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by observing, that it was the duty of the jury not to allow themselves to be betrayed into exorbitant damages, by any angry feelings which the evidence was calculated to excite.”
If juries, in such cases as the above, were merely required or expected to find a verdict of suicide, this doctrine might be very sound; but while they conceive themselves bound to do more, we cannot but regard it, with all becoming deference to authority so high, as extremely questionable. The state of mind of the deceased previous to, or at the time of self-destruction is a customary inquiry; nay, the law renders it an essential one, as there is forfeiture of property to the king in cases of felo de se. In order to ascertain this fact, it is surely necessary to discover what causes of uneasiness, or distress of mind, may have existed; and this can hardly be done without involving, as in the above instance, the conduct of other parties. A trader commits suicide. What is more germain to the business of the coroner's inquest than to ask whether he laboured under pecuniary embarrasments ? and thus the authors of them, if such persons there are, are necessarily implicated. It may appear in evidence, for example, that an individual for whom the deceased was bail to a large amount, had absconded, or that another had dishonourably failed to acquit himself of his obligations. Would the publication of these facts, explanatory as they would be of the action of the suicide, be deemed irrelevant and consequently libellous? It certainly would, according to the doctrine of the Chief Justice. Statements affecting the conduct of persons not before the court, whether strictly founded or unfounded, are certainly grievous to the parties; but it seems necessary to the business of justice, that they should be made in numberless different modes, and the pain to particular individuals is probably sufficiently compensated by the general advantage to the public. În inquests on suicides they might perhaps most safely be dispensed with, if the law of forfeiture did not exist, and the jury were not consequeutly instructed, that it is their duty to discover the state of mind in which the deceased committed the act; for while this investigation is expected of them, we do not see how they can avoid the inquiry which is pronounced irrelevant and injurious, nor how the press can give a faithful report of their proceedings without incurring the risk of libel. The doctrine of the Chief Justice is capable of a very wide application. If the report of irrelevant ma er compromising the character of individuals is libellous, it is scarcely possible to give an account of a single trial without transgressing the law; and the legal reports, in their most grave and approved forms, contain a tissue of libel; the remarks of both barristers and witnesses being frequently at once irrelevant and defamatory.
If there is any thing certain in this world, it is that the Morning Chronicle is incorruptible. This being the indisputable fact, and its ability being as much beyond the reach of suspicion as its honesty, 1 look upon its criticisms on literary productions as perfectly oracular, and entitled to the profoundest respect. Whatever it says is right. Such being its authority, it is very fortunate for the public, that whenever a new work issues from particular presses, the Chronicle publishes impartial paragraphs, of a dozen lines or so, about its every other day for months. Just now it is fully occupied with Vivian Grey. Thus saith the oracle:
“ Vivian Grey is somewhat altered in spirit since last, in the triumph of his wit and satire, he passed over the London world of fashion. He comes forward now, more in sorrow than in anger, to review the follies and vices of high life, to paint lofty and original character, and to luxuriate among the whimsical fancies which a moody imagination conjures up. But his caustic vein is by no means dried ur, though his bitterness does not flow so profusely: he still delights as much as ever to ridicule the blues and to laugh at coxcombs. The spirit of his wit, if not so abundant in quantity, is more highly rectified; and when he chooses to show its activity in occasional sketches of living characters, he proves, that, like a vitriolic acid, its solitary biting drops are sharper for their condensation."
The Chronicle had not exhausted its great mind in this effort; accordingly a few days afterwards it again girded itself up for critieism, and in a moment of leisure from pugilism and politics, the fancy and philosophy, thus held forth again on Vivian Grey. A sweeter piece of writing it has not been my happiness to see for many a day. How the Editor must luxuriate in the work he so eloquently commends.
“CONTINUATION OF Vivian GREY.—To readers of a higher order than the lovers of mere scandal, the volumes of Vivian Grey, which have just appeared, will come recommended by qualities which prodigiously outweigh all the commoner attractions of the first two volumes, heightened as they were by the exuberant wit, the occasional bursts of warmth and poetry, the felicitous and facile satire, and the bold and sketchy portrait painting of their brilliant author. Combined with all the gaiety and spirit--the rapidity and variety of the first series, the continuation displays powers of a much loftier order. The author's moralizing voin has more tenderness and solemnity in it-bis pathos is deeper--his pictures of society are more finished-and his views of mankind and their affairs far more philosophical. In his generalizing mood, he throws out, with all the prodigality of excessive wealth, a profusion of bold and new ideas, expressed with incomparable neatness and brevity: as an example of which, we may refer our readers to the reflections which occur in vol. 1, p. 287.”
