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Mr. Baillie thus declined to raise, whatever the speeches or the votes of individual members, we see with satisfaction that Mr. Disraeli declined to commit himself and his friends to the false position of a party union which, however skilfully defended, would have seemed to America the justification of President Pierce, and to England the desertion of her constitutional defenders. Hence, though the distinguished member for Droitwich delivered his own opinions with the ability and frankness which always ensure to them respect, he did not pretend to utter them as the spokesman of the party he adorns, and, with his exception, the more prominent Conservative chieftains were eloquently silent in the debate, and effectively absent from the division. Never, perhaps, had the leader of an Opposition a more difficult task than has been imposed upon Mr. Disraeli during this session of Parliament. He sees before him an Administration subsisting by its deference to Conservative principles while excluding Conservatives from power by the help of Radical majorities. And we think in this state of parties--too anomalous to last long-Mr. Disraeli has strikingly manifested the great sagacity which accompanies bis vivid genius, less by what he has done than by what he has refrained from doing.
A few words more and we conclude. In those yet unsettled questions which Mr. Dallas and the British Cabinet are now attempting to negotiate, we have a right to expect from our Ministers not only good intentions and conciliatory professions, but prompt action, definite policy, thorough knowledge of the case they conduct in all its bearings, and skilful tact in conquering difficulties, as Lord Malmesbury was on the point of conquering them before.
There must be no further geographical errors to explain away, no further unintentional causes of offence for which it is requisite to apologise. The country grants them an unprecedented latitude in that surest groundwork of all negotiation-liberal concession. Honour alone admits of no yielding; but, where honour is to be defended, the shape it assumes must be made visibly distinct—distinct as we think we have here made the imperative obligations on our good faith to provide adequate security for our Indian ally before we retire from his loyal side ; distinct as we think we have made the duty we owe to Europe, whatever possessions we may sign away, not to surrender them on that interpretation of a treaty which would leave every treaty in the world a worthless title-deed. How could we face the scorn of nations did we establish such a precedent ? How allow that the declared intention of the negotiators who made --of the Governments which adopted—a treaty, may be quibbled away by a special pleader, who winds up with the Argumentum
Baculinum, "Accept my reasonings, or dread my blow:" If it be through the mismanagement of our Ministers that negotiations unhappily fail, the interests involved in the dispute are too grave to admit of indulgent criticism; every blunder will be unsparingly exposed, public opinion will unite against them formidable subdivisions of party, their own followers will desert them, and their majority will melt in a single night. But if negotiations fail by no fault of theirs-fail because the American Government dictate to us the surrender of that which is more valuable than all the territorial possessions immediately affected by the discussion, that which is the foundation of our commerce, the coluinn of our empire-that which we become bankrupts indeed if we retain not as an estate so entailed on our descendants, that it admits of no mortgage-our English character and name—then the Queen's Ministers will not rely in vain upon the support of Parliament and the people: nor least, we feel convinced, upon the loyal aid of that party now excluded from power, but not insensible to the noble responsibilities it accepts with its political creed. For surely the tendency to conserve the grand institutions which have made us what we are would be but a dull superstition, were it not united with the pride of country and the ancestral loftiness of spirit to which England may look with confidence whenever the sacrifice of personal ambition or the suspense of party differences be necessary to the maintenance of national honour. Let England be actually threatened from without, no matter the quarter or what the pretext, and Conservatives would abandon the true genius of Conservatism, dissolve the bond of their party, scatter their strength to the winds, if they were not found, as: one man, by her side.
Ant. I.-Bacon's Essays : with Annotations by Richard Whately,
D.D., Archbishop of Dublin. London. 1856. F all the productions in the English language Bacon's Essays
contain the most matter in the fewest words. He intended them to be “as grains of salt, which should rather give an appetite than offend with satiety ;' and never was the intention of an author more fully attained. There were none, he says, of his works which had been equally current’in his own time; and he expressed bis belief that they would find no less favour with posterity, and last as long as books and letters endured.' Thus far his proud anticipation has been verified. They have been held to be oracles of subtle wisdom by the profoundest intellects which have flourished since, and few in any department have risen to the rank of authorities with mankind who had not themselves been accustomed to sit at the feet of Bacon. His own account of the scope of his Essays is, that they handled those things wherein both men's lives and persons are most conversant,' while in the selection of his materials he endeavoured to make them not vulgar but of a nature whereof much should be found in experience, and little in books; so as they should be neither repetitions nor fancies.' This is the cause of their great success. They treat of subjects which, in his well-known phrase, "come home to men's business and bosoms; and the reflections which he offers upon these topics of universal concern are not obvious truisms, nor hacknied maxims, nor airy speculations, but acute and novel deductions drawn from actual life by a vast and
penetrating genius, intimately conversant with the court, the counciltable, the parliament, the bar—with all ranks and classes of persons ; with the multitudinous forms of human nature and pursuits. The larger part of the Essays on Building, Gardens, and Masques set aside, there is only here and there a sentence of his lessons which has grown out of date. The progress of events has not rendered them obsolete; their continuous currency through two centuries and a half has not rendered them common-place. In this they differ from his system of inductive philosophy, to which he justly owes so much of his fame. The triumph of his
VOL, XCIX. NO. CXCVIII.
