Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the least intoxicated among the multitude. A frightful tumult succeeded to the stillness which had reigned in the city when the French troops first entered it. The cries of the pillaged inhabitants, the coarse imprecations of the soldiers, were mingled with the lamentations of those who had lost parents, children, their all, in the conflagration. Pillage became universal; the ruins were covered with motley groups of soldiers, peasants, and marauders of all countries and aspects, seeking for the valuable articles they once contained.

CXXIII. - CANNING AND BROUGHAM.

ANONYMOUS.

[This account of a passage of words between Canning and Brougham appeared ori ginally in the European Magazine. The debate took place in April, 1823. Canning had recently come into the cabinet, as secretary for foreign affairs, in consequence of the death (by his own hands) of the Marquis of Londonderry, more generally known as Lord Castleroagh. The charge brought against Canning was, that he had come into office without extorting any distinct pledges from his colleagues in favor of Catholio emancipation, to which he was well known to be friendly; and this formed the bur den of Brougham's attack. Canning's defence was, that if that concession had been insisted

upon, it would have been impossible to form an administration to carry on the government of the country; and that it was better to secure some desirable results, than to lose the whole by insisting upon having either the whole or none.

Tho tone of debate in the English House of Commons is more guarded and decorous than that of our House of Representatives; and Canning's language was an unusually vehement expression of feeling.]

Though they resembled each other in standing foremost and alone in their respective parties, they were in

every

other respect opposed as the zenith and nadir, or as light and darkness.

This difference extended even to their personal appearance. Canning was airy, open, and prepossessing; Brougham seemed stern, hard, lowering, and almost repulsive. The head of Canning had an air of extreme elegance : that of Brougham was much the reverse ; but still, in whatever way it was viewed, it gave a sure indication of the terrible power of the inhabitant within. Canning's features were handsome; his eye, though deeply ensconced under his eyebrows, was full of

- the eyes

sparkle and gayety. The features of Brougham were harsh in the extreme : while his forehead shot up to a great elevation, his chin was long and square ; his mouth, nose, and eyes seemed huddled together in the centre of his face. absolutely lost amid folds and corrugations; and while he sat listening, they seemed to retire inward, or to be veiled by a filmy curtain, which not only concealed the appalling glare which shot away from them when he was roused, but rendered his mind and his purpose a sealed book to the keenest scrutiny

of man.

Canning's passions appeared upon the open campaign of his face, drawn up in a ready array, and moved to and fro at every turn of his oration, and every retort in that of his antagonist: those of Brougham remained within, as in a citadel which no artillery could batter and no mine blow up; and even when he was pitting forth all the power of his eloquence, when every ear was tingling at what he said, and while the immediate object of his invective was writhing in helpless and indescribable agony, his visage retained its cold and brassy hue, and he triumphed over the passions of other men by seeming to be wholly without passion himself. The whole form of Canning was rounded, and smooth, and graceful; that of Brougham angular, long, and awkward. When Canning rose to speak, he elevated his countenance, and seemed to look round for the applause of those about him, as an object dear to his feelings; while Brougham stood coiled and concentrated, reckless of all but the power that was within himself. From Canning there was expected the glitter of wit and the flow of spirit - something showy and elegant. Brougham stood up as a being whose powers and intentions were all a mystery — whose aim and effect no living man could divine. You bent forward to catch the first sentence of the one, and felt human nature elevated in the specimen before you ; you crouched and shrank back from the other, and dreams of ruin and annihilation darted across your mind. The one seemed to dwell among men, to join in their joys, and to live upon their praise ; the other appeared a son of the desert, who had deigned to visit the human race merely to make them tremble at his strength.

The style, and the eloquence and structure of their orations, were equally different. Canning chose his words for the sweetness of their sound, and arranged his periods for the melody of their cadence; while, with Brougham, the more hard and unmouthable, the better. Canning arranged his words like one who could play skilfully upon that sweetest of all instruments, the human voice; Brougham proceeded like a master of every power of reasoning and of the understanding. Canning marched forward in a straight and clear track; every paragraph was perfect in itself, and every coruscation of wit and genius was brilliant and delightful; it was all felt, and it was all at once. Brougham twined round and round in a spiral, sweeping the contents of a vast circumference before him, uniting and pouring them onward to the main point of attack. When he began, one was astonished at the wideness and obliquity of his course ; nor was it possible to comprehend how he was to dispose of the vast and varied materials which he collected by the way; but as the curve lessened, and the end appeared, it became obvious that all was to be efficient there.

