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a false one; let us for a nioment contemplate the true nature of modesty,
• Modesty is the inseparable companion of an enlightened mind; but there is a little, low, debasing fear, which assumes the appearance of modesty, and which is therefore one of the most dangerous enemies a man of genius has to combat. Consider the marks that distinguish each of these from the other. Modesty is a sentiment, fear is a quality of the mind; modesty has its birth from a comparison of our own talents and actions with those of other men ; fear is that imbecillity that dares not enter into the comparison ; modesty is supported by hope, and looks, though with a trembling eye, towards the excellence at which she points ; fear never lifts her eye from the ground; modesty acquires fortitude as the mind in which it resides approaches the regions of truth ; fear depresses the mind, and continually obstructs its progress in such approaches ; modesty is generous ; she is ever ready to pay her tribute to the works of genius; fear is selfish, and envious of the success of merit. In short, the one is the offspring of strength, the other the wretched child of weakness; the one leads on, though by slow degrees, to great designs and noble actions; the other drags its miserable victim from every enlivening prospect, enervates all his faculties, and at length chains him down to obscurity for ever.
Your present feelings appear to me to partake in a degree of this slavish fear ; I will endeavour to shew you the source of the evil. Independently of the difference which there is between the pursuits of men of business and pleasure, and those of men of learning, there is also a very unhappy prejudice in the great majority of mankind against any attempt at excellence beyond that which serves the purpose of the moment; and this prejudice has engrafted itself from generation to generation upon the minds of men, until they seem to be agreed to consider those personages who have attained an established fame as set apart from the general condition of humanity: to imitate them is therefore looked upon as an attempt little less than impious, and at all events as fruitless. This you will say is a most egregious folly: it is so; but it is nevertheless a very prevalent one, and it is easily imbibed ; for there are not many affections of the mind which have a greater tendency to produce false conceptions of things than admiration ; and how can it be wonderful that we are ready to exclaim, “ This object is beyond my imitation," when our admiration is seconded by-indolence; when we have in fact lost every inclination to imitate it.
« You see, then, that you have formed a false conception of your duty, and of your powers, or at least that you are subject to all the fear that can arise from such a false conception : this has happened either by contracting a foolish habit of talking as the people around you talk without
troubling yourself to think, or else by a blind subserviency to what is usually called the general opinion. Now here you may again easily perceive the clear distinctive marks between modesty and fear; modesty will inquire
into these general opinions, but with caution ; and will either wholly or in part adopt or reject them ; fear will bend before them with an undistinguishing servility, whether they be false or true. Probably you do not think yourself deficient in courage ; but the fact is, you would esteem it an inexcusable degree of bold. ness to look upon some men of the past ages, and of your own time, in the light of companions and friends; but this you call modesty; to their excellences you have persuaded yourself that you never shall be able to attain, and their works, therefore, fail to produce one spark of emulation in your breast. Tell me, my dear friend, do you mean to sink to the common level ? But why do I ask you? You must conquer this infirmity ; you must think for yourself.
• The independence of vulgar prejudices, at which I would have you aim, seems necessary to the formation of a finished character in every profession and situation in life: nay, I have little hesitation to affirm that there never was in this world a finished character without it; and if it is of greater importance in one profession than another, that profession is the law, because it requires those exertions, and involves in its practice those various displays of energy and of judgment, that bring the professor more into the public view than any other. But how can a man expect to attain to excellence in these important qualities, if he has not that holy confidence which arises from this desirable independence? Surely it is impossible! The question is, How is it to be gained? Perhaps it would be useless if not impossible to lay down any certain rule: if there be any one in particular to be marked out, it may be that of continually comparing the opinions that are daily uttered, first of all with what we have discerned of the character of those who utter them ; secondly, with the opinions and practice of those men who have left a clear and established reputation behind them; and thirdly, with our own discoveries; because this habit of comparing what we hear with what we know, and with what the great and learned have uniformly taught, will go very far towards a discovery of the intrinsic value of any opinion; and when we have learned to estimate that, we shall soon gain the courage to approve or disapprove it.