principles of scientific investigation has made it unnecessary to revert to the reasoning by which they were established; and he might have adopted, says Archbishop Whately, the exclamation of some writer engaged in a similar task, “I have been labouring to render myself useless. The application of the remark is happy, but the origin of it was different. On the admission of the Cardinal Dubois into the French Academy, Fontenelle, referring to his constant intercourse with the young king, Louis XV., observed, with more gracefulness than truth, 'It is known that in your daily conversation with him you left nothing untried to render yourself useless.' The pearls of cultivated minds are cast in vain before dull understandings. A Dutch publisher imagined that useless must be an error of the press, and substituted useful.
Dr. Johnson approved the conciseness of Bacon's Essays, and thought the time might come when all knowledge would be reduced to the same condensed form. To this there are strong objections. Circumstances are like the boughs and leaves of a tree which give life and ornament to the stem; nay more, though single aphorisms may cling to the mind, few things are so quickly forgotten as a series of them. Details always assist the memory, and are often essential to it: they also help the understanding. Archbishop Whately truly observes of Bacon's maxims, that repeated meditation discloses applications of them which had been previously overlooked. Few persons are capable of the continuous reflection required for this purpose, or reflecting would have the acumen to discriminate the bearings of a comprehensive proposition. Examples to illustrate the principles are a necessary aid to ordinary minds, and may afford assistance to the greatest. Diderot used to allege of himself that he had not sufficient understanding to apply subtle remarks which were unaccompanied by instances. The pregnant meaning of Bacon's Essays has been lost upon thousands for want of a commentary; and we have long been of opinion, that to elucidate them would be one of the most useful tasks that could be undertaken. The republication of the choice productions of an old writer by a modern editor of note, has the advantage, in addition to the intrinsic value of the annotations, of attracting readers. The newest books, however brief their day, are usually more in vogue than the best works of past generations, which, unless they are introduced afresh to the world, remain to the majority little more than a name. Notwithstanding Mr. Hallam's assertion that it would be derogatory to any one of the slightest claim to polite letters, were he unacquainted with the Essays of Bacon, we believe that they are much less studied than formerly. No one was likely to have
greater weight in calling back to them the attention of the public than Archbishop Whately, who is universally known to be a sagacious observer, an acute thinker, and a man of independent mind, who, if his own judgment were not convinced, would not swear by the words of any master. Even after the tributes of Burke and Johnson, and the inferior authority of Dugald Stewart, his testimony to the depth and wisdom of Bacon's maxims and his babit of appending to them the illustrative observations suggested by his experience or which he met with in his reading, must add to our faith in their superlative excellence. His edition is not precisely of the kind which was required. The notes are too lengthy and discursive, and should have been framed a little more upon the model of the text. That they sometimes seem superfluous, is an objection of less force, since it is nearly inseparable from the nature of the task. All men have not an equal degree of familiarity with the same truths ; and what is novel to one is hacknied to another. It is here as with jests, which each person calls new or old according as they are new or old to him. Pascal conceived that every possible maxim of conduct existed in the world, though no individual can be conversant with the entire series; and we are apt to imagine that those rules must be the tritest with which we ourselves have been longest acquainted, and those most momentous which we have chanced to see exemplified in our own experience. Whoever reads the comment of Archbishop Whately must expect to come upon truths which were known to him before, but he will certainly meet with more which are attractive both by their novelty and their intrinsic importance. Many shrewd observations are made, many fallacies exposed, and many interesting circumstances related. The notes alone have the value of a distinct work, and have afforded us too much pleasure and instruction to permit us to quarrel with the digressive amplitude which occasionally characterises them. They may well entice those who are familiar with the Essays of Bacon to ponder them: again, and induce the persons who are ignorant of this treasury of wisdom to draw upon its stores.
Archbishop Whately censures the tendency to mysticism which prevails at present, and draws attention to the circumstance that the writings of Bacon are as clear as they are profound. His reflections may permit of numerous ramifications beyond what common eyes can trace, but the principles themselves are perfectly plain. If an author is obscure, it is either because his ideas are undefined, or because he lacks the power to express them. He is a confused thinker or a bad writer, and commonly both. Nor is the case altered if he is wandering