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"He certainly succeeded in the abandonment of his habitual Scotch. He returned, in this respect, a conspicuously altered lad. The change was so sudden and so complete, that it excited the surprise of his friends, and furnished others with ridicule for many years. But he was by no means so successful in acquiring an English voice. With an ear which, though not alert in musical perception, was delicate enough to feel every variation of speech; what he picked up was a high-keyed accent, and a sharp pronunciation. Then the extreme rapidity of his utterance, and the smartness of some of his notes, gave his delivery an air of affectation, to which some were only roconciled by habit and respect. The result, on the whole, was exactly as described by his friend the late Lord Holland, who said that though Jeffrey had lost the broad Scotch at Oxford, he had only gained the narrow English. However, the peculiarity wore a good deal off, and his friends came rather to like what remained of it, because it marked his individuality, and it never lessened the partiality with which his countrymen hailed all his public appearances. Still, as the acquisition of a pure English accent by a full-grown Scotchman, which implies the total loss of his Scotch, is fortunately impossible, it would have been better if he had merely got some of the grosser matter rubbed off his vernacular tongue, and left himself, unencumbered both by it and by unattainable English, to his own respectable Scotch, refined by literature and good society, and used plainly and naturally, without shame, and without affected exaggeration.
"But though the tones and the words of Scotland ceased to be heard in his ordinary speech, they were never obliterated from his memory. He could speak Scotch, when he chose, as correctly as when the Doric of the Lawnmarket of Edinburgh had only been improved by that of Rottenrow of Glasgow; and had a most familiar acquaintance with the vocabulary of his country. Indeed, there was a convenience and respectability in the power of speaking and of thinking Scotch at that period, which later circumstances have impaired. It was habitual with persons of rank, education, and fashion, with eloquent preachers, dignified judges, and graceful women; from all of whose lips it flowed without the reality, or the idea, of vulgarity. Our mere speech was doomed to recede, to a certain extent, before the foreign wave, and it was natural for a young man to anticipate what was coming. But our native literature was better fixed; and Jeffrey knew it, and enjoyed it. He was familiar with the writers in that classic Scotch, of which much is good old English, from Gavin Douglas to Burns. He saw the genius of Scott, and Wilson, and Hogg, and Galt, and others, elicited by the rich mines of latent character and history with which their country abounds, and devoted to the elucidation of the scenes which awakened it; and, of all their admirers, there was not one who rejoiced more, or on better grounds, on the Scotch qualities that constitute the originality and the vivid force of their writings. He felt the power of the beautiful language which they employed, and were inspired by; and, as many of his subsequent criticisms attest, was most anxious for the preservation of a literature so peculiar and so picturesque."
One of the most remarkable of Jeffrey's peculiarities, and which must have struck every reader of this biography, was the wonderful command which he had, not only of his thoughts, but of his pen, even from the earliest period of his academical career,—and the constancy with which he put these qualifications in practice. In the case of most other young persons, composition is resorted to, simply for the purpose of giving a form to any thoughts or speculations which they may happen to entertain; they want to learn how to write, and the effort to acquire
this power is commonly one which taxes their patience and their perseverance to the utmost. With Jeffrey it was otherwise. He had no difficulty, from