[blocks in formation]

Occasionally he took fits of an opposite nature; and I have seen him abating and dissolving pompous gentlemen with the most successful ridicule. He certainly had a good deal of humour; and I remember, amongst many other examples of it, that he kept us for two or three hours in a roar of laughter, at a dinner-party at his own house, playing upon the simplicity of a Scotch cousin, who had mistaken me for my gallant synonym, the hero of Acre. I never saw a more perfect comedy, nor heard ridicule so long and so well sustained.* Sir James had not only humour, but he had wit also; at least, new and sudden relations of ideas flashed across his mind in reasoning, and produced the same effect as wit, and would have been called wit, if a sense of their utility and im

"I can not conclude, sir, without thanking you for the very clear and distinct manner in which you have announced the proposition on which we are to vote. It is but common justice to add that public assemblies rarely witness articulation so perfect, language so select, and a manner so eminently remarkable for everything that is kind, impartial, and just.'"

*This was in his early days at London, about the year 1807. Lady Holland (Memoir, p. 87) tells the story:

"It was on occasion of one of these suppers that Sir James Mackintosh happened to bring with him a raw Scotch cousin, an ensign in a Highland regiment. On hearing the name of his host he suddenly turned round, and, nudging Sir James, said in an audible whisper, 'Is that the great Sir Sudney?' 'Yes, yes,' said Sir James, much amused; and giving my father the hint, on the instant he assumed the military character, performed the part of the hero of Acre to perfection, fought all his battles over again, and showed how he had charged the Turks, to the infinite delight of the young Scotchman, who was quite enchanted with the kindness and condescension of the great Sir Sudney,' as he called him, and to the absolute torture of the other guests, who were bursting with suppressed laughter at the scene before them. At last, after an evening of the most inimitable acting on the part both of my father and Sir James, nothing would serve the young Highlander but setting off, at twelve o'clock at night, to fetch the piper of his regiment to pipe to the great Sir Sudney,' who said he had never heard the bagpipes, upon which the whole party broke up and dispersed instantly, for Sir James said his Scotch cousin would infallibly cut his throat if he discovered his mistake. A few days afterward, when Sir James Mackintosh and his Scotch cousin were walking in the streets, they met my father with my mother on his arm. He introduced her as his wife, upon which the Scotch cousin said in a low voice to Sir James, and looking at my mother, 'I did na ken the great Sir Sudney was married.' 'Why, no,' said Sir James, a little embarrassed and winking at him, 'not ex-act-ly married only an Egyptian slave he brought over with him; Fatima-you know-you understand.' My mother was long known in the little circle as Fatima."

[blocks in formation]

portance had not often overpowered the admiration of novelty, and entitled them to the higher name of wisdom. Then the great thoughts and fine sayings of the great men of all ages were intimately present to his recollection, and came out dazzling and delighting in his conversation. Justness of thinking was a strong feature in his understanding; he had a head in which nonsense and error could hardly vegetate: it was a soil utterly unfit for them. If his display in conversation had been only in maintaining splendid paradoxes, he would soon have wearied those he lived with; but no man could live long intimately with your father without finding that he was gaining upon doubt, correcting error, enlarging the boundaries, and strengthening the foundations of truth. It was worth while to listen to a master, whom not himself, but nature had appointed to the office, and who taught what it was not easy to forget, by methods which it was not easy to resist.*

Curran, the master of the rolls, said to Mr. Grattan, "You would be the greatest man of your age, Grattan, if you would buy a few yards of red tape, and tie up your bills and papers." This was the fault or misfortune of your excellent father; he never knew the use of red tape, and was utterly unfit for the common business of life. That a guinea represented a quantity of shil

In 1801 Smith wrote to Jeffrey : "Nothing has pleased me more in London than the conversation of Mackintosh. I never saw so theoretical a head which contained so much practical understanding. He has lived much among various men, with great observation, and has always tried his profound moral speculations by the experience of life. He has not contracted in the world a lazy contempt for theorists nor in the closet a peevish impatience of that grossness and corruptibility of mankind, which are ever marring the schemes of secluded benevolence. He does not wish for the best in politics or morals, but for the best which can be attained; and what that is he seems to know well. Now what I object to Scotch philosophers in general is, that they reason upon man as they would upon a divinity; they pursue truth without caring if it be useful truth. They are more fond of disputing on mind and matter than on anything which can have a reference to the real world, inhabited by real men, women, and children; a philosopher that descends to the present state of things is debased in their estimation. Look among our friends in Edinburgh, and see if there be not some truth in this. I do not speak of great prominent literary personages, but of the mass of reflecting men in Scotland."

† Smith, writing to the Countess Grey of Mackintosh's visit to Foston in 1823, says of his guest: 'Mackintosh had seventy volumes in his


[blocks in formation]

We consider the Irish clergy as factious, and as encouraging the bad anti-British spirit of the people. How can it be otherwise? They live by the people; they have nothing to live upon but the voluntary oblations of the people; and they must fall into the same spirit as the people, or they would be starved to death. No marriage; no mortuary masses; no unctions to the priest who preached against O'Connell !

