Page images

This would give for the export of wool from 960,000 to 1,280,000 English pounds; but besides the raw wool, there are exported annually not less than 200,000 pairs of knitted stockings, and 300,000 mittens, or gloves without fingers. The Iceland sheep have remarkably fine feeces of wool, which the farmers never shear, but in the spring of the year

it is taken off whole, as if it were a skin that easily slips off.'—pp. 288, 289.

• The number of sheep is about 500,000; heads of cattle, 36,000 to 40,000; horses, from 50,000 to 60,000. There being no wheelcarriages of any description on the island, there are no draught cattle.'

We regret that the shortness of the author's visit did not allow him to make the tour of the island, or to penetrate further towards the central mountains, which may yet be said to be a terra incognita. He has however done enough to entitle himself to a permanent place in the list of our enterprising countrymen, who have pursued their researches within recent times in Iceland ;* and, we hope and believe, to stimulate fresh adventurers towards the same interesting region,

-P. 291.

Art. IV.-Memoirs of Lord Bolingbroke. By George Wingrove

Cooke, Esq. In two volumes, 8vo. London, 1835. MR R. COOKE sets out by observing that it is surprising

that no tolerable history of Lord Bolingbroke's life has yet appeared. We are sorry to say that the next biographer may begin with the same observation. Mr. Cooke's work, though more voluminous than the former lives, is quite as meagre, and, of course, being spun out to a greater length, much more tedious and unsatisfactory. We had thought it hardly possible that auything calling itself Memoirs of this extraordinary person could have been so dull, or that in days when the possessors of original papers are generally ready to open them to the inspection of the literary world, we should have two octavo volumes without, we believe, a single particle of matter which was not already—not merely in print, but-to be found in the commonest books. Nay, as far as we can discover, Mr. Cooke has not even attempted to seek for more secret or particular information, and we cannot but complain that he should have given his work the attractive title of 5 Memoirs' when, in fact, it has as litile of the distinctive character of what is generally called Memoirs as any biography we ever remember to have read. Its true designation would have

* Sir Joseph Banks in 1770; Sir John Stanley, 1789; Dr. Hooker, 1809; Sir George Mackenzie, Dr. Holland, Dr. Bright, 1810, Mr. Henderson, 1814-15; Mr. Barrow, 1834.


been that which the recent French biographer, General Grimoard, has modestly and truly adopted, ' An Essay on the Life and Writings of Lord Bolingbroke’-a critical undertaking for which Mr. Cooke may consider himself better qualified than the General, and which he may think is wanting to our literature, but which, assuredly, is a very different thing from what would be naturally expected from the Memoirs of Lord Bolingbroke.' We dare say that Mr. Cooke submitted, in the choice of his title-page, to the opinion of his publisher; but we should have thought that this very opinion might have opened his eyes to the fact, that the public do not want the crambe recocta of the Journals of Parliament, Mr. Coxe's lives of the Walpoles, and Bolingbroke's own pamphlets, though it would have received with great curiosity and interest a view of the secret springs of his public actions and of the interior and personal details of his private life. Mr. Cooke may perhaps say that he could not find any such materials, but we cannot discover that he looked for them; and at all events we think that, not having any new matter, he need not have taken the trouble of making a new book, and, above all, a new book of such size and pretensions.

But this is not our sole objection to Mr. Cooke. An historical writer may happen to have no original information, and to be therefore reduced to the necessity of compiling from other publications; yet he may still render very important and very valuable services to the subject he has undertaken by the selection and sifting of the various authorities,--the balancing of conflicting evidence,--the detection of real and the explanation of apparent inconsistencies,—the induction of unavowed motives from acknowledged facts, and the general collocation and arrangement of the scattered materials into one lucid and harmonious sequence : these are the objects, and indeed we may say the duties of such an historian-but they are duties which Mr. Cooke does not seem to have thought of, and objects which assuredly he has not accomplished. Of five or six lives of Bolingbroke which are now before us, and upon the insufficiency of which Mr. Cooke grounds his undertaking, his own is, in our judgment, the most confused, and that which gives us the least distinct and satisfactory portrait of the man; he has dilated his scanty materials to a size that renders them indistinct,—he has encumbered his narrative with so much idle, tedious, and disjointed surplusage that we honestly confess we have frequently, in order to understand what Mr. Cooke was about, been obliged to refer to the more succinct biographies which he mentions with so much contempt. This practice of stuffing out a work into double the size which the subject really requires, is one of the characteristics of the biographical literature of the day. If the sub

ject ject be a poet, we are presented with striking passages from works which are already in every hand and in most memories; if a soldier, we have copious despatches from the London Gazette; if a statesman, voluminous extracts from the Parliamentary Journals and Debates; and whenever it happens that any of these sources fail, the requisite bulk of volume is attained by discursive criticisms, wide digressions, and extraneous speculations. Thus it is with Mr. Cooke. He not only interlards his meagre narrative with large quotations from Bolingbroke's best-known works, but he adds an appendix forming more than a third of his second octavo, and which contains, besides the articles of impeachment against Bolingbroke himself, extracted from the Journals of Parliament, no less than one hundred and thirty-nine pages of the proceedings in the case of LORD OXFORD, all copied from the same recondite source! This, we must say, is a downright fraud; but then how else to make two volumes out of the two pages of the article · St. John’in the Biographia Britannica?'

