« PredošláPokračovať »
Yet the style of which we are speaking is now familiar to the English public. But it was introduced by an Irishman; and may be clearly traced to the genius of Burke. There was no such composition known in England before his day. Bolingbroke, whom he is sometimes said to have copied, had none of it. He is infinitely more careless, he is infinitely less impassioned. He has no such variety of imagery,-no such flights of poetry,-no such touches of tenderness,-no such visions of philosophy. The style has been defiled since, indeed, by base imitations and disgusting parodies; and, in its more imitable parts, has been naturalized and transfused into the recent literature of our country; but it was of Irish origin, and still attains to its highest honours only in its native soil. For this we appeal to the whole speaking and writing of that nation,-to the speeches of Mr Grattan, and even to the volume before us. With less of deep thought than the corrected compositions of Burke, and less of point and polish than the magical effusions of Grattan, it still bears the impression of that inflamed fancy which characterizes the eloquence of both, and is distinctly assimilated to them by those traits of national resemblance.
We owe Mr Curran an apology, perhaps, for saying anything of this volume. It is published without his consent or avowal, and even without any pretension, on the part of the editor, to its being a correct, or tolerably correct, report of the speeches he delivered. From the extreme inequality of the matter, indeed, it is easy to see that some of them are execrably reported; and we are willing to believe, that even the best are very far below the merit of the original. Some of them, however, are so good and so striking, and the tone and manner of the whole is so characteristic and peculiar, that we cannot avoid taking some notice of them. We review the book, of course, as an unauthorised publication, which may serve to give strangers a general notion of the eloquence of the Irish bar,-by no means either as a work of Mr Curran, or a faithful abstract of his orations. title of this book is inaccurate. Not more than one very half of the speeches which it contains have any reference to the State Trials; and we think it the worst half. The subject, however it be considered, is too full of pain and of pity to be willingly brought back to remembrance; and though such retrospections come to be duties, when we are providing against the pos sible recurrence of the events, it is not from the pleading of a retained advocate that we can safely derive our impressions with regard to them. These speeches, too, and the two in particu lat which the editor points out to us as having been looked upon at the time as the most brilliant of all Mr Curran's appearances, are by far the most absurdly reported. One of them,
indeed, as it stands here, is little better than nonsense; both are disgraced by the basest and most noisy vulgarity. rather chuse to begin our extracts from the notes of Mr Curran's parliamentary speeches; though they, too, are distinguished, in this report, by a degree of keenness and personality which would scarcely be tolerated, we think, in the legislative assemblies of this country. In a very animated speech on Catholic emancipation delivered in 1798, we have the following personification of Protestant ascendancy.
But if you mean by ascendancy the power of persecution, I detest and abhor it. An ascendancy of that form raises to my mind a little greasy emblem of stall-fed theology, imported from some foreign land, with the graces of a lady's maid, the dignity of a sidetable, the temperance of a larder,-its sobriety the dregs of a patron's bottle, and its wisdom the dregs of a patron's understanding, brought hither to devour, to degrade, and to defame.' p. 118.
He then proceeds to adjure them to unanimity, as the only means to prevent the more tremendous evil of an union with Great Britain, which he describes as synonymous with the emigration of every man of consequence, and the surrender of Ireland to the oppression of a few tax-gatherers, and fifteen or twenty couple of Irish members, who might be found every session sleeping in their collars under the manger of the British minister. His description of Dr Duigenan's eloquence, though not uncontaminated by the coarseness of the reporter, seems also to be worth transcribing.
Half choked by his rage in refuting those who had spoke, he had relieved himself by attacking those who had not spoke; he had abused the Catholics; he had abused their ancestors; he had abused the merchants of Ireland; he had abused Mr Burke; he had abused those who voted for the order of the day. I do not know, said Mr Curran, but I ought to be obliged to the learned Doctor, for honouring me with a place in the invective. He has called me the bottle-holder of my Right Honourable friend. Sure I am, said he, that if I had been the bottle-holder of both, the learned Doctor would have less reason to complain of me than my Right Honourable friend; for him I should have left perfectly sober, whilst it would very clearly appear, that, with respect to the learned Doctor, the bottle had not only been managed fairly, but generously; and that if, in furnishing him with liquor, I had not furnished him with argument, I had, at least, furnished him with a good excuse for wanting it; with the best excuse for that confusion of history, and divinity, and civil law, and canon law,-that rollocking mixture of politics, and theology, and antiquity, with which he has overwhelmed the debate ;-for the havock and carnage he has made of the population of the last age, and the fury with which he seemed determined to exterminate, and even to devour the population of this; and which urged him, after tearing and gnawing the characters of the Catholics,
Catholics, to spend the last efforts of his rage with the most unrelenting ferocity, in actually gnawing their names, [alluding to Dr Duigenan's pronunciation of the name of Mr Keogh, which, Mr Curran said, was a kind of pronuntiátory defamation.] I should not, however, said he, be disposed to precipitate the access of his fit, if by a most unlucky felicity of indiscretion, he had not dropped some doctrines which the silent approbation of the minister seemed to have adopted.' p. 122, 123.
In a speech for Mr Hamilton Rowan, accused of the publication of a seditious libel, he thus defends him for having professed that his object was to procure Universal Emancipation.'
I speak in the spirit of the British law, which makes liberty commensurate with, and inseparable from, British soil; which proclaims, even to the stranger and the sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and consecrated by the genius of universal emancipation. No matter in what language his doom may have been pronounced ;no matter what complexion, incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt upon him ;-no matter in what disastrous battle his liberty may have been cloven down ;-no matter with what solemnities he may have been devoted upon the altar of slavery; the first moment he touches the sacred soil of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul walks abroad in her own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of his chains, that burst from around him; and he stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, by the irresistible genius of universal emancipation.' p. 169, 170.