Give the clergy a maintenance separate from the will of the people, and you will then enable them to oppose the folly and madness of the people. The objection to the state provision does not really come from the clergy, but from the agitators and repealers: these men see the immense advantage of carrying the clergy with them in their agitation, and of giving the sanction of religion to political hatred; they know that the clergy, moving in the same direction with the people, have an immense influence over them; and they are very wisely afraid, not only of losing this co-operating power, but of seeing it, by a state provision, arrayed against them. I am fully convinced that a state payment to the Catholic clergy, by leaving to that laborious and useful body of men the exercise of their free judgment, would be the severest blow that Irish agitation could receive.

For advancing these opinions, I have no doubt I shall be assailed by Sacerdos, Vindex, Latimer, Vates, Clericus, Aruspex, and be called atheist, deist, democrat, smuggler, poacher, highwayman, Unitarian, and Edinburgh Reviewer! Still, I am in the right— and what I say requires excuse for being trite and obvious, not for being mischievous and paradoxical. I write for three reasons; first, because I really wish to do good; secondly, because, if I don't write, I know nobody else will; and thirdly, because it is the nature of the animal to write, and I cannot help it. Still, in looking back I see no reason to repent. What I have said ought to be done, generally has been done, but always twenty or thirty years too late; done, not, of course, because I have said it, but because it was no longer possible to avoid doing it. Human beings cling to their delicious tyrannies, and to their exquisite nonsense, like a drunkard to his bottle, and go on till death stares them in the face. The monstrous state of the Catholic Church in Ireland will probably remain till some monstrous ruin threatens the very exist



ence of the empire, and Lambeth and Fulham are cursed by the affrighted people.

I have always compared the Protestant church in Ireland (and I believe my friend, Thomas Moore, stole the simile from me) to the institution of butchers' shops in all the villages of our Indian empire. "We will have a butcher's shop in every village, and you, Hindoos, shall pay for it. We know that many of you do not eat meat at all, and that the sight of beef-steaks is particularly offensive to you; but still, a stray European may pass through your village, and want a steak or a chop: the shop shall be established; and you shall pay for it." This is English legislation for Ireland!! There is no abuse like it in all Europe, in all Asia, in all the discovered parts of Africa, and in all we have heard of Timbuctoo! It is an error that requires twenty thousand armed men for its protection in time of peace; which costs more than a million a year; and which, in the first French war, in spite of the puffing and panting of fighting steamers, will and must break out into desperate rebellion.

It is commonly said, if the Roman Catholic priests are paid by the state, they will lose their influence over their flocks; not their fair influence-not that influence which any wise and good man would wish to see in all religions—not the dependence of humble ignorance upon prudence and piety-only fellowship in faction, and fraternity in rebellion; all that will be lost. A peep-of-day clergyman will no longer preach to a peep-of-day congregationa Whiteboy vicar will no longer lead the psalm to Whiteboy vocalists; but everything that is good and wholesome will remain. This, however, is not what the anti-British faction want; they want all the animation which piety can breathe into sedition, and all the fury which the priesthood can preach to diversity of faith: and this is what they mean by a clergy losing their influence over the people! The less a clergyman exacts of his people, the more his payments are kept out of sight, the less will be the friction with which he exercises the functions of his office. A poor Catholic may respect a priest the more who marries, baptizes, and anoints; but he respects him because he associates with his name and character the performance of sacred duties, not because he exacts heavy fees for doing so. Double fees would be a very doubtful cure for skepticism; and though we have often seen the tenth

[blocks in formation]

lings, and that it would barter for a quantity of cloth, he was well aware; but the accurate number of the baser coin, or the just measurement of the manufactured article, to which he was entitled for his gold, he could never learn, and it was impossible to teach him. Hence his life was often an example of the ancient and melancholy struggle of genius, with the difficulties of existence.

I have often heard Sir James Mackintosh say of himself, that he was born to be the professor of a university. Happy, and for ages celebrated, would have been the university, which had so possessed him, but in this view he was unjust to himself. Still, however, his style of speaking in Parliament was certainly more academic than forensic; it was not sufficiently short and quick for a busy and impatient assembly. He often spoke over the heads of his hearers-was too much in advance of feeling for their sympathies, and of reasoning for their comprehension. He began too much at the beginning, and went too much to the right and left of the question, making rather a lecture or a dissertation than a speech. His voice was bad and nasal; and though nobody was in reality more sincere, he seemed not only not to feel, but hardly to think what he was saying.

Your father had very little science, and no great knowledge of physics. His notions of his early pursuit-the study of medicine -were imperfect and antiquated, and he was but an indifferent classical scholar, for the Greek language has never crossed the Tweed in any great force. In history the whole stream of time was open before him; he had looked into every moral and metaphysical question from Plato to Paley, and had waded through morasses of international law, where the step of no living man could follow him. Political economy is of modern invention; I am old enough to recollect when every judge on the bench (Lord Eldon and Sergeant Runnington excepted), in their charges to the grand juries, attributed the then high prices of corn to the scandalous combination of farmers. Sir James knew what is commonly agreed upon by political economists, without taking much pleasure in the science, and with a disposition to blame the very speculative and metaphysical disquisitions into which it has carriage! None of the glasses would draw up or let down, but one; and he left his hat behind him at our house."

« ElőzőTovább »