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the powerful and victorious union of eloquence and reason with which Sir Robert Peel and Lord Stanley have exposed its folly and injustice to every ear and eye in England except those of the ministerial majority in the House of Commons ?—and perhaps even that is no exception-for, however passion or party may swerve the votes of an assembly, there is a secret and internal conviction which is too strong for such trammels, and which has the honesty to admire what it has not the courage to imitate.

If it be asked why the Conservative party, so powerful in the Commons and so predominant in the Lords, seems disposed to content itself with these feeble palliatives and amendments, instead of opposing at once, and in principle, a bill founded on such inquiries, fabricated by such machinery, and directed to such purposes

? Let the truth be toldthese are no times for a false and treacherous delicacy—that in the House of Commons they cannot; and in the House of Lords they ought not, for anything short of an extreme and vital interest-risk a collision, which they are well aware their Radical enemies are anxious to provoke! For such an interest--for the existence of the CHURCH in Ireland, and consequently in England, for instance—all considerations of temporizing prudence must give way to higher considerations: but for less sacred objects, we most earnestly deprecate any proceeding likely to lead to a crisis, from which, in the present state of things, the most sanguine could not hope a successful issue, and of which, therefore, no man or set of men, in their senses, would incur the responsibility.

We speak not now on theory, reasoning, or foresight - we speak from recent and conclusive EXPERIENCE. The late esperiment of a Conservative government, under Sir Robert Peel, was made under auspices and with prospects more favourable than we, a year ago, had thought possible. On the one hand was an “imbecile and disjointed' ministry—discarded by the king, and universally and unexceptionably. odious and contemptible' to the country at large; and, strange to say, most so to those who have been all along their strongest supporters—in whose severe language, and not our own, we thus designate the Melbourne ministry. On the other hand, was a Cabinet possessing the full favour of the Crown, the confidence of the House of Lords, the enthusiastic support of the vast majority of the property and intelligence of the country—nay, a larger share of general popularity than any minister since Mr. Pitt's earlier days has enjoyed. The head of the government and its leader in the House of Commons was the first man in England in all the requisites of a great minister; its leader in the House of Lords, the first man in the world. Their foreign policy, at once liberal and conservative, inspired general confidence abroad and at home: not a charge, not a whisper, was heard

against

mo

against their capacity, their integrity, or even their liberality-not one objection to any of their measures, their projects, or their tives; even by their opponents they were admitted to be the ablest and—if they had not been called Conservatives—the fittest men to direct the public affairs. The elections held under such favourable impressions appeared at first sight satisfactory; and whatever might be the soberer judgments of those who looked below the surface-it cannot be denied that, according to all former experience and the standard by which the stability of political power had been hitherto measured, Sir Robert Peel's administration had a fair prospect of some degree of permanenceyet it vanished like a dream! It was beaten the first night, in the largest house that ever was assembled and on the most favourable question that any minister could have desired; it was beaten the second night on the address (an address, to no word of which was any objection pretended)—an occurrence which had never before appeared in the parliamentary annals of England; it was beaten on every point on which its opponents chose to beat it; and after a struggle, (which could, from the first defeats, have had no other object than to satisfy the country that all had been done that talents and character could do to avert such a result,) the Ministry—which had the confidence of the King, the Lords, and the Country, and even the respect of their very opponents—was turned out by the House of Commons; and the smaller fragments of the former

odious and contemptible' ministry were replaced in office: and all this for no ostensible motive--no acknowledged reason-except the vague words of Lord John Russell's letter to Mr. Abercrombie'a public principle required it.' The expression was indeed vague, but the meaning is now clear and precise-that public principle is DEMOCRACY — that principle which has ever been, when once called into action, victorious over all merely constitutional powerof which the present ministers are but the puppets; and which, in spite of them in spite even of the House of Commons itself, (the majority of which has assuredly no such intention)-wilí ultimately and inevitably,—though at an interval of time greater or less, according to accidental and incalculable circumstances, overthrow the Church-expel the Aristocracy - usurp the Monarchy—and seat itself in solitary despotism on the hereditary throne of all democracies—THE RUINS OF THE COUNTRY :which will, we say, infallibly pursue its natural course to its natural and fatal termination, unless it be arrested by some public principle of a totally different character, and a yet deeper power. Need we add that it is in the religious feeling of our Protestant countrymen, and in that feeling alone, that we can discover any remaining ground of hope?

ART.

Art. XI.—Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir

James Mackintosh. Edited by his Son, Robert James Mackintosh, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1835. THE HE most remarkable feature, we think, in the literature of the

present day is the great and increasing proportion which biography, and particularly autobiography, appears to bear to the general mass of publications; and we cannot divest ourselves of a strong suspicion that this disproportion arises from circumstances which are indicative of some degree of deterioration in the public taste, and of abasement in the literary character of our times. Not that we deem lightly of the merit of a good biography-on the contrary, our doubts are founded on the very opposite opinion. Our readers need hardly be reminded how often we have characterized biography, when adequately executed, as one of the most delightful species of reading, and certainly not one of the least difficult styles of composition ;-but corruptio optimi pessima-and there is nothing more easy and more worthless than a biography in the modern fashion. The eminence of the person—the splendour or utility of his or her life-the information it may convey, or the lesson it may inculcate, are by no meansas they used formerly to be-essential considerations in the choice of a subject. It would be extrajudicial (if we may use the expression) and therefore invidious, to mention particular instances, but our own library tables, and the shelves of every circulating library, are filled with the lives of second or third rate persons to whom the honours of a special biography have been voted, either by those wbo deem it the readiest field from which little temporary harvest might be gathered, or by the more pardonable partiality of private affection or friendship. Panegyrics, which would formerly have occupied a few lapidary lines on a tablet in the parish church, are now expanded into the greater but we fear less durable dignity of two or three volumes octavo.

