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to all who take an interest in the progressive march which this country, in recent times, has so wonderfully pursued.
Still it is true-as has been well remarked by his biographer-that "Jeffrey was not so much distinguished by the predominence of any one great quality, as by the union of several of the finest." He is more correctly characterised as rather a very remarkable, than in the strictest sense of the expression, a very great man ;-his individuality was so marked, not only outwardly, but intellectually and aesthetically, that it was only necessary for any intelligent observer to witness one of his public exhibitions, in order to be satisfied, both as to the general rank of his powers, and as to the peculiar impress by which they were distinguished ; -his fluency-his facility-his exhaustless invention-his tendency to refinement of analysis-his sparkling, though rather profuse exuberance of language-his power of withdrawing the attention of his audience from any topics on which he did not choose that they should too exclusively dwell, and of bringing vividly before them such considerations as he wished them well to ponder-these, and other qualifications which he possessed in a very marked degree, were so apparent, that the listener, even for the first time, had perhaps not a more correct idea of the outward figure and peculiar manner of the speaker, than of the general cast and tendency of his mental endowments. Still it is also true, that there was far more, in even the least carefully prepared of his public displays, than ordinary men were capable of following or appreciating; as it is also certain, that the exuberance of his mental worth was best appreciated and most admired by those to whom he was most intimately and familiarly known ;—and above all, there was in his moral composition so much of honour, of fine sensibility, of kind and generous affection, of fondness for simple and domestic pleasures, and of pure abhorrence of every thing mean or questionable, that though, in some respects, he had done as much that might have been supposed to produce lasting hatred, as any other man could, in the same line of conduct, be conceived to have perpetrated, his real worth of character triumphed over all this-his bitterest enemies commonly, when they had longer experience of him, became his warmest admirers and friends,-he lived honoured and beloved by all ranks of his fellow-countrymen-and his death caused such a deep and universal feeling of melancholy and of regret, as we certainly have seldom seen awakened-and could only have been the portion of one whose intellectual gifts were even surpassed by his powers of moral al
It was indispensable that the life of such a man should be writtenand written by one capable of doing justice to so splendid a subject; "the heart of the country" demanded this. Lord Cockburn has fulfilled all the highest wishes of his own friends, and of those of his deceased brother judge. The work has appeared exactly at the time when the warm recollections of the community were still in a condition to take a becoming interest in its merits ;-and we doubt not that it will long remain not only an honourable monument to the talents of the biographer, and a source of curious attraction to many generations of readers— but a fund of most valuable instruction on topics of no ordinary moment
-and also as an exponent of the worth and high gifts of the deceased, to those who may hereafter look with interest on the marble monument which is still in the hands of the sculptor, but which is eventually to grace the august hall, where so much of the active life of the subject of this biography was passed.
There is scarcely a page of this biography from which passages might not be selected, sufficient to interest the general reader-but as many of the more striking incidents have already, by means of periodical publications, found their way to general notice, we shall confine our selection, as much as we can, to such passages as seem to us either to mark the line of Jeffrey's progress, or to indicate the peculiarity of his genius and
The incidents connected with his birth and earliest education, need not detain us. He was born in one of the streets of the southern parts of Edinburgh;-his father, who held a respectable situation in the law courts, being a rigid Tory, of rather a morose disposition, and his mother, a woman of gentle and lively temperament, from whom, we may conclude, the peculiarly elastic character of the mind of her son was inherited. "He was," says his biographer, "the tiniest child possible, but dark complexioned and vigorous." He learnt his mere letters at home-received the further developement of his powers of reading at a school in one of the dingy winds of the older part of the city-and, when eight years old, might have been seen, about the year 1781, regularly making his way along the pavement of some of the principal thoroughfares, with his satchel on his back, or rather, with his small books firmly tied together by a leather thong, to the High School,-his first introduction to which has been thus given in a passage quite indicative of the sensibility which was natural in one of his tender years, his pigmy stature, and his constitutional tendency to painful forboding:
"My next step was to the Grammar school; and here my apprehensions and terrors were revived and magnified; for my companions, either through a desire of terrifying me, or because they had found it so, exaggerated to me the difficulty of our tasks, and dwelled upon the unrelenting severity of the master. Prepossessed with these representations, I trembled at what I was destined to suffer, and entered the school as if it had been a place of torture. Never, I think, was surprise equal to mine, the first day of my attendance. I sat in silent terror-all was buzz and tumult around-a foot is heard on the stairs-everything is hushed as death, and every dimply smile prolongated into an expression of the most serious respect. The handle of the door sounds-ah! here he comes!-I thought my heart would have burst my breast. There began my disappointment. I had expected to have seen a little withered figure, with a huge rod in his hand, his eyes sparkling with rage, and his whole attitude resembling the pictures and descriptions of the furies. Absurd as the idea was, I don't know how it laid hold of my imagination, and I was surprised to see it reversed; and reversed it certainly was. For Mr. Fraser was a plump, jolly, heavy-looking man, rather foolish-like as otherwise, and in my opinion would have made a better landlord than a pedagogue. He seats himself, looks smilingly around, asks some simple questions, and seems well pleased with answers, which I knew I could have made. I was struck; I could hardly believe my own senses; and every moment I looked for the appearance of that rod which
had so terrified my apprehensions. The rod, however, made not its appearance. I grew quiet, but still fixed in a stupor of wonder. I gazed at the object before me, and listened with the most awful attention to all the trifling words that dropped from his lips. At last he dismissed us, and I returned home full of satisfaction, and told eagerly to every one around me my expectations and disappointment."
