Page images
PDF
EPUB

What beneficial results might we not expect from an intercourse between the inhabitants of the two worlds! And how pleasant to travel from one globe to the other, on the wings of the wind, exempt from the extortion of innkeepers, the dread of accidents, the attacks of robbers, and all the hazards of land and ocean; setting hunger and thirst at defiance, with an aërial table ever spread before us, at which we may banquet upon ambrosia, quaff the pure element from the clouds, and revel in the luxuriance of ether! No more need Malthus afflict himself and the world with the fearful anticipation of the earth not being large enough to hold us: the superabundant population may be fighted off to the lunar regions, to cultivate a nearer acquaintance with the spheres, and enter into reciprocal schemes for the mutual advantage of both planets.

I should be loth to enter a house on fire in my night-gown, with no other protection than a talisman in my pocket; and should deem a fire-bucket a better safeguard than Solomon's seal; but if the aforesaid gown had been dipped in Mr. Cook's antiphlogistic solution, and I had washed my hands and face à la Giraldelli, I have no doubt I should be able to march in among the burning embers with becoming confidence. Had I lived, too, in the reign of King James the First, and a lady had assured me that she could preserve a round of beef, so as to be fit for the table a century thence, I should have very piously concluded that she had dealings with the devil; and might have probably been loyal enough to denounce her for a witch; but, living as I do in the nineteenth century, I know very well that the possibility of effecting such a miracle by a chemical process has been clearly demonstrated; and scepticism vanishes before the simple evidence of truth. Matter-of-fact is rapidly triumphing over all our prejudices, serving ejectments on our disbelief, and giving us daily reason for distrusting the testimony of our senses. When we see carriages travelling without horses, and ships ploughing the ocean without sails; when we observe the union of two liquids producing the element of fire, and water frozen without the intervention of cold; when buildings are transported from one place to another without separating the materials*; we need no longer give magic alone the credit of working miracles; and may well suspend our judgment, ere we limit the sphere of possibilities. Q. Q. Q.

* The Journal of North Brabant for 1819, gives an account of the complete removal of a windmill, over a space of 5520 feet, effected in twelve days! No part of the enormous mass was disarranged, and even a glass filled with water, and placed in the gallery, suffered no agitation, although the mill advanced each day the distance of 460 feet. A house, attached to the mill, constructed chiefly of stone, was also removed in the same manner in five days. The engineer who directed the operation was M. Homberger d'Osterwick.

SKETCHES OF THE IRISH BAR. NO, IV.

Mr. Saurin.

"But where's La-Writ?

Where's your sufficient lawyer?"

The Little French Lawyer, BEAUMONT and FLETCHER.

MR. SAURIN is the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, who followed the duties of his pious but humble calling in the north of Ireland. His grandfather was a French Protestant, who, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz, sought an asylum in Ireland. He is said to have belonged to the family of the celebrated preacher of his name. Mr. Saurin was educated in the University of Dublin. It does not appear that he was distinguished by any signal proficiency, either in literature or in science. A collegiate reputation is not a necessary precursor to professional success. He was called to the Bar in the year 1780. His progress was slow, and for thirteen years he remained almost unknown. Conscious of his secret merits, he was not disheartened, and employed that interval in accumulating the stores of legal knowledge. He had few qualities, indeed, which were calculated to bring him into instantaneous notice. He wrought his way with an obscure diligence, and, indeed, it was necessary that he should attain the light by a long process of exfodation. To this day, there is too frequent an exhibition of boisterous ability at the Irish Bar; but in the olden time, the qualifications of a lawyer were measured in a great degree by his powers of vociferation. Mr. Saurin was imperfectly versed in the stentorian logic which prevailed in the roar of Irish Nisi prius; neither had he the matchless imperturbability of front, to which the late Lord Clonmel was indebted for his brazen coronet; but his substantial deserts were sure to appear at last. If he could not fly, he had the strength and the tenacity requisite to climb. His rivals were engaged in the pursuit of political distinction and oratorical renown; all his labours, as well as his predilections, were confined to his profession. While others were indulging in legislative meditations, he was buried in the common law, An acute observer would have seen in his unostentatious assiduity the omen of a tardy but secure success. A splendid intellect will, in all likelihood, ascend to permanent eminence, but the odds of good fortune are in favour of the less conspicuous faculties. Plunket and Saurin have risen to an equality in professional distinction; but, when they both commenced their career, upon a sober calculation, the chances would have been found, I think, upon the side of the latter. Like the slow camel and the Arabian courser, both may be fitted to the desert; and, although the more aspiring and fleeter spirit may traverse in a shorter period the waste of hardships and discouragement which lies between it and success, whilę, with all its swiftness and alacrity, it requires an occasional relief from some external source of refreshment and of hope: yet, bearing its restoratives in itself, the more slow and persevering mind pursues its progress with an unabated constancy, and often leaves its more rapid but less enduring competitor drooping far behind, and exhausted by the labours of its desolate and arid course.

