Billeder på siden

can be but ill-spared in these dark, doubtful, and exigent times. But the feelings of a father prevailed over every other consideration, and he determined not to expose himself to any future reproach for having left unimproved so fair an opportunity of competently providing for his numerous family, which has been con: siderably increased since his second marriage, with Miss Allen, of Cressella, in Pembrokeshire: a lady much distinguished for her mental accomplishments and literary acquirements, and in whose converse, now that he is widowed of the intellectual intercourse he so eininently enjoyed, his understanding, as well as his heart, cannot fail of finding congenial and inexhaustible resources.

There is a circumstance somewhat remarkable in the literary life of Mr. Mackintosh, which we had nearly omitted, and to which he himself frequently reverts with the fondest recollections, not, however, unmixed with sorrow and regret;—we mean his acquaintance with MR. BURKE. To his enthusiastic admiration of that great man we have already adverted; yet, widely as he was acquainted with all the other eminent characters of the day, it was but nearly at the close of Mr. Burke's life that he became personally acquainted with him. The interview was solicited by Mr. Burke himself, who sent Dr. LAWRENOE with a long letter of invitation to Mr. Mackintosh, requesting him to pass a few days with him at Beaconsfield. How eagerly such a request was complied with, by Mr. Mackintosh, will be best imagined by those who could discover the near resemblance which their minds bore to each other, and who have observed that strong attraction which operates so powerfully between congenial spirits. It is obvious to suppose that they mutually disclosed their respective opinions respecting the causes and consequences of the French revolution; and that, whatever abatement has since been remarked in Mr. Mackintosh's admiration of that great event, may, in some degree, be ascribed to the influence of Mr. Burke's remarks, together with the soberer observations of his own more ripened judgment.

It may now, perhaps, be expected that we point out the series of Mr. Mackintosh's publications, the subjects of which they treat, the opinions passed upon them, and the familiar habits of the man, as well as the intellectual character of the writer. On these points we must be brief, and, we fear very imperfect. The first essay

which Mr. Mackintosh committed to the press, was a pamphlet on the question of the regency in 1788, in which he asserted the policy of making the Prince of Wales sole regent. Several other political pamphlets, arising out of the events of the day, of which we do not now recollect the titles, preceded or followed the Vindiciæ Gallicæ: but this was the first production that bore his name and which swelled to the size of a legitimate volume. With the subject it discussed, and the favourable impression it made upon the public, our readers are already well acquainted. Since the publication of the work, every page of which glows with the purple light of youthful genius, nothing appears inscribed with Mr. MACKINTOSH's name, till we come to his introductory Discourse on the Study of the Law of Nature and of Nations, of which we shall only repeat, that the most distinguished statesmen and philosophers of the nation have declared it to contain a more recon. dite and comprehensive view of the subject than they had ever before met with in the course of their reading. His pen, however, did not remain wholly unemployed during that long interval. Many of its productions are to be found scattered throughout our different periodical publications, to which, however, we do not pretend accurately to refer. But among them our readers cannot fail to discover some of the most splendid specimens of sound and elegant criticism.*

His splendid oration in defence of M. PELTIER is too widely known, and too generally admired, to require any mention or comment on our part. No where is there depicted so faithful, or a more horrific picture of the more prominent actors in the French revolution; no where can be acquired a juster insight into the present dark designs and ambitious projects of the consular government: (1804) nor has Mr. Mackintosh been backward to lend his literary aid towards rousing and animating the spirit and energy of the country, at this awful crisis of public affairs. The most pure and ardent patriotism runs through every sentence of his speech to the Loyal North Britons in which volunteer corps he was a captain, and in the Declaration of the Merchants, &c. read at the

* See the Critique on Mr. Burke's Regicide Peace, and on the Miscellaneous Works of Mr. Gibbon, in the Monthly Review.

[ocr errors]

royal exchange, which is now known to have flowed from his patriotic pen. Mr. Mackintosh, were he to write no more, has already written enough to entitle him to rank among the very first of our most accomplished writers ; but, as his new situation must open new views to his keen and indefatigable observation, we may fairly expect still more solid and finished productions from the activity of his powerful and prolific mind.

With respect to the character of his mind, it has pretty gene. rally been observed, that judgment, acuteness, sagacity, comprehension and memory, constitute its principal powers; not that he is deficient in fancy and imagination, which his writings prove him to possess in a very eminent degree, but because they seem to be over-awed from any thing like extravagant and wanton fights by the severity of his judgment, and the chasteness of his taste. There is another quality with which his mind is singularly gifted, and which naturally results from his taste and judgment, we mean a sort of elective attraction for whatever is sublime and beautiful in the expression and thoughts of other writers, and a felicity of assimilation, by which he instantly converts it into his own. We may fairly say his own; for when it is again re-issued, it appears clothed in such a variety of new lights and colours, that scarcely any particle can be traced of the original substance.