As I have not had time to read Vivian Grey, I rejoiced in the short cut thus offered to its beauties, and turned cagerly to vol. Ist, p. 287. What I found there, the reader shall see at the foot of the page.*
“The sudden departure of Baron Von Kenigstein (a diplomatist) from the baths excited great surprise and sorrow.
There must be something in the wind-perhaps a war. Was the independence of Greece about to be acknowledged, or the dependence of Spain about to be terminated ? What first-rate power had marched a million of soldiers into the land of a weak neighbour, on the mere pretence of exercising the military? What patriots had had the proud satisfaction of establishing a constitutional government without bloodshed-to be set aside in the course of the next month in the same manner? Had a conspiracy for establishing a republic in Russia been frustrated by the timely information of the intended first consuls! Were the Janissaries learning mathematics!—or had Lord Cochrane taken Constantinople in the James Watt steam packet? One of these many events must have happened - but
It may be “a profusion of bold and new ideas expressed with incomparable neatness and brevity,” but to my mind it looks extremely like very ordinary balderdash, animated but nonsensical, like a fool in spirits, and by no means new.
The Chronicle, however, pronounces the brown bread excellent mutton, and the Chronicle is infallible. His mind yet unexhausted, again its editor rushes to Vivian Grey, and pours forth his soul on it once more in these words:
“Vivian Grey has been styled a 'Prose Don Juan,' but we are really at a loss to conceive in what the similarity between the two works and their heroes consists, except that both display great talents, and that both Juan and Vivian Grey are wanderers over the surface of high and brilliant society, scorning its follies, ridiculing its peculiarities, and exposing its shallow pretensions when put into competition with the real aristocracy of genius and intellect."
These are in the unbought outpourings of the Chronicle's critical mind; but in the following eulogy from the John Bull, we trace the haud of the author himself-it speaks the partiality of the parent:
“ Vivian Grey has been styled a prose Don Juan.' In our opinion, judging at least from the three volumes just published in continuation, Vivian Grey may be much more properly regarded as a new Anastasius, The Author has all the eloquence, the pathos, the pungent wit, and agreeable satire, which distinguished the powerful novel we have named ; and if Mr. Hope be really not the author of Vivian Grey, as well as of Anastasius, the latter novel has met with a formidable rival.”
As little Isaac says, “ Good Lord! how blind some parents are !" But there is more than the paternal folly here; for the author is not content with lauding his production; he carries the praise to himselfhis eloquence, pathos, pungent wit, and agreeable satire-all this, however, be it observed, will be duly charged against him in the lookseller's bill:
To praise of your eloquence.
ditto, pungent wit.
ditto, agreeable satire. At so much
line........ which ? At length Fitzloom decided on a general war. England must interfere either to defeat the ambition of France-or to curb the rapacity of Russia--or to check the arrogance of Austria-or to regenerate Spain—or to redeem Greece—or to protect Portugal-or to shield the Brazils—or to uphold the bible societies or to consolidate the Greek church-or to monopolize the commerce of Mexico-or to disseminate the principles of free trade-or to keep up her high character-or to keep up the price of corn. England must interfere. In spite of his conviction, however, Fitzloom did not alter the arrangements of his tour-he still intended to travel for two years. All he did was to send immediate orders to his broker in England to sell two millions of consols. The sale was of course effected—the example followed--stocks fell ten per cent.—the exchange turned-money became scarce. The public funds of all Europe experienced a great decline-smash went the country banks-consequent runs on the London—a dozen baronets failed in one morning-Portland-place deserted—the cause of infant liberty at a terrific discount—the Greek loan disappeared like a vapour in a storm--all the new American States refused to pay their dividends- Manufactories deserted—the revenue in a decline--the country in despair-orders in councilmeetings of Parliament-change of ministry-and new loan!”
The worst part of the business is the comparison between Vivian Grey and Anastasius—there is something absolutely profane in that. It is as like Anastasius as Aleys's coffee-house with Wyatt's plaster, is like Westminster Abbey.
- That distinguished luminary, Mr. Justice Park, holds, that any representation concerning a man, which causes laughter, is libellous. If this be true, nothing can be conceived more atrociously libellous than the reports of those law proceedings in which Mr. Justice Park has figured as judge. The account of a trial before Park seldom fails to provoke a laugh.
9th. In manfully rejecting a compliment paid to his cautious reforms at the expense of his colleagues, Mr. Peel observed, last night, that, “ whether a criminal code was altered a year or two sooner or later, was of little importance." It should be added-except to those select few that are hung under it.