After many years of disappointment, perhaps, but not of despondency, Mr. Saurin's name began to be whispered in the Hall. The little busi

66

ness with which he had been intrusted was discharged with such efficiency, that he gradually acquired a reputation for practical utility among the attorneys of the north. Many traits of the Scotch character are observable in the Presbyterian colony which was established in that part of Ireland; and their mutuality of support is among the honourable peculiarities which mark their origin from that patriotic and self-sustaining people. They may be said to advance under a testudo. It is remarked at the Irish bar, that a northern attorney seldom employs a southern advocate. Mr. Saurin, though descended from a Gallic progenitor, had, I believe, some auspicious mixture of Caledonian blood (with a French face, he has a good deal of the Scotchman in his character); and that circumstance, together with the locality of his birth, gave him claims to the patronage of the attorneys of his circuit. Those arbiters of fortune recognised his merits. It was soon perceived by these sagacious persons, that a good argument is more valuable than a flower of speech, and that the lawyer who nonsuits the plaintiff is as efficacious as the advocate who draws tears from the jury. Mr. Saurin's habits of despatch were also a signal recommendation. To this day, under the pressure of various occupancy, he is distinguished for a regularity and promptitude, which are not often to be found among the attributes of the leading members of the Irish Bar. Most, indeed, of their more eminent advocates are illustrious diners out." It is provoking to see the fortunes of men hanging in miserable suspense upon their convivial procrastinations. Mr. Saurin still presents an exemplary contrast to these dilatory habits; and it is greatly creditable to him that he should persevere, from a sense of duty, in a practice which was originally adopted as a means of success. The first occasion on which he appears to have grown into general notice, was afforded at a contested election. At that period, which was about sixteen years after he had been called to the bar, a lawyer at an Irish election was almost a gladiator by profession; his pistols were the chief implements of reasoning to which he thought it necessary to resort. 'Ratio ultima," the motto which the great Frederick caused to be engraven upon his cannon, would not have been an inappropriate designation of the conclusive arguments which were then so much in use in Hibernian dialectics. I am not aware, that Mr. Saurin was ever accounted an eminent professor in this school of logic: upon this occasion, however, he distinguished himself by qualifications very distinct from the barbarous accomplishments which bring intellect and dulness to such a disastrous level. His extensive and applicable knowledge, his dispassionate perspicuity, and minute precision, won him a concurrence of applause. He became known upon his circuit, and his fame soon after extended itself to the metropolis. His progress was as swiftly accelerated as it had previously been slow every occasion on which he was employed furnished a new vent to his accumulated information. He was at length fairly launched; and when once detached from the heavy incumbrances in which he had been involved, he made a rapid and conspicuous way; and it was soon perceived that he could carry more sail than gilded galliots which had started upon the full flood of popularity before him. He soon passed them by, and rode at last in that security which most of them were never destined to

[ocr errors]

attain.

