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upon whose sentiments or diction he frequently interposed some observations, and to which he endeavoured to direct the attention and remarks of others. He was thus unremittingly active in the exercise of his mind, and thus happily contrived to imbibe instruction with his wine. But the particular bias of his mind soon began to declare itself: bis attendance at the medical lectures became daily less frequent, and he was jócosely styled, by his fellow students, an honorary member of the classes. Notwithstanding, however, this apparent inattention, his medical knowledge was astonishingly extensive, and he was observed to collect it from conversing with those who were known to be most sedulous and successful in such pursuits. He was likewise a distinguished member of the Medical Society, in which he made his first essay in public speaking, and in which he was admired not only for eloquence and acuteness, but also for the profoundness of his medical researches. His favourite society, however, was the speculative, in which literary, metaphysical, and political subjects were discussed, and which afforded him happier opportunities of displaying the versatility of his genius, and the variety of his accomplishments.
In the year 1787, the career of his medical studies drew near to a close, and previous to taking his degree of doctor, he was obliged to write a Latin thesis, in conformity with the rules of the University, which is submitted to the professors as a probationary essay. His habitual indolence, for no man was ever, with such mental activity, physically more indolent, and his general disrelish of medical subjects, made him postpone this production until the last moment; but when it was produced, it bore the stamp and features of a mind which could give birth to nothing vulgar or subordinate. He chose, indeed, a subject (muscular motion) which at once gave room for the display of his physiological and metaphysical knowledge, and the intricacy and obscurity of which he aptly alluded to in the motto prefixed to the dissertation:-Latet arcanâ non enarrabile fibra. On this intricate and obscure question he was supposed to have thrown as much light as it has hitherto been thought susceptible of, and which it was well possible to concentrate within the limits usually prescribed to these academical essays. But another and more striking instance here occurred of the indolence that early marked the disposition of Mr. Mackintosh. Although the examination of the different candidates who aspired to medical honours at the same graduation, was not to take place till between ten and eleven o'clock in the foredoon, yet Mr Mackintosh could not prevail upon himself to get ready in time, but kept the senatus academicus waiting for lim nearly a whole hour. For this disrespectful inattention, he, however, abundantly atoned, by the quickness and dexterity with which he replied to the different objections that were urged against his positions.
Having now obtained the privilege of teaching and practising medicine, he impatiently hastened to London, which he had long anxiously wished to behold, as the centre of talent and of learning. He had there very different temptations to withstand from those which first entangled him at Edinburgh; and as they pressed around him in much more various shapes, and more fascinating forms, they naturally made him cling more closely to such a residence, and as naturally alienated him from a profession already distasteful to him, and the exercise of which was incompatible with his favourite pursuits and abode. His friends, however, continued to urge his entering on practice, and at one time he was advised, by Dr. Frazer, a near relation of his, to attempt an establishment in London or Bath: at another, with better prospects, he was preparing to set out for Petersburgh, where he had hopes of succeeding Dr. Robertson, as physician to his imperial majesty. At this time his pecuniary resources were far from being ample, and this incipient embarrassment of his circuinstances, joined to his aversion from his profession, and his reluctance to quit London, contributed not a little to thicken his perplexities. From this dilemma he was soon extricated by the death of his father: an event which, however it must affect his filial feelings, left him at least at liberty to follow his own choice, and to engage in a profession more congenial with the cast of his mind, and more coincident with the course of his reading. Accordingly he lost no time in entering his name at Lincoln's Inn, and readily preferred Coke on Littleton to Galen and Hippocrates.