* Each widow asks it for the best of men;' it is claimed for promising boys deceased in their nonage, and interesting girls in their teens ; and whenever a man of any

kind of notoriety—actor, author, painter, parson-happens to die, the London publishers find that there are two or three candidate biographers running a race for precedency; and a man's life has, within these few years, been actually announced before his body was deposited in the grave. Indeed what Arbuthnot so pleasantly said of Curl's avidity after the Letters of Persons lately deceased,' may, with equal truth, be said of modern biography,— It is a new terror of death,'for although these productions are generally meant to be very complimentary, the more frequent result is to leave their victim a smaller man-if the case be susceptible of

diminution

He may

diminution—than they found him. Some men--and these are not the most unreasonable class of biographers-cannot afford to leave themselves as a legacy to surviving pens, and, like convicts in Newgate, they sell their own bodies before death—very justly thinking that if an honest penny is to be made out of them, they have the best right to the profit. Sometimes this desire of profit is a little ennobled by the brave thirst of praise,' and in those cases cupidity and vanity, like Beaumont and Fletcher, produce works in which the separate shares of the joint contributors cannot be distinguished.

In many cases-minima pars ipse sui—the nominal hero is far from being the most important personage of the work. have been a worthy gentleman, who had twaddled through life without having said or done any one thing worth recording; but that shall not prevent his biography or even his autobiography from being announced as a useful and instructive work, and a great acquisition to the historical literature of the age'because, though he has done nothing, he has been related to or connected with those who have. The whole circle of his acquaintance is brought into play, and this immediately lets in the whole course of contemporary history. We could instance one ingenious person who happened to be a member of parliament—where he never spoke - but he heard Pitt, Fox, Canning, and Castlereagh, and from his recollections of their speeches (assisted by Woodfall's Debates), and his criticisms on their manners and measures (a little helped by the Annual Register), we were favoured with a not unentertaining autobiographical History of the Life and Times of Solomon Sapient, Esq., some time M.P. for the Borough of Boretown in the County of Slipslop.' In short, what with increasing the quantity of the article and deteriorating the quality, we fear it must be confessed that at this moment biography is perhaps the very lowest of all the classes of literature; it has become a mere manufacture, which seems in a great measure to have superseded that of novels-much to the damage of the light reader as well as the graver-the biographical romance being, for the most part, infinitely inferior in point of interest, and not very much superior in veracity.

This, after all, may do no other harm than that of increasing the multitude of worthless books with which we are overloaded; but there are some still more serious objections to this system of extemporaneous and contemporaneous biography, to which even the best works of the class are liable. The principal of these (with which, indeed, all the others are connected) is the almost inevitable sacrifice of historical truth to personal feelings. Whether a man writes his own life or that of some dear friend

lately lately deceased, it is evident that there must be such a favourable colour spread over the picture that its fidelity must be rather worse than dubious—for even in a court of law the evidence of a party can only be admitted in the rare case in which it shall be against himself: unfavourable or discreditable circumstances are generally passed over in silence, or if they should be of too much notoriety to be wholly unnoticed, they are so covered by the veil of partiality as hardly to be recognized. We have on our table Memoirs of Robespierre, said to have been written by his sister, (but really by a 'faiseur' in her name,) in which the leading feature of his character is said to have been the most sensitive humanity and an almost morbid aversion to the shedding of blood. To crimes at least to such as those of Robespierre—there is no great danger that the indignation of the reader should be mitigated by the partiality of a biographer; but there are many minor frailties of a man's character which ought in justice to be told, but which one would be unwilling to drag back to public notice while his better qualities are still fresh and fragrant in the memory and affection of his family and acquaintance.

But the grave has scarcely been closed over such a man, when the amiable partiality, or the calculating prudence, of his friends puts forth a Life, in which these questionable topics are either altogether omitted or kindly misrepresented. If any one-roused by what he thinks undeserved praise-should be so fearless a lover of truth as to endeavour to set the matter in its true point of view, he would have against him not merely the clamours and complaints of the surviving family, but even the good-natured sympathy of the public-who would say, 'It is all very truebut it was long ago, 'tis now forgottenwhy revive it?-and, after all, the rest of his life was so respectable and amiable ! On the other hand, if no notice be taken of such circumstances, the uncontradicted panegyric will be hereafter taken for undeniable truth ; and other persons, whose conduct towards the individual might have been guided by a knowledge of such circumstances, will pass down to posterity with the reproach of having been negligent, or ungrateful, or envious-when, if the truth were known, they would appear perhaps to have acted with indulgence, delicacy, and honour. The motto of our northern contemporary truly says, Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur—but, not the judge alone-for, what is worse, the plaintiff and the witness suffer the punishment which the offender escapes.

Nor is it with regard to the principal subject that contemporane. ous biography, by a man's own or friendly hands, is unsatisfactory; many, and in some instances almost all, of the secondary characters in the drama of his life are still upon the stage : if the writer

should

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