But, besides Mr. Cooke's deficiency in original information, his superabundance of obsolete trash, and the disorder of his arrangement--we have still more serious objections to him even as a mere historical compiler; he seems neither to have understood the man nor the times he writes about, and although a large proportion of the work is pccupied by his own observations and argumentations on well-known facts and publications, he seems strangely ignorant of the true causes of those facts, and the real spirit of those publications. He generally adopts au pied de la lettre all that has been written for or against Bolingbroke, and exercises a deal of verbose argument about alleged facts and opinions, when a more philosophical mind would have questioned, in many cases, the existence of the premises, and in all would have examined the truth of the evidence adduced before he took the trouble of arguing on its effects. Of this error his preface, and almost every other page, offer examples; for instance, — we shall take the first that occurs-he says of his own qualifications for his task, that against any undue bias in favour of the political life of his hero he has been fortified, by having regarded it with the prepossessions of a Whig.'-p. 15. As if a Whig of modern times could have any prepossessions for the • tenets of the Whigs' or against the tenets of the Tories of the reigns of Anne or George I.! We talk now, as they did then, of Whig and Tory, but the tenets of the two parties, as we had lately occasion to explain by an interesting extract from Lord Mahon *-have been so completely counter-changed (as the heralds express it) that a Whig of that day very much resembled a Tory of ours, and vice versâ. Sup

* Quarterly Review, vol. liii. p. 281,

posing Mr. Cooke to be, as he says, a Whig in the present acceptation of the 'word, we do not see how that feeling could have biassed him against a statesman who opposed a war undertaken to curb the extravagant military ambition of the French ruler—whose policy it was to consolidate a peace with that dation by sacrificing the interests of our ancient allies, Holland, Germany, and Spain--who calumniated and opposed the great hero who had withstood and repelled the aggressions of France on the liberties of Europe-who was supposed to favour the popislı against the Protestant interest in the state—and who, when out of power, exercised all his talents to run down the established government by imputations of corruption in all public men, and of abuse in all the institutions of the country. We apprehend that a Whig of this day need not disclaim any violent prejudice against such a statesman. The truth, we apprehend is, that Mr. Cooke, deceived by the mere names, does himself injusticethat he is much more of a Tory than lie suspects; that his political tenets dispose him to look on the versatile and factious conduct of Bolingbroke with neither more nor less disapprobation than is felt by us and all those who are now-a-days designated as Tories : and his fancying that the Toryism of Bolingbroke had the slightest affinity to that system of political opinion which is at present denominated Toryism, is a proof of the superficial view that he takes of this prominent part of his subject, and of the very unphilosophical tendency of his mind to be affected rather by the names than by the principles and objects of parties. But had it even been so, the motive he assigns for his impartiality would be equally unfounded, for he would have us believe that Bolingbroke began his political life as'a Whig, was a Tory only while he held ofice, and after this interval reverted for the whole of his long life to his original allegiance to the Whig or popular party; so that, again, even if Mr. Cooke be a Whig, he might still look with some degree of favour on one who, as he says, began as a Whig, ended as a Whig, and, as 'he labours to show, never wholly deserted these his earliest and latest opinions. We the rather wonder' at Mr. Cooke's being led so much astray by mére words when we find him stating that Godolphin and Marlborough, during their triumphant administration and command, were Tories, and only became Whigs about 1707, from jealousy of one of their owu subordinate Whigs, Harley, who about the same time turned Tory, and was followed by Bolingbroke. He that alleges such facts-even though he' nisstates them--must be blind not to see that there was no real principle of Whiggism or Toryism in question between these anıbitious intriguers, iliey were all contending for place, power, and personal aggran



disement, and took up and laid down the nickname of a party as best suited their own temporary and private interests. Let us not be understood to assert that there were no distinctive principles belonging to the two great parties of Whig and Tory. We are fully aware that there was a broad and most important distinction, but it was a distinction which Mr. Cooke seems to have understood very imperfectly, while he goes on puzzling himself and his readers with endeavouring to account for the inconsistencies of men who had no real principle of counsel or action but personal ambition.

But, in truth, Mr. Cooke has no excuse for having indulged in the paradox of Bolingbroke's having begun public life as a Whig, for he himself asserts, over and over again, the contrary in the most explicit manner. I go no farther back' (says he in his defence of his political conduct) than the year 1710, because the part I acted before that time, in the first essays I made in public affairs, was the part of a Tory.' (Letter to Sir William Wyndham, p. 8.) And, again, • I was still in 1714) heated by the disputes in which I had been all my life engaged against the Whigs.'-ibid. 41. Assuredly, he that represents Boling broke as a Whig (upon no other ground that we can discover than that his grandmother and the tutors of his infancy were non-conformists) must have read carelessly,—or not at all,—these explicit declarations of his early and constant Toryism.

This is a striking instance of Mr. Cooke's ignorance or neglect of those very works which he professes to have studied with so much care and such just admiration ; but the following is still more remarkable, and proves decisively, that, instead of consulting Bolingbroke's own writings, Mr. Cooke sometimes condescends to take him at second hand; and by this negligence, has been led not only to spoil one of the most brilliant passages of his author, but to apply it in the strangest manner to the most opposite persons and parties :

• It was this parliament that undertook the prosecution of Sachererel. To adopt the quaint expression of Bishop Burnet, “ The Whigs took it into their heads to roust a parson, and they did roast him; but their zeal tempted them to make the fire so high that they scorched themselves.”_vol. i. p. 103.

Not only did Burnet never use any such expression-not only are his general principles irreconcileable with the spirit of the remark thus boldly imputed to him—not only is his long and virulent account of Sacheverel's affair, in direct discord to it, but the phrase itself—the not quaint but-forcible and witty expression is to be found—not in Burnet but in Bolingbroke, and not in an obscure or out-of-sight essay, but in the most prominent of all

« PreviousContinue »