Shortly after he commenced the study of the law, the Freoch revolution broke out, and opened such auspicious prospects to the
friends of freedom, among the most ardent of whom was Mr. Mackintosh, that it almost wholly engrossed his attention and his time. Among the numerous productions to which this portentous event gave occasion, Mr. Burke's celebrated letter chiefly attracted his notice, and in some degree excited his astonishment. No person could entertain a higher degree of respect than Mr. Mackintosh for the transcendant abilities of Mr. Burke. He had always looked up to him as his master and model, in political prudence and principles, and his veneration for him is known to have bordered on something superstitious, or even idolatrous. No sooner, however, had he perused the work than he conceived the design of answering it;-a bold and hazardous one he confessed; applying to his own inability the following line of the poet:
Infelix puer, atque impar Congressus Achillei. But the performance of the task justified its boldness; and the public and himself are both much indebted to this essay of his literary prowess. The Vindicæ Gallicæ rescued him from that com. parative obscurity in which he had, in some measure, allowed his abilities to languish, previous to this period: not that he had not before essayed in pen on a public occasion. For, during the debates on the regency, in 1788, he issued his first political pamphlet, in favour of the claims of the prince of Vales; but it was to the appearance of the Vindiciæ Gallicæ that he was chiefly indebted for the acquaintance of the most distinguished political characters of the time, more particularly of those who embraced the same side of the question as himself. Among them we need only mention the late duke of Bedford, Mr. Fox, Sheridan, Gray, Whitbread, &c. whose praise and encouragement could not fail of being highly flattering to the pride of a young author. But, most probably neither he himself could have emerged into this celebri. ty nor the prospects which he now enjoys, nor would his country have been benefited with the subsequent more vigorous effusions of his mind, were it not for a material change that had been préviously wrought in his habits. It happened most luckily for him; that, nearly two years before, his inclination led him to change a single for a matrimonial life, and in 1789 he married miss Stuart, a young lady of exquisite good sense, and the most conciliating disposition, by whom he has had one son and four daughters. In her he found an intelligent companion, a tender friend, and, above all, a prudent monitress. He has often been heard to confess, that it was the fond and frequent entreaties of conjugal solicitude that gradually reclaimed him from dissipation, and urged his indolence to all those exertions, more particularly to his first, the Vindicie Gallicæ, which had till then proved either useful or creditable to him;—and with respect to the circumstances under which that work was composed, a work that exhibits such cogency of argument, such perspicuity of arrangement, such vigour of sentiment, and such splendour of declamation, it may be interesting to know that it was composed amidst the anxiety and distraction that must naturally be felt by a father, and husband, and brother, surrounded by a family consisting principally of females, all of whom were at the moment variously and seriously indisposed, and who were incessantly soliciting his assistance and consolation. Indeed, when the first sheet of the work was sent to the press, scarce a sentence was written of the chapter that was to follow; yet there appears no interruption in the chain of argument, or in the thread of the narrative; and the only indications that occur of hurry, disturbance, or inattention, are the numberless typographical errors by which the first edition was deformed.
As the mind of Mr. Mackintosh was now no longer so much depressed by difficulties, relaxed by indolence, or distracted by dissipation, his prospects began to brighten, as his facúlies reassumed their native elasticity and tone. He therefore applied himself with increased diligence and renovated ardour, to the prosecution of his professional studies; with what success, we leave it for those to judge who have heard him plead before the committees of the house of commons, at the bar of the house of peers, or who had the good fortune to be present at his admirable and memorable defence of M. Peltier. Much less shall we attempt to appreciate his merits as a lawyer, though we may safely say that he combines all the more essential qualities that constitute the character of a pleader or an orator-learning, judgment, acuteness, penetration, easy and copious elocution, graceful and appropriate gesture. The only defects which the most penetrating and competent judges discover in him, as either are, too nice a refinement in his reason
ing for the apprehension of ordinary hearers, and want of compass, variety, and modulation in his voice.
But the most arduous and useful undertaking in which Mr. Mackintosh has hitherto embarked, is the exposition of the course of lectures which he delivered in Lincoln's Inn Hall. The design indeed is vast; and the mightiest mind, perhaps, of the age, observed of it, when the plan was submitted to him, that an adequate execution of it would require the concourse and co-operation of all the philosophers of every age and country. It had long been as Mr. Mackintosh himself observcs, “ the subject of his reading and reflection;" and it required indeed, the unbounded comprehension of his mind, and the vast capaciousness of his memory to embrace and treasure up the immense variety of materials out of which such a plan was to be constructed His own eagerness to undertake the task was strengthened and encouraged by the gravest authorities. “ I was confirmed in my opinion,” says he, “ by the assent and approbation of men,* whose names, were it becoining to mention them on so slight an occasion would add authority to truth, and furnish some excuse even for error. The object and intention of the lectures will likewise be best understood, from the energetic and eloquent terms in which he himself has expressed them. “ I know not whether a philosopher ought to confess, that in his inquiries after truth, he is biassed by any consideration—even by the love of virtue; but I, who conceive that a real philosopher ought to regard truth itself, chiefly on account of its subserviency to the happiness of mankind, am not ashamed to confess, that I shall feel a great consolation at the conclusion of these lectures, if by a wide survey, and an exact examination of the conditions and the relations of human nature, I shall have confirmed one individual in the conviction that justice is the permanent interest of all men and of all commonwealths. To discover one link in the eternal chain by which the author of the universe had bound together the happiness and the duty of his
* Among the more prominent were lord Rosslyn, Mr. Pitt; Mr. Addington, lord Melville, Mr. Canning, &c. all of whom wrote letters to him in the highest strain of compliment, after reading his introductory discourse.
† See the introductory discourse to the lectures. .. I Ibidem., VOL. IV,