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ART.

3. Statement respecting the Earl of Selkirk's Settlement upon the Red River, in North America: its Destruction in 1815 and 1816; and the Massacre of Governor Semple and his Party. With Observations upon a recent Publication, entitled, "A Narrative of Occurrences in the Indian Countries, &c."

XIX. HEBER'S BAMPTON LECTURES. 1. The Personality and Office of the Christian Comforter asserted and explained, in a Course of Sermons on John xvi. 7, preached before the University of Oxford, in the Year 1815, at the Lecture founded by the late Reverend John Bampton, M. A. Canon of Salisbury. By Reginald Heber, M. A. 2. A Reply to certain Observations on the Bampton Lectures of the Year 1815, contained in the British Critic for December 1816 and January 1817, in a Letter to the Head of a College. By Reginald Heber, A. M.

3. Vindication of a Review of the Bampton Lectures, for the Year 1815, inserted in the British Critic; in Two Letters, addressed to the Reverend Reginald Heber, M. A. Letter I. containing a Defence of the Arguments in favour of the Doctrine of the Trinity. By the Reverend F. Nolan, late of Exeter College, Oxon.

XX. FRENCH LITERATURE AND CRITICISM.

1. Tableau Historique

l'Etat et des Progrès de la Littérature Française, depuis 1789. Par M. J. de Chenier.

2. A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, by Augustus William Schlegel. Translated from the Original German by John Black.

LIST OF BOOKS

INDEX

Page

384

- 408

434

485

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THE

BRITISH REVIEW,

AND

LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.

NOVEMBER, 1817.

ART. XIII.-MEMOIRS OF TH. RT. HONOURABLE RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.

1. Memoirs of the public and private Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, with a particular Account of his Family and Connexions. By John Watkins, LL.D. 2 vols. 4to. pp. 750. Colburn. London, 1817.

2. Speeches of the late Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan: several corrected by Himself. Edited by a Constitutional Friend. 5 vols. 8vo. Martin. London, 1816.

THERE are those who deny the existence of any original difference in the faculties of men; and who maintain that genius is solely created by circumstances, either of accidental influence, or specific culture. But until the constituent qualities of the human intellect can be brought within the reach of physical analysis, every man must and will decide this question for himself by the practical test of his own experience, and the convictions produced in his mind by general observation. He who duly appreciates the intellectual achievements of the subject of the above memoir, will be at a loss to find in the circumstances of his early life the source of his subsequent eminence. His success is a problem which has no solution but in mystery, nor will any theory afford an explanation so satisfactory as that which adopts the principle of innate superiority, and supposes certain natural advantages in the primary endowments of the mind. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox breathed an atmosphere of

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knowledge from their very infancy; they had parental instruction and parental example to animate and inform their minds, of a nature certainly to make them great, (we speak only politically): and the youth of Mr. Burke, as we have observed in a former article, was a protracted season of preparation, devoutly directed towards the attainment of truth, and full of the sober and serious purposes of utility. But the early career of Sheridan, even to the ripest manhood, was disturbed by interests and objects commonly fatal to literature, to science, and to political ambition. Except a year or two of his boyhood, passed under the tuition of Dr. Parr at Harrow School, the docile period of his life was lost in inaction, or consumed in desultory or dissipating occupation; and where his intellect was employed, it seems to have chosen those paths of ephemeral fame, which seldom lead to solid or useful acquisitions. Even the maturer exercises of his mind, however high they raised his reputation as a comic writer, contributed but little to the fund from which he was afterwards to draw in the great emergencies of his political warfare. From dramatic composition, and the politics of a theatre, from a course of shifts and difficulties, want and waste, negligence and distress; from a vortex of festivity, folly, and inebriety, was this extraordinary man on a sudden introduced into the great Council of the nation, and at once set in competition with men whose talents as speakers and reasoners have marked with a distinct character the era in which they flourished. It is true that Mr. Sheridan was frequently in the company of Mr. Burke, Dr. Johnson, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, before the commencement of his parliamentary life; but who does not know, how little, without the accompaniments of meditation, reading, and spontaneous exercise, is to be acquired of sound and accurate knowledge, from table-talk and desultory discussion. His acceptance, indeed, with persons of the above description, when considerably under thirty years of age, increases our surprise at the maturity of his attainments under circumstances so unfavourable to their advancement. But we do not mean to suppose any thing miraculous in the history of Mr. Sheridan. Ideas came into his mind by the usual inlets, and his acquaintance with things and men was derived from communication and observation, as in the case of others; but we mean to insist upon the rare felicity of those mental powers, and the native soundness of that intellectual constitution which, from amidst the bustle of business, speculation, and pleasure, from amidst the anxieties of uncertain subsistence, from amidst difficulties, and clamour, and discontent, the fruit of a defective morality, and unsteady conduct, answered the first call to high station in public affairs with many of the qualifications of a statesman, and rose at once, if not to the sum

mit of ambitious hope, to an altitude certainly demanding, exercising, and displaying, the loftiest capacity.

It is curious, however, as well as interesting and consoling, to observe how necessary to the worth and efficacy of genius is moral sobriety of sentiment, and virtuous decorum of conduct. The irregular training and desultory habits of this extraordinary person, spread through his whole life their deteriorating influence. No regular progression, no accumulation of authority, no gradual increase of personal ascendancy, no gratuitous reliance, no respectful prepossessions, were the fruits of his repeated victories in eloquence or argument. Gratitude for occasional efforts of genuine patriotism never rose to habitual esteem. Conviction and persuasion, though often the effect of his vivacious eloquence, never ripened into confidence; the morning and meridian of his days were equal in their lustre, and that lustre rather corruscating and intermittent, than full, effulgent, and continuous.

The character of our House of Commons which reflects the general temper of the nation, a temper naturally rather suspicious of declamation-the diffusion and cheapness of popular oratory, --and above all, the notoriety of the real nature of party-principle, which makes truth and general utility a sacrifice to factious views, and personal ambition, has deprived eloquence, merely as eloquence, of much of its influence over public affairs, and private opinions. Nor can we altogether lament a state of things, however brought about, in which the passions are become less a prey to the artifices of rhetoric, and in which general eloquence thus compelled to take a higher aim, is forced to call to its aid, the weight of character, and the attraction of truth. Disconnected and occasional displays of oratory, on which anciently the greatest transactions, and even the fate of commonwealths, turned, produce nothing in our day but an effect as perishing as dramatic impressions; we feel, admire, acclaim, and forget. In this country no man is able to maintain a personal ascendancy in political affairs by the strength of eloquence alone. It must be an eloquence into which character flows with its colouring and prevailing ingredients; an eloquence in which the permanent influence of truth displays itself in a series of consistent efforts, -an eloquence of sincere feeling and manly counsel, holding nothing so high in policy as virtue and honour,-it is only this sort of eloquence which, in a country circumstanced as England at present is, can invest the statesman with any real influence over the public mind. A popularity so acquired will seldom be borne upon the voice of acclamation, and to the superficial observer will scarcely seem to exist; but it lies deep at that focus where the rays of real opinion unite, and towards which

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