His kind-heartedness, and strong tendency to family affection, which distinguished him through all the subsequent portions of his life, are well indicated by the following passage,-which the just taste of his biographer could not fail to insert. Speaking of the death of his mother, his biographer remarks:
"Francis, then thirteen, happened to be passing a few days at Stevenson, in East Lothian, about 17 miles from Edinburgh. Intelligence of his mother's danger reached the family he was living with; but as it was too late to get the boy into Edinburgh that night, they meant to conceal it from him till next day. But he had detected, or suspected it, and set off next morning before the house was astir, and walked home alone. The loss of their mother drew the children closer to each other, and the warmest affection subsisted between them throughout their whole lives."
That he was an apt scholar and most ambitious of distinction, is indicated by the fact, that
"His few surviving class-fellows only recollect him as a little, clever, anxious boy, always near the top of the class, and who never lost a place without shedding tears. He says, in the Sketch, that he was 'not without rivals, and one of them at least got the better, being decidedly superior in several points.'"
After having spent six years at the High School-distinguished certainly as a clever boy-though not the dux of any of the classes, he was sent to Glasgow College,-probably with a view to some of the exhibitions by which that seminary is enriched, and by the judicious use of which it has so often done incalculable good ;-and while here, there are several incidental notices, which are quite characteristic-and the insertion of which his biographer could not possibly have avoided.
"The Rev. Dr. Macfarlane, now Principal of the College of Glasgow, and the Rev. Dr. Haldane, now Principal of the College of St. Mary's, St. Andrews, were fellow-students with Jeffrey at Glasgow, and have given me some information about his state and proceedings there. Principal Macfarlane says, that, during his first session, he exhibited nothing remarkable except a degree of quickness, bordering, as some thought, on petulance; and the whim of cherishing a premature moustache, very black, and covering the whole of his upper lip, for which he was much laughed at and teased by his fellow-students. But there was no want of spirit; for Adam Smith had been set up that year for the office of Lord Rector, which depends on the votes of the professors and students, and Principal Haldane recollects seeing a little black creature, whom he had not observed before, haranguing some boys in the Green against voting for Dr. Smith. This was Jeffrey. Not that he had any objection either to the Wealth of Nations or to its author; but the Economist was patronised by the professors, which has often made the students take the opposite side. The opposition, however, was withdrawn, and, on the 12th of December 1787, Smith was installed. It is
very unlikely that Jeffrey would miss seeing such a ceremony, in honour of such a man; but an expression in his own Inaugural Address, where he says that Smith 'is reported to have remained silent,' seems to throw a doubt on his presence.
"In his second session he disclosed himself more satisfactorily. Principal Macfarlane says 'He broke upon us very brilliantly. In a debating society called, I think, the Historical and Critical, he distinguished himself as one of the most acute and fluent speakers; his favourite subjects being criticism and metaphysics.' Professor Jardine used to require his pupils to write an exercise, and then to make them give in written remarks on each other's work. Principal Haldane's essay fell to be examined by Jeffrey, who, on this occasion probably, made his first critical adventure. My exercise (says the Principal) fell into the hands of Jeffrey, and sorely do I repent that I did not preserve the essay, with his remarks upon it. For though they were unmercifully severe, they gave early promise of that critical acumen which was afterwards fully developed in the pages of the Edinburgh Review. In returning my essay to me, the good professor, willing to save my feelings, read some of the remarks at the beginning of the criticism, but the remainder he read in a suppressed tone of voice, muttering something as if he thought it too severe.' The first prize in the Logic class was awarded, by the votes of the pupils, to a person called Godfrey; but he was much older than Jeffrey, who, Principal Haldane says, had, all throughout, made 'a brilliant figure,' and was, unquestionably, the ablest student of the class.""
