knocking me on the head with their consecrated axcs. I have injured, say they, the Constitution; and I have abandoned the Whig party and the Whig principles that I professed. I do not mean, my dear Sir, to defend myself against his Graco. I have not much interest in what the world shall think or say of mo; as little has the world an interest in what I shall think or say of any one in it; and I wish that his Grace had suffered an unhappy man to enjoy, in his retreat, thic melancholy privileges of obscurity and sorrow. At any rate, I have spoken and I have written on the subject. If I have written or spoken so poorly as to be quite forgot, a fresh apology will not make a more lasting impression. “I must let the tree lio as it falls.” Perlaps I must take some shame to myself. I confess that I have acted on my own principles of govcriment, and not on thost of his Grace, which are, I dare say, profound and wise, but which I do not pretend to understand. As to the party to which he alludes, and which has long taken its leave of me, I believe the principles of the book which he condemus are very conforınable to the opinions of many of the inost considerable and most grave in that description of politicians. A few, indeed, who, I admit, are equally respectable in all points, differ from me, and talk his Grace's language. I am too feeble to con.
tend with them. They have the field to themselves. There are others, very young and very ingenious per. sons, who form, probably, the largest part of what his Grace, I believe, is pleased to consider as that party. Some of them were not born into the world, and all of them were children, when I entered into that connection. I give due credit to the censorial brow, to the broad phylacteries, and to the imposing gravity of those magisterial rabbins and doctors in the cabala of political science. I admit that “ wisdom is as the gray hair to man, and that learning is like i honorable old age.” Dit, at a time when liberty is a good deal talked os, perhaps I might be excused, if I caught something of the general indocility. It inight not be surprising, if I lengthened my chain at link or two, and, in an age of relaxed discipline, gave a trilling indulgence to my own notions. If that could be allowed, perhaps I miglit soinetimes (ly accident, and without an impardonable crime) trust as much to my own very careful and very laborious, though perhaps somewhat purblind disquisitions, as to their soaring, intuitive, cayle-eyed authority. But the modern liberty is a precious thing. It must not be profaned by too vulgar an use. It belongs only to the chosen few, who are born to the hereditary representation of the whole democracy, and who leavo nothing at all, no, not the oflal, to us poor ontcasts of the plebcian race.
Amongst those gentlemen who came to authority as soon or sooner than they came of age I do not mcan to include bis Gracc. With all those nativo titles to empire over our minds which distinguish the others, lie has a large share of experience. le cer tainly ought to understand the British Constitution