صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

6

cellent author before us, that his death should consign them to oblivion; and that, as his claims to distinction were altogether of a public nature, nothing should be allowed to detract from them that is not of the same description: At the same time, that our readers may know all that we know, and that their uncharitable surmises may not go beyond the truth, we cannot do better than conclude with the following passage from this most exemplary biography, in which, as in all the rest, the author has observed the tenderness which was due to the relationship in which he stood to his subject, without violating, in the least degree, that manly fairness and sincerity, without which he would have been unworthy of public confidence.

• But the question will be asked, has this been a faithful picture? ! -Have no shades been designedly omitted ?-Has delicacy or flattery concealed no defects, without which the resemblance cannot be true ? To such inquiries it is answered, that the estimable qualities which have formed the preceding description, have not * been invented or exaggerated ; and if the person, who has assumed the duty of collecting them, has abstained from a rigorous detail of any infirmities of temper or conduct, it is because a feeling more sacred and more justifiable than delicacy or flattery bas taught him, and should teach others, to regard them with tenderness and regret. In thus abstaining from a cruel and unprofita• ble analysis of failings, to which the most gisted are often the most

prone, no deception is intended. It is due to that public to whom • Mr. Curran's merits have been here submitted as deserving their ' approbation, to admit with candour, that some particulars have been withheld which they would not have approved : But it is also due to his memory to declare, that in balancing the conflicting elements of his character, what was virtuous and amiable will • be found to have largely preponderated. He was not perfect; but his imperfections have a peculiar claim upon our forbearance, when we reflect that they sprung from the same source as « his genius, and may be considered as almost the inevitable con* dition upon which that order of genius can be held. Their source was in his imagination. The same ardour and sensibility which rendered him so eloquent an advocate of others, impelled him to * take too impassioned and irritating views of questions that personally related to himself. The mistakes of conduct into which this impetuosity of temperament betrayed him cannot be defended .by this or by any other explanation of their origin; yet it is much

to be able to say that they were almost exclusively confined to a • single relation, and that those who in consequence suffered most, .but who, from their intimate connexion with him, knew him best, saw so many redeeming qualities in his nature, that they uniform

6

[ocr errors]

ly considered any exclusion from his regard, not so much in the • light of an injustice, as of a personal misfortune.

There was a time when such considerations would have failed to appease his numerous accusers, who, under the vulgar pretext of moral indignation, were relentlessly taking vengeance on his public virtues by assiduous and exaggerated statements of private errors, which, had he been'one of the enemies of his country, they would have been the first to screen or justify. But it is hoped, that he was not deceiving himself when he anticipated that the term of their hostility would expire as soon as he should be re. moved beyond its reach. “The charity of the survivors (to use * his own expression) looks at the failings of the dead through an

inverted glass; and slander calls off the pack from the chase in • which, when there can be no pain, there can be no sport; nor will memory weigh their merils with a niggard steadiness of • hand.” But even should this have been a delusive expectation• should the grave which now covers him prove an unrespected « barrier against the assaults of political hatred, there will not be * wanting many of more generous niinds, who loved and admired • him, to rally round his memory, from the grateful conviction that

his titles to his country's esteem stand in defiance of every imper• fection of which his most implacable revilers can accuse him. As * long as Ireland retains any sensibility to public worth, it will not

be forgotten, that (whatever waywardness he may have shown towards some, and those a very few) she had, in every vicissitude, the unpurchased and most unmeasured benefit of his affections and his virtues. This is his claim and his protection--that having by his talents raised himself from an humble condition to a station of high trust and innumerable temptations, he held him‘self erect in servile times, and has left an example of Political • Honour, upon which the most scrutinizing malice cannot detect 'a stain.' II. pp. 475-479.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Art. XIII. Mr. Sampson's Preface.

[To the Life of Curran, Counsellor Sampson of this city has furnished, in answer to the request of the American publisher, an interesting and well written Preface;-and as it contains a witty, courteous and spirited retort upon the preceding article from the Edinburgh Review, we avail ourselves of a portion of it.

He introduces his subject with this striking and beautiful compliment to the biographer,]" It rejoices me to find the genius of Curran surviving in a Son, who in vindicating his father's fame Vol. II.

31

has nobly, though perhaps unconsciously, established his own, and sweetly mingled the tender sentiment of filial piety, with the manly decision of a faithful and candid historian.

“ I had been often before solicited to furnish something towards Curran's history; and about the time that this author proposed to becoine his father's biographer, an invitation from him to that effect was communicated to me through my friend Mr. Emmet. That I did not comply with a request which I deemed an honour, was not from any unwillingness to pay my share of a just tribute, but from an insurmountable reluctance to revive recollections full of regret, and the difficulty of separating the history of Curran from that of his country, with which it was interwoven: and to speak on that subject with fulness and effect the time was not yet arrived. These difficulties, sir, I stated to you when I promised (for so I find you have considered it) to write something, but I merely thought of vindicating the reputation of a man, niuch extolled, but often undervalued, from censures founded on misapprehensions and mistakes. And let me add, that whatever difficulties I felt before, they are only enhanced by the reading of the work, where I find the task so well performed without any aid of mine, by the legitimate heir of his father's celebrity, who has so manfully taken charge of bis own inheritance....I feel in its full force the delicacy and danger, without, or even with, the permission of the author, of interpolating any thing into a book, whose principal fault judicious critics find to be its too great amplitude : and to which defect, I should, with due respect, add that of its being already burthened with too long notes.