Jeffrey's dislike for Oxford may easily be accounted for, even without taking into account the very questionable state of depression, as a school of learning, into which that university had then fallen. There is a time of life with most young men, when the feeling of manhood has begun to supplant the comparative acquiescence and docility of boyhood, -and in the case of Jeffrey this feeling may easily be conceived to have existed in even more than ordinary and premature vigour. He had naturally thought of Oxford only as a grand seat of learning, of ambitious rivalry, of congenial fellowship, and of splendid facilities for success in life. But when he actually was enrolled among its members, he found that he could scarcely learn anything that promised either to satisfy his matured intellectual appetites, or advance him materially in the course he considered himself destined to run. He was fond of conversation and of intellectual display,-but there he found only formal manners, and insipid talk,-"praying and drinking" being the chief qualifications it seemed fitted to cultivate. He had strong domestic affections, but there he was far from all friends in whose society his really affectionate heart had found its chief solace. He was, comparatively, but in narrow circumstances, and consequently, in a great measure debarred from the society of the more patrician orders, with whose scions the halls of Oxford were chiefly filled, and lastly, he looked with heartfelt apprehension to the expense which such a system of living might entail upon his father, --and felt the natural and manly ambition of being in some way of progress that promised a more speedy realization of the hopes which his family and friends had been very unavoidably induced to entertain on his behalf. The following passage is exquisitely descriptive of the style of conversation and of social intercourse by which Oxford was at that time distinguished :
"Is there anything, do you think, Cara, so melancholy as a company of young men without any feeling, vivacity, or passion? We must not expect, here, that warmth and tenderness of soul which is to delight and engage us; but let us at least have some life, some laughter, some impertinence, wit, politeness, pedantry, prejudices-something to supply the place of interest and sensation. But these blank parties! oh! the quintessence of insipidity. The conversation dying from lip to lip-every countenance lengthening and obscuring in the shade of mutual lassitude-the stiffled yawn contending with the affected smile upon every cheek--and the languor and stupidity of the party gathering and thickening every instant by the mutual contagion of embarrassment and disgust. For when you enter into a set of this kind, you are robbed of your electricity in an instant, and by a very rapid process are cooled down to the state of the surrounding bodies. In the name of heaven, what do such beings conceive to be the order and use of society? To them it is no source of enjoyment; and there cannot be a more complete abuse of time, wine, and fruit.' This law is a vile work. I wish I had been bred a piper. For these two months I have conceived nothing distinctly. For all that time I have had a continual vision of I know not what beautiful and sublime things, floating and glittering before my eyes. I at first thought it was a fit of poetry; but upon trial I could find neither words nor images. When I offered to lay hold upon any of its beauties, the splendid show vanished and grew confused, like the picture of the moon you may have tried to scoop up out of the water.'
The singular elocution,-we mean tone and accent in speaking,-by which Jeffrey was characterised, never failed to strike all persons who listened to him for the first time, and never failed to exist as a curious problem, even with those who heard him most frequently, or who were familiar with his ordinary conversation. It is, indeed, not easy to say what could have induced him to adopt a dialect and accent, for which he certainly could find no authority either among native Englishmen,or among persons whose native Scotch had undergone a gradual rubbing and polish from long protracted residence in England. Yet, peculiar as his dialect and accent were, they certainly had become so fixed and habitual, that in him they at least seemed to be the offspring of some natural and invincible propensity;-and, in truth, there was something in them that suited remarkably with all the other more superficial aspects of his character,-and without which, we became disposed to think, that the entire man would have been wanting in one of his most natural and appropriate ornaments. It is delightful, however, to know that his love for the literature, and picturesque language of his native country never underwent any alteration, and we accordingly transcribe with pleasure the following judicious observations of his biographer:
"But there was one accomplishment of which he was particularly ambitious, but failed to attain. He left home with the dialect and accent of Scotland strong upon his lips; and, always contemplating the probability of public speaking being his vocation, he was bent upon purifying himself of the national inconvenience. You ask me (says he to Mr. Robertson) to drop you some English ideas. My dear fellow, I am as much, nay more, a Scotchman than I was while an inhabitant of Scotland. My opinions, ideas, prejudices, and systems are all Scotch. The only part of a Scotchman Í mean to abandon, is the language; and language is all I expect to learn in England."