In the year 1798, Mr. Saurin was at the head of his profession, and was not only eminent for his talents, but added to their influence the weight of a high moral estimation. The political disasters of the country furnished evidence of the high respect in which he was held by the members of his own body. The Rebellion broke out, and the genius of loyalty martialized the various classes of the community. The good citizens of Dublin were submitted to a somewhat fantastic metamorphosis: the Gilpins of the metropolis, to the delighted wonder of their wives and daughters, were travestied into scarlet, and strutted, in grim importance and ferocious security, in the uneasy accoutrements of a bloodless warfare. The love of glory became contagious, and the attorneys, solicitors, and six-clerks, felt the intense novelty of its charms. The Bar could not fail to participate in the ecstasy of patriotism: the boast of Cicero became inverted in this access of forensic soldiership, and every Drances, "loud in debate and bold in peaceful council," was suddenly transformed into a warrior. The "toged counsel" exhibited a spectacle at once ludicrous and lamentable;—Justice was stripped of her august ceremony and her reverend forms, and joining in this grand political masquerade, attired herself in the garb, and feebly imitated the aspect of Bellona. The ordinary business of the courts of law was discharged by barristers in regimentals;--the plume nodded over the green spectacle-the bag was transmuted into the cartridgepouch-the flowing and full-bottomed wig was exchanged for the casque ;-the chest, which years of study had bent into a professional stoop, was straightened in a stiff imprisonment of red; the flexible neck, which had been stretched in the distension of vituperative harangue, was enclosed in a high and rigid collar. The disputatious and dingy features of every minute and withered sophist were swollen into an unnatural bigness and burliness of look ;—the strut of the mercenary Hessian, who realized the beau ideal of martial ferocity, was mimicked in the slouching gait which had been acquired by years of unoccupied perambulation in the Hall;-limbs, habituated to yielding silk, were locked in buff;-the reveillé superseded the shrill voice of the crier-the disquisitions of pleaders were "horribly stuffed with epithets of war;"-the bayonet lay beside the pen, and the musquet was collateral to the brief. Yet, with all this innovation upon their ordinary habits, the Bar could not pass all at once into a total desuetude of their more natural tendencies, and exhibited a relapse into their professional predilections in the choice of their leader. The athletic nobleness of figure for which Mr. Magrath, for instance, is conspicuous, did not obtain their suffrages: a grenadier proportion of fame, and a physical pre-eminence of height, were not the merits which decided their preference; they chose Mr. Saurin for his intellectual stature; and in selecting a gentleman, in whom I am at a loss to discover one glance of the " coup d'œil militaire," and whose aspect is among the most unsoldierlike I have ever witnessed, they offered him an honourable testimony of the great esteem in which he was held by his profession. He was thus, in some degree, recognised as the head of the body to which he belonged. His conduct, as chief of the lawyer's corps, was patriotic and discreet. He manifested none of those religious antipathies by which he has been since unhappily distinguished ;-he had no share, either in the infliction of, or the equivalent connivance at

that system of inquisitorial excruciation, which, on whosesoever head the guilt ought to lie, did unquestionably exist.* His hands do not smell of blood; and though a series of unhappy incident has since thrown him into the arms of the Orange faction, to which he has been rather driven by the rash rancour of his antagonists, than allured through the genuine tendencies of his nature, in that period of civil commotion he discountenanced the excesses of the party who now claim him as their own. With all his present Toryism, he appears to have been then a Whig; and the republican tinge of his opinions was brought out in the great event which succeeded the rebellion, and to which the government was aware that it would inevitably lead. If they did not kindle, they allowed the fire to rage on; and they thought, and perhaps with justice, that it would furnish a lurid light by which the rents and chasms in the ruinous and ill-constructed fabric of the Irish Legislature would be more widely exposed. To repair such a crazy and rotten building, many think, was impossible. It was necessary that it should be thrown down, but the name of country (and there is a charm even in a name) has been buried in the fall.

The union was proposed, and Mr. Saurin threw himself into an indignant opposition to the measure, which he considered fatal to Ireland. He called the Bar together; and upon his motion, a resolution was passed by a great majority, protesting against the merging of the country in the imperial amalgamation. He was elected a member of the House of Commons, and his appearance in that profligate convention was hailed by Mr. Grattan, who set the highest value upon his accession to the national cause. Of eloquence there was already a redundant supply. Genius abounded in the ranks of the patriots-they were ardent, devoted, and inspired. Mr. Saurin reinforced them with his more Spartan qualities. Grave and sincere, regarded as a great constitutional lawyer-the peculiar representative of his own professiona true, but unimpassioned lover of his country, and as likely to consult her permanent interests as to cherish a romantic attachment to her dignity he rose in the House of Commons, attended with a great concurrence of impressive circumstance. He addressed himself to great principles, and took his ground upon the broad foundations of legislative right. His more splendid allies rushed among the ranks of their adversaries and dealt their sweeping invective about them; while Saurin, in an iron and somewhat rusty armour, and wielding more massive and ponderous weapons, stood like a sturdy sentinel before the gates of the constitution. Simple and elementary positions were enforced by him with a strenuous conviction of their truth. He denied the right of the legislature to alienate its sacred trust. He insisted that it would amount to a forfeiture of that estate which was derived from, and held under the people in whom the reversion must perpetually remain ; that they were bound to consult the will of the majority of the nation, and that the will of that majority was the foundation of all law. Generous sentiments, uttered with honest fervency, are important constituents of eloquence; and Mr. Saurin acquired the fame of a distinguished speaker. His language was not flowing or abundant-there was no soaring in his

* Mr. Saurin, during the rebellion, has been seen to strike a drummer of his corps for wearing an orange cockade.

« PreviousContinue »