Such were the rival orators, who sat glancing hostility and defiance at each other during the early part of the session of 1823 — Brougham as if wishing to overthrow the secretary by a sweeping accusation of having abandoned all principle for the sake of office; and the secretary ready to parry the charge, and attack in his turn. An opportunity at length offered ; and it is more worthy of being recorded, as being the last terrible and personal attack previous to that change in the measures of the cabinet, which, though it had been begun from the moment that Canning, Robinson, and Huskisson came into office, was not at that time perceived, or at least not admitted and appreciated. Upon that occasion, the oration of Brougham was at the outset disjointed and ragged, and apparently without aim or application. He careered over the whole annals of the world, and collected every instance in which genius had degraded itself at the footstool of power, or in which principle had been sacrificed for the vanity or lucre of place; but still there was no allusion to Canning, and au connection, that ordinary men could discover, with the business before the house. When, however, he had collected every material which suited his purpose, - when the mass had become big and black, - he bound it about and about with the cords of illustration and of argument; when its union was secure, he swung it round and round with the strength of a giant and the rapidity of a whirlwind, in order that its impetus and effect might be the more tremendous; and while doing this, he ever and anon glared his eye, and pointed his finger, to make the aim and the direction sure. Canning himself was the first that seemed to be aware where and how terrible was to be the collision ; and he kept writhing his body in agony, and rolling his eyes in fear, as if anxious to find some shelter from the impending bolt. The house soon caught the impression, and every man iņ it was glancing his eye fearfully, first towards the orator, and then towards the secretary There was

save the voice of Brougham, which growled in that under tone of thunder which is so fearfully audible, and of which no speaker of the day was fully master but himself- a silence as if the angel of retribution had been opening, in the faces of all parties, the scroll of their private sins. A pen, which one of the secretaries dropped upon the matting, was heard in the remotest part of the house. The stiffness of Brougham's figure had vanished; his features seemed concentrated almost to a point; he glanced towards every part of the house in succession, and sounded the death knell of the secretary's forbearance and prudence. With both his clinched hands upon the table, he hurled at him an accusation more dreadful in its gall, and more torturing in its effects, than ever has been hurled at mortal man within the same walls. The result was instantaneous was electric: it was as when the thunder cloud descends upon some giant peak —one flash, one peal ! — the sublimity vanished, and all that remained was a small pattering of rain. Canning started to his feet, and was able only to utter the unguarded words, “ It is false !” — to which followed a dull chapter of apologies. From that moment, the house became more a scene of real business than of airy display and of angry vituperation.

CXXIV. - PICTURES FROM SHELLEY.

SHELLEY.

[PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY was born in the county of Sussex, England, August 4, 1792, and was drowned, by being upset in a pleasure boat off the coast of Tuscany, in July, 1822. He wrote The Revolt of Islam, a long and unintelligible poem in the Spenserian stanza; two dramas, Prometheus Unbound and Cenci; and a number of descriptive, reflective, and miscellaneous poems. He was a man of rare and fine genius. Portions of his writings are clouded with mysticism, as he made his poetry the medium of ex. pressing his peculiar views in humanity, philosophy, and religion; but passages of great beauty are scattered through every thing that came from his pen. His imagination was rich, creative, and ethereal. His ear was particularly exquisite, and someof his stanzas have never been surpassed in their dreamy and delicate music. He was very sensitive to beauty in all its forms; and no poet has ever written about flowers, and woods, and fountains, and all the aspects of the outward world, in finer and truer strains. He was an accurate observer as well as an impassioned lover of nature, and his pictures are both faithful and ideal. What we miss in his poetry is the expression of the common sympathies and daily affections of humanity — that element which makes Burns and Goldsmith so popular. His poetry sometimes reminds us of a frosted window, illumined by moonlight - beautiful, fantastic, but cold. And yet Shelley, though shrinking fastidiously from contact with individuals, was full of love for the family of man, and inspired by the most glowing visions of human perfectibility. His Cenci is a play of great literary merit, and written in a different style from his other poetry; but the subject is so painful that it is difficult to read it, and would be impossible to represent it.

Shelley made several translations from Greek, German, and Spanish, and they are among the very best in the language. In one respect he is equalled by few, and surpassed by none, of his contemporaries; and that is, the precision of his language and the purity of his diction. He is a great artist in the choice and collocation of his words ; and no poet of our times is more worthy of study by those who are desirous of enriching their poetical vocabulary. He also wrote some essays and sketches in prose, which, with a selection from his letters, were published after his death.

Shelley made many mistakes in life from his headlong enthusiasm and reckless defie ance of public opinion; but he had noble qualities, and was much beloved by his friends. His mind was working itself clear of its youthful extravagances, and gaining rapidly in vigor and clearness, at the time of his premature and melancholy death.]

« PreviousContinue »