Mille trahit varios adverso sole colores.

If examined separately, it will be generally allowed, that the fa. culties of his intellect are of the most vigorous mould; but a nicely discriminating eye will contemplate, with more delight and ani. mation, the fair proportions of the general structure, and the happy manner in which they all amicably conspire, and so equally come forward in the performance of whatever he undertakes. Indeed it may as justly be said of intellectual as of corporeal beauty:


It's not a lip or eye we beauty call,
But the full force and joint result of all.

In social and domestic life, Mr. Mackintosh is generally ac knowledged to possess the most amiable and estimable qualities. He is a fond husband, an affectionate father, a faithful friend: and in gentleness of manner, equability of temper, and amenity of disposition, he cannot easily be surpassed. He is not more solicitous to acquire than to communicate information: and, upon whatever subject he is consulted, he is sure to point out all the sources that can contribute to throw light upon it--so various is his reading, so prompt his recollection. Not a new publication appears that he does not immediately glance over; and from what appears to be the most superficial and transient perusal, he is able to collect the scope of the work, and the manner and the degree of success that characterise the performance of it. He is particlarly fond of reciting the more beautiful passages, either of the ancient or modern poets; and no topic can be started which he cannot employ them to illustrate or adorn. His mornings, when not taken up with professional business, he constantly devotes to reading or composing; and as he reads or composes, has always before him a glass of toast and water, which he frequently sips; and in the evening he meets the circulation of the more jovial glass, with one of lemonade, mostly made with soda, or seltzer water. His conversation must always instruct; but it has equal powers to please-Dor is it ever roughened by magisterialness, presumption or pedantry:

Taught by his converse happily you'd steer
From grave to gay, from lively to severe.

Although he abstains from wine, he freely indulges in the mirth which it promotes. He is naturally, indeed, inclined to be cheerful and facetious; but neither his cheerfulness nor his pleasantry is borrowed from the bottle; and the most zealous votaries of Bacchus are willing to confess, that his good nature can glow without being warmed by Burgundy; and that his wit can sparkle unprompted by Champaign. He is, therefore, a strong and signal exception to the observation of our great moralist: for though under a depression of spirits, produced by whatever cause, he has frequently called in the aid of the jolly god, he has, however, ul. timately proved, that he was not to be enslaved by his auxiliary.

Such, nearly, are the leading lineaments that mark the character and habits of Mr. Mackintosh. But as we all know that

Envy will merit as its shade


So ought we to expect, that such splendour of talents and of famc, could not have failed to provoke its malignity. Various, indeed, are the censures it has passed upon him, as a politician and a writer; but he is chiefly charged with a dereliction, both of his political principals and his political friends. In his lectures lie is said to have remitted much of that ardour and alacrity with which he had espoused the cause of freedom in his Vindiciæ Gallice. To this charge he has himself, in a great measure, pleaded guilty. But did not subsequent events in a great measure justify a change of opinion; or may it not have been suggested by a maturer judgment, a more enlarged experience, as it certainly has been sanctioned by the gravest authorities? Even the spirit of his style is supposed to have evaporated with his love of liberty and to us also it appears to be changed; but we think it is a change for the better. For, doubtless, it is no fault to retrench redundance, to reject ambitious ornament, to avoid too much stateliness in the march, and too much uniformity in the measure of his periods; and to have substituted in their room more precision of language, more compression of thought, more variety of cadence, and more chasteness of metaphor. These, however, are defects or blemishes, which it was open for his critics and his rivals to detect and dilate upon. But a charge of degeneracy of style, or of inconsistency of politics, whitens into innocence itself, when compared with the blacker and more serious charge of laxity and scepticism in matters of religion, which nothing but the blindest and bitterest enmity could have possibly suggested. We think we may confidently assert, that not the slightest shade of such an imputation could ever be fairly drawn from any one sentiment which he has seriously uttered, or any one sentence which he has deliberately written. It is of the highest importance, indeed, to refute such a charge, not merely as it individually affects the character of Mr. Mackintosh, but because the shadow of such suspicions should not be allowed to hang over the name of men, whose opinion on every point, but more particularly on those of grave and serious moment, must have so inuch weight and influence upon the minds of others. We, therefore, feel the inost sincere and solid satisfaction, in being able to meet this equally foul and false charge, with the most direct and triumphant refutation. For we have often heard, and, indeed, we know it from the most unquestionable authority, that at a time

« ForrigeFortsæt »