There are persons who seem to think, that injury is never handsomely completed until it is crowned with insult. of this number is The Courier, who, in the triumph of his heart at the defeat of the Catholic claims, speaks of the droves of Irish as if they were beasts; scoffs at their ignorance, and makes merry with their misery, which are the shame and reproach of his patrons; and, finally, brings them into a direct parallel with the slaves in the West Indies.
“ The poor droves of Irish, who are stirred up to sedition by the agitators who infest Dublin, and indeed all parts of the Sister Island, no doubt understand, that, emancipation conceded, potatoes, and pigs, and whiskey, will become more abundant than ever ; and, in fact, that they will live at their ease, in the enjoyment of all they have as yet learned to covet. We need not say, the idea is preposterous. The slaves in the West Indies are not more out in their calculation, when they suppose, that to declare slavery at an end, would be to relieve them altogether from labour."
If this worthy scribe justly represents the tone of sentiment of his faction, we ought to be surprised that the state of Ireland is not eren worse than it is. The parallel between slavery and Catholic disqualification, is happy, and illustrates both the merits of the question and the liberal ideas of the writer. An apt comparison between the scourge of the West Indies, which The Courier has before now commended with extreme unction, and the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, would give the finishing stroke to this felicitous performance.
Abroad, where it is ignorantly imagined that The Courier is the organ of our government, what discreditable inferences must be drawn from these effusions of factious spleen.
STYLE AND DIALECTICS OF THE MORNING HERALD. “ If we were a Bishop, with an income of 20,0001. a year, should we wish for a reform, or any thing that should put in jeopardy our 20,0001. a year. Reasoning (!), therefore, on the same principle, is it not likely that the thoughts of the Portuguese and Spanish bishops are the same as our thoughts (') would be, supposing that we were a bishop."-Herald, March 16.
This idea has quite disturbed my imagination. In my mind's eye, I see the we-we editor of The Herald, sitting on a tall stool, with a conical decoration on his head, the meet reward of his parts, and apt emblem of his wisdom. It is not exactly of the mitre form, but more closely resembles the steeple of the church, and, like it, is furnished with a goodly set of bells, which, however, are hung outside, for within all is emptiness ; and as the wearer listens to their jingle, he fancies it the immediate inspiration of reason, mistaking the tinkling of his outward brass for the inward voice of Minerva. Hence the strange misapprehension which has led to the use of the words “ reasoning," “ principle,” and “ thoughts,” in the above peal of the Bob Major.
I remember to have witnessed, at a mess table, after more than the quant. suff. of wine had been taken, a droll altercation between two newly caught Scotchmen, from the fencibles, or some such corps. One of them made what Mathews would term the very severe remark to the other—" Sir, you're a dommed blackgaard.” Upon which M
retorted, “ Blackgaard ! sir; what sort of language do ye call that, to use to a gentleman?" On the assumption of this last title, the whole company roared out with one accord, and in the manner of expostulation, “ Gentleman!” M-,“Oh, you must not call yourself a gentleman, you know.” “ I'm as much a gentleman as he is, at any rate,” modestly replied the party. Now when we remonstrate with the we editor of The Herald, on his talking of his
reasoning," like Spanish bishops, and his “ principle," and his “ thoughts,” and tell him that he must not imagine such qualities in himself, he will perhaps reply, like M-, that “he is as much a reasoner and a thinker as Spanish bishops are;" which assertion, though a sore scandal to Spanish bishops, is one that we cannot take upon us to gainsay.
I had almost neglected to record in my annals, the memorable fact, that there was, on Monday the 12th March, 1827, new style, a sensible theatrical article in the Morning Chronicle, with only one Latin quotation, and that, like the young Miss's baby, “ a very little one.” This looks like reformation ; and when the critic has renounced the polyglott, he will be a very agreeable writer. Provided always, that he does not vituperate Madame Vestris, or too extravagantly bepraise Mrs. Humby.
“ Guildhall-John Dignan, a labouring man, was charged with stealing twelve and three-quarter ounces of human hair. The complainant, Mr. John Kennedy, of Westmorland-buildings, Aldersgatestreet, human hair manufacturer, said, the prisoner was in his employ, and a few days ago he stole the hair in question, from a bale of French hair, which they had purchased a few days previously, and offered it for sale to Mr. Turner, of Snow-hill. Sir P. Laurie asked the complainant, if he knew the difference between French and other human hair? Witness: Oh, yes ; French is a great deal finer than any other; but German is more valuable, on account of the colours imported. Sir Peter: Why are the German colours so valuable ? Witness: Because they run lighter than the French ; and a light hair untinged with red is the dearest. Sir Peter: How do you know French human hair? Witness: By the smell. Persons conversant April, 1827.