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away from nights of sottish revelry, and days of nausea and inertness which follow such nights; from the vile waste of the irrevocable and inestimable hours of youth ; from scenes of domestic life where profusion reigns, and where indulged vanity is so costly, that gold cannot be found, whereby to stimulate or reward the efforts of intellect, or promote the interest of literature: remove him to the better region of Britain,-and-of what then is not the Irishman capable ?
Left on his native soil, there is nothing extravagant in supposing that Swift would have perished in the calling of a country curate, a fabricator of bad sermons, and pun-maker to a parish club: Steele at the head of a tipling society, and possibly in request for writing a clever last speech : Goldsmith, in lieu of winning immortality for his name, and the language he enriched as the sweetest of poets, might, at best, have composed ballads for the shepherd, or, mayhap, have sung them for his bread : et sic de ceteris.
Sir J. B. enlarges, with great truth and fairness of encomium, on the talents, as an orator, of Dean Kirwas; but insinuates that he was partly indebted for his sermons to the Huguenot preacher Saurin, styling K. an eloquent plagiarist; he should have said plagiary, there being no such substantive or word in English as plagiarist. Kirwan was at least not under obligation to others for his manner of speaking, which was original, inimitable, and irresistible. I heard him preach twenty-five or thirty times, and felt, and still feel, convinced that he was one of the most eloquent public speakers that ever lived. Grattan, no incompetent judge, thought so, and observed of him in the House of Commons, that “he had converted the pulpit into the throne of light, and by pleading for public institutions, collected from public sympathy nearly sixty thousand pounds for their support." Such, indeed, was the power of his delivery, that he fascinated his congregations, and constantly rendered them insensible, at the time, to his want of taste, his frequent vulgarity, and his profusion of feeble and superfluous words.
Walter Blake Kirwan was somewhat above the middle stature, slender, or almost meagre,
gracefully formed. His ordinary aspect was little short of fierce; his eyes were grey, and he had what is called a cast in one of them, which, increasing the expression of a face alive with movement, produced a most commanding effect. His congregation, amounting commonly to fifteen hundred persons at the least, invariably paid his talents the great compliment of fixedness and silence, which was profound, unless when interrupted by sighs of intense emotion, or that sort of coughing by which men, who are ashamed of tears, seek to conceal their sensibility, and the sound of which cough, Siddons has been heard to say, was to her the most welcome recompense she could receive in a theatre, from her high-wrought tragic scenes.
He always spoke without notes, and usually for
more than an hour at a time, indulging in exuberant, but unerringly correct and picturesque, action; for which, however, there was room in his orations, as these were mostly appeals to the passions in favour of charitable establishments.
In his articulation, voice, and pauses, which are so important a part of the declaimer's business, it was absolutely impossible to discover a defect. In these essentials of elocution, Richard Sheridan and Can. ning, and Talma of the Parisian stage, approached him the nearest. But this praise I cannot conscientiously bestow on any other eminent speakers whom I have heard. Even Siddons allowed a sepulchral tone (asitis termed), moreor less to pervade all she delivered. Kemble was nasal and unnaturally deliberate in his pronunciation, and would not unfrequently whine dismally. Grattan's utterance was, strange as the remark may appear, too neat and precise, his words not being, as it were, round enough. Burke's delivery was often coarse and shouting. The voice of Fox wanted transition, and now and then changed suddenly from good level intonation, to an alarming kind of squeak. Pitt was, throughout, monotonous, and altogether too thundering, though a faultless pronouncer of English. But Kirwan was rapid without confusion, and never abruptly loud, but for ever audible. When he implored for pity, or related the miseries of suffering poverty, his sentences were conveyed in a murmuring, tremulous, reedy note, inexpressibly melodious and affecting; and when his
object was to awe and elevate the minds of his hearers, he poured out a succession of sounds, that, I feel persuaded, would have produced the intended effect, independently of the force of words.
Of Mr. Norcot, a barrister, Sir Jonah states, that being appointed to an office in Malta, he fled to the Morea, and thence to Constantinople, where he renounced the Cross and became a Mussulman. In fairness, Sir J. B. should have added, that he had been for several years insane. In his air and deportment, he was very gentlemanlike, and had humour, and considerable general talent. He was a corpulent, fair man, with light-coloured hair, and remarkably prominent grey eyes. The prevailing report of his fate is, that being more than suspected by the authorities in Constantinople, of agreeing with some Christian comrades to renounce Mahometanism, he was seized, and cut asunder with saws in the marketplace.
Sir Jonah relates a marvellous story of an Irish mower : how, being on the bank of a river, and holding his scythe in his hand, he saw a fish in the water, struck at it with the scythe, and shaved off his own head! The narrator's tale does not possess humour enough to make amends for its extravagance. But scythes are formidably sharp implements. I knew a gentlemen, who, riding home on a summer-night, with wine enough to render him musical and heedless, while singing and acting his song, encountered a labourer with his scythe upon his shoulder. The gentleman's arm met its keen edge; and was so nearly cut off, that the amputation was completed with a pair of shears, in a cottage into which the sufferer was carried.
Lady Morgan is mentioned as a distinguished modern writer. As a writer of national stories, she has evinced a great variety of talents; but has scarcely been sufficiently praised for her chief excellence, her Irish idiom. It is perfect; neither is there anything of the kind nearly so good in any Irish character in the class of novel or drama.
Barrett, Lover, and Bainim have done their work very fairly; but have, by no means, come so close to truth as Lady M. Miss Edgeworth, with all her brilliant powers, constantly fails on this ground, by mingling low English phrases with her Irish dialect.
Sir J. B. eulogizes a French veteran of the Imperial Guard for his avowed attachment to Napoleon, and for refusing Sir J.'s offer of a piece of money, be
“ he disdained to receive bounty from the enemy of his Emperor.” “ This incident," writes Sir Jonah, “ alone affords a key to all his victories." It does so, most undeniably. Napoleon gained his iniquitous object of transforming a whole nation into soldiery, by promising, (and he often kept his promise,) the two rewards most coveted by the reckless rabble of mankind, distinction-and gold. Lured by the bribes of promotion and plunder, the French were ready enough to aid him in all his schemes of hard-hearted ambition, oppression, and tyranny.