[Mr. Sampson was instrumental in preserving some of those forensic speeches of Curran, upon which his celebrity with posterity is said to depend—and those which Mr. Sampsou reported are the most distinguisbed]

* * * When celebrated men have ceased to exist, the minutest circumstances that shed light upon their manner of being, and their moral habits, acquire an interest. Even fac similes of hand writing of men of cherished memory, have been thought worth preserving by engraved copies. Their letters, which are images of their thoughts and minds, must be much better worth preserving. The familiar epistles of Cicero are now read in the interior of this continent by a much greater number, and with no less avidity than they were by the Romans of bis own and succeeding times.

(Aster quoting some of Mr. Curran's correspondence with liis client Hamilton Rowan-be proceeds:]

I shall add one or two letters from Curran, written to myself in the easy style of friendship. 1 select them, because they have some reference to this trial; and also, because they turn upon the coucerns of my own family, and have regard to no other persons, nor

no more important subject; and I, therefore, feel myself the more free to dispose of them.-It appears that a certain domestic occurrence invited my return to Belfast, where I had a house, and where I spent some of the vacations between the terms and where iny family then was. DEAR SAMPSON,

I have executed your commission to Emmet faithfully. We have all very sincerely congratulated you on the fruits of your family toils, of which we are disposed to entertain the most favourable prognostics, and we do hereby offer you and your fellow labourer, our best and worthiest greetings thereupon.

* As to my part I have so strong an hope, that young Agonistes will one day achieve, what by reason of his tender years he may not now be able to perform, that I should, without scruple, have become bound for him in a spiritual recog. nisance to any amount; but, perhaps, not having yet decided under what banner he is to carry on the war of the flesh, he has not troubled himself with thinking of a bottle-holder. If he should talk about the matter, you may just hint to him that I pique myself upon a knowledge of the creed and ten commandments in the vulgar tongue. Einmet tells me the trial will be out on Monday.

Yours very truly,

J. P. CURRAN. February 21, 1794.

The person here called Agonistes, was my now only son John Philpot Curran Sampson, and the reader need not be told, that the offer was to be his god-father or sponsor : and it seems that he had been invited to name the child, for he shortly after writes thus : MY DEAR GOSSIP,

• A man did so foolish a thing, as proposing to do very well what may be as well, perhaps better done milllingly, for he certainly postpones, and probably does it so much the worse. If any thing can save him from the consequences of his past coscombry, it can be only the waut of time when he comes to perform -so it has been with me. I felt a foolish propensity to write a fine letter to you, instead of answering promptly and kindly what I felt very kindly. I have now but a moment to say what I should have said two posts ago. I am very much flattered by iny god-child's opinion of my orthodoxy, and I inost cheerfully vow as many things in bis name as he thinks he may be able to perform. As to the name itsell, I accept the permission with much gratitude, but must bey to make Mrs. Sampson my true and lawful attorney, in my name, and on my behall, to name that name, wishing from my heart, that it may often give gladness to hers and to yours.

• I should feel infinite pleasure in taking a trip to you, if my miserable avocations would leave it in my power to do so. I should wish to make my court to the young fellow before he got any prior liens upon his affectious. If the levity of the age should unluckily catch him, he may chance to look upon my paternity with not so much reverence and regard as he ought to do. I received your enclosed, and as a friend and critic, I find our opinions not much asunder. Apropose contra-how do you find I look in your labours ? Yours sincerely, as also my gossips,

J. P. CURRAN.' This term gossip, has various acceptations in the English language, it means sometimes a merry-maker or pot-companion, a prater generally, and more especially a tattling woman. In its

6

[ocr errors]

a

strict etymological sense, it means relation ; in the canonical sense it is that spiritual affinity created by sponsorship, at the baptismal font: but in Ireland it has a sense connected with her fearful code and mournful history, that renders it an endearing expression of sympathy and affection. Thus we find Sir John Davies, the attorney-general of king James, in Ireland, in his discovery of the true causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued' speaking thus : part 1.-171, &c. •For first it appeareth, by the preamble of these lawes, (the statutes of Kilkenny,) that the English of this realme, before the coming over of Lionel duke of Clarence, were at that time become meere Irish in their language, names, apparell, and all their manner of living, and had rejected the English lawes, and submitted themselves to the Irish, with whom they had made many marriages and alliances, which tended to the utter ruine and destruction of the commonwealth. Therefore, alliaunce by marriage, nurture of infants, and gossipred with the Irish, are by this statute made high treason.'

Curran seemed tenacious of this word, and we find him writing in 1803, from Paris, that he had refused to dine with lady Oxford, because he had bargained for a Cabriolet, to go and see his gossip in the valley Montmorency. [His god-son.]

The biographer has truly said, that the magical effusions of his father's genius, are better known by the traditions of his contemporaries, than by the most faithful reports of his speeches. This holds still more true with respect to his reputation as a wit, wherein I am sorry to say, he has been mercilessly dealt with. I may be but an indifferent judge of that quality of the mind, but chance has made me acquainted with a number of those, who, in my days, have been most celebrated for it in various countries, and I have known none of any country, who had any pretensions to vie with Curran..... I am sure I have heard from him a hundred pleasant sallies in the course of one convivial day, the very meanest of which was preferable to the best I ever saw in print.

It is much to be regretted, that the Author was too young to have been the partaker, either of his father's convivial moments, or of his more serious thoughts during the epoch of his greatest celebrity. For since with borrowed materials he could form so fair a sketch, had he enjoyed those advantages, how true to life and da

a [Before Mr. Sampson had finished this preface, an account was received of his son's death at New Orleans,--where he had established himself, and in a few months had become an object of general esteem and interest throughout the state, and where his loss was lamented as a public calanity. On enclosing the preface to the publisher, Mr. S. informs him, in a note, that his only son was no more-regrets that the writing should go in so imperfect a state—and adds, “ I could not foresee, when I retraced the image of past days, and revived the cheerful recollections of his dawn of life, that this paper should be inoistened with a father's tears.")

« السابقةمتابعة »