In the same speech, there is the following striking view of the advantages of a free press, even where there is evidently a disposition to abuse it to purposes of sedition.
And what calamities are the people saved from by having public communication left open to them? I will tell you, gentlemen, what they are saved from, and what the government is saved from ; I will tell you also to what both are exposed by shutting up that communication. In one case, sedition speaks aloud, and walks abroad; the demagogue goes forth; the public eye is upon him; he frets his busy hour upon the stage; but soon, either weariness, or bribe, or punishment, or disappointment, bear him down, or drive him off, and he appears no more. In the other case, how does the work of sedition go forward? Night after night the muffled rebel steals forth in the dark, and casts another and another brand upon the pile, to which, when the hour of fatal maturity shall arrive, he will apply the flame.' p. 182, 183.
In another speech, in a case of libel, there are some curious specimens of popular eloquence. A person of the name of Orr had been found guilty of high treason, chiefly upon the evidence of some spies of government. After the verdict was recorded, 2 part of the jury made affidavit that they had been intimidated,
and made drunk by their associates, and that the conviction was against their consciences. An application for mercy was transmitted by the Judge to the Lord-Lieutenant; and three several respites were granted. The man, however, was at last executed; and the libel with which Mr Curran's client was charged, was a very vehement and reproachful address to the Lord-Lieutenant, for having given his sanction to this execution. Mr Curran, after a very artful and animated discussion on general topics, makes this direct appeal to the jury he is addressing.
Let me suppose that you had seen him (Orr) removed from his industry, and confined in a gaol; that, through the slow and lingering progress of twelve tedious months, you had seen him confined in a dungeon, shut out from the common air and the use of his own limbs; that, day after day, you had marked the unhappy captive cheered by no sound but the cries of his family, or the clinking of chains; that you had seen him at last brought to his trial; that you had seen the vile and perjured informer deposing against his life; that you had seen the drunken, and worn out, and terrified jury, give in a verdict of death; that you had seen the same jury, when their returning sobriety had brought back their consciences, prostrate themselves before the humanity of the Bench, and pray that the mercy of the Crown might save their characters from the reproach of an involuntary crime, their consciences from the torture of eternal self-condemnation, and their souls from the indelible stain of innocent blood: Let me suppose that you had seen the respite given, and that contrite and honest recommendation transmitted to that seat where mercy was presumed to dwell; that new, and before unheard' of, crimes are discovered against the informer; that the royal mercy seems to relent, and that a new respite is sent to the prisoner; that time is taken, as the learned counsel for the crown has expressed it, to see whether mercy could be extended or not! that, after that period of lingering deliberation passed, a third respite is transmitted; that the unhappy captive himself feels the cheering hope of being restored to a family that he had adored, to a character that he had never stained, and to a country that he had ever loved; that you had seen his wife and children upon their knees, giving those tears to gratitude, which their locked and frozen hearts could not give to anguish and despair, and imploring the blessings of eternal Providence upon his head, who had graciously spared the father, and restored him to his children; that you had seen the olive branch sent into his little ark, but no sign that the waters had subsided.-" Alas! nor wife nor children more shall he behold, nor friends nor sacred home! " No seraph mercy unbars his dungeon, and leads him forth to light and life; but the minister of death hurries him to the scene of suffering and of shame,-where, unmoved by the hostile array of artillery and armed men collected together, to secure, or to insult, or to disturb him, he dies with a solemn declaration of his innocence, and utters his last breath in a prayer for the liberty of his country.
Let me now ask you, if any of you had addressed the public ear upon so foul and monstrous a subject, in what language would you have conveyed the feelings of horror and indignation? Would you have stooped to the meanness of qualified complaint? Would you have been mean enough?-But I entreat your forgiveness. I do not think meanly of you: had I thought so meanly of you, I could not have suffered my mind to commune with you as it has done; had I thought you that base and vile instrument, attuned by hope and by fear into discord and falsehood, from whose vulgar string no groan of suffering could vibrate, no voice of integrity or honour could speak,-let me honestly tell you, I should have scorned to fling my hand across it;-I should have left it to a fitter minstrel. p. 283--285.
After some bold and contemptuous defence of the rude and uncourtly style of his client, he thus winds up his vehement ad
If you think it a crime in this writer that his language has not been braided and festooned as elegantly as it might be; that he has not pinched the miserable plaits of his phraseology, nor placed his patches and feathers with that correctness of millinery which became so exalted a person;-upright and honest jurors, find a civil and obliging verdict against the printer! And when you have done so, march through the ranks of your fellow-citizens to your own homes, -and bear their looks as they pass along. Retire to the bosom of your families and your children; and, when you are presiding over the morality of the parental board, tell those infants, who are to be the future men of Ireland, the history of this day. Form their young minds by your precepts, and confirm those precepts by your own example; and, when you have done so, tell them the story of Orr; tell them of his captivity, of his children, of his crime, of his hopes, of his disappointments, of his courage, and of his death; and, when you find your little hearers hanging from your lips,-when you see their eyes overflow with sympathy and sorrow, and their young hearts bursting with the pangs of anticipated orphanage,tell them that you had the boldness and the justice to stigmatize the monsterwho had dared to publish the transaction! p. 285, 286.
The best reported speech in the book, we think, is that for Mr Hevey, in an action for an assault and false imprisonment brought against a person of the name of Sirr, who, under the title of Town Major of Dublin, appears to have been the chosen instrument of government, when any thing harsh or violent was to be carried into execution. The facts which are stated in this speech, are such as cannot be perused without the utmost horror, and the most lively indignation; and are calculated, indeed, to give such an impression of the outrageous abuses that were then familiar in that unhappy country, that we should hesitate about the propriety of giving any further notoriety to the accusation, if we had