If we were usually thus to try the opinions we hear, there would not be so many false and foolish opinions in the world as there are ; many of those prejudices, that are now abroad, and which have been handed traditionally down from father to son, would long since have fallen to the ground; and among them, this silent, inveterate, destructive prejudice that has infected in some degree even your understanding. I feel at this moment great difficulty in expressing myself; the truth is, I have a sincere and awful reverence for those great characters which have been scattered about in various ages and nations of the world, and I wish to preserve a similar sentiment in you; yet at the same time, I feel an anxiety to fill up that gulph which keeps you at such a distance from them: to lead you up to them, and to shew you that you may lawfully' emulate their exalted sphere ; that they are men and not gods.
Let their works and their lives form, for a certain period, almost the whole of your daily study; this will in time, familiarise you somewhat to their presence, and you will at length be able to breathe while you are with them; in process of time you will begin
o think and reason a little, and by and by something like an opitnion upon the various subjects of which they treat will dawn in your bosom ; this by degrees will produce a spirit of inquiry, which has hitherto not dared to raise its head: you will be bold enough sometimes to ask whether even these revered characters may not have been mistaken. Ha! do you start? Is this possible? Thus, under the auspices of my favourite modesty, have I led you step by step to some intimacy with these renowned personages Very well — you tremble less than you did you begin to be composed
you advance towards them with a manly yet modest boldness. And now what do I see? I look into your study, and there I find Demosthenes, Plato, Cicero, Hortensius, Lord Bacon, Lord Mansfield, Sir William Jones, and a few more of those exalted beings, who have delighted and amazed the universe, seated at your fireside! Can it be? Are you able to think, to move, to speak ? Oh, yes ; I hear you are bold enough to reason too. What! do you doubt whether Cicero's conclusion be right? Can you venture to imagine that my Lord Bacon is wrong? Amazing! Nay, do you
form a sentiment or an hypothesis which you conceive to be almost as just as his ?
· In plain and sober words, you must learn to judge for yourself; you must no longer remain the slave of prejudice. Do you think that such characters as these would endure that you should be a slave to it? No! they never were slaves themselves, and therefore their greatness was a natural consequence of their character. They thought, they spoke, they wrote, and they acted from themselves, and hence their estimation with mankind: this they arrived at by the very conduct I am pointing out to you: they revered the characters of their masters, but they dared to confide in their own; they were the subjects of modesty, and not the victims of fear.'
On the labour which is commonly, though erroneously, regarded as peculiar to the study of the law, our readers will find some excellent remarks in letter the seventh: but we rather present them with some observations taken from a different part of the work, on those stimulating rewards of which all occasionally, and some always, await the diligent, the virtuous, and the able student :
· I shall in this letter make it my business to state to you what may possibly be obtained in the course of years, by a fair exercise of your talents at the bar, reserving to some future opportunity the reflections that may be made upon the nice and delicate situations in which you may be placed by possessing a high reputation in the courts.
• The study of the law presents a fairer field for the exercise of those qualifications that adorn and dignify human life than any
other profession. When men begin to feel their interest concerned in the decision of a court of justice, they necessarily perceive their want of an advocate ; few in the present state of our legal polity are hardy enough to think of pleading their own cause; they therefore look out for some person who is either known as a man of talents in his own circle, or who has given proofs of his abilities to the public. Riches, birth, appearance, weigh lightly in the scale against imbecillity and dulness, when our fortune or our reputation is at stake: nay, what are the affections of consanguinity itself when these valued possessions come into competition with them?'— Surely, in a life like the present, that man must account his situation a happy one, where merit and its reward go hand in hand.
The character which attends a barrister, thus successful, forms also another pleasing and valuable part of his reward. Held not only in esteem but in reverence; he goes through life with. that peculiar kind of pleasure which attends the man, who is conscious of his capacity to state the claims of the injured and procure them redress; he mixes with society upon more than equal terms, and has yet the happiness, from the nature of his superiority, of having little to fear from the envy it may occasion. Mankind have in general good sense enough to perceive that no one can attain to a deserved eminence in the law without possessing those talents and that learning which ought to command admir.ation; and when to this is added a systematic acquaintance with an important and various body of laws, every thing is willingly accorded that so great a merit can demand. All this satisfaction and honour may attend the early progress of a barrister who deserves them; but, as he proceeds in his career, a more extended prospect opens before him; a stuff gown is at length exchanged for a silk one; a barrister's wig for a serjeant's coif. Now he begins to. perceive with redoubled pleasure that he has not been labouring in vain; all his powers are brought into action, and he finds, in a full employment of his acquirements, his most valuable reward.
The noblest employments in the state lie open from this point; and they may, by such a character, possibly be acquired with honour. There is a strong connection in a country like this between politics and the law; and a man who, by a successful practice of many years as an advocate, has acquired the distinctions. I have mentioned, will in all probability find it more difficult to decline than to cultivate connections of a political nature. Such men are con. tinually wanted in the public departments, because they are usually the most capable of rendering a service to their country; in particular, the House of Commons will present to him a new and a grand scene for the expansion of that mind, which he has so long been labouring to rear to maturity : here it is, as the representative of a powerful nation, .that he will be gratified with those opportunities for the exertion of his eloquence and his wisdom, which no other assembly in the world can afford. '
• If then a man has a spirit emulous of superiority, he will, as a lawyer, have a fair chance for its honourable gratification : from
the bar the ascent to the bench seems natural ; and such an ascent seems natural only to the active and learned barrister ; for I am induced to hope that the distribution of legal honours is more consonant with the abstract principles of justice, than the grants of high distinctions in the world usually are.
And whence can a higher or a nobler satisfaction How? To be the distributor of justice in a country like this, is to fill a station amongst the most exalted in human conception! When I see a judge upon the bench, fulfilling the duties of his office, I see a man clothed with integrity, and crowned with honour: if any object in this life may be allowed to excite envy in a well disciplined mind, this man is the object.
• Another very strong incentive to industry is the hope of riches; these the successful lawyer cannot but acquire; and he may acquire them without impairing his reputation ; indeed, it is impossible but his pecuniary acquisitions must keep pace with his reputation. Here again how many scientific men does he leave behind him ! Of the philosopher and the poet I will not speak; for it has, I believe, most usually been found with respect to them, that their reputation has sunk in exactly the same proportion as their coffers have risen. In the exercise of arms, the fame and the riches of the warrior seem to retain the native quality of his profession; they are at eternal strife: and what sort of a correspondence subsists between the talents and the fortune of a preacher may be better demonstrated by the present undeservedly ignominious situation of hundreds of the sacred order, than by my pen : but I willingly quit & comparison that has little relation to my present subject, and which no man of genias or huinanity can contemplate without pain.
• 'What a noble recompence of labour have I presented to your view! Fame, fortune, bonour] all combine to grace and dignify your life! Will
chuse obscurity, poverty, and contempt in their stead? Be no longer indolent; you have great things to perform, but you have greater things to obtain. It were inconsistent with nature to love labour for its own sake, but it were a greater violation of its dictates to fear labour when such are its rewards.
Independently of all this, the particular desire of knowledge which some minds feel, is in no trilling degree satisfied by the acquisitions that are to be made in the progress of the legal study:The laws by which nations are bound one towards another in their external commerce, and the regulations by which the internal polity of our own country is framed, open to the inquiring mind an expanded and animating scene. In this research new discoveries of reason and truth are continually made: here it is that we perceive, with a peculiar pleasure, those nice delineations of justice which are hidden from the common observer: here it is that we mark the various divisions of power, whereby the property of every man is at once ascertained and protected: here it is that we learn to distinguish the various duties of life, with a precision which enables us to instruct others as well as ourselves in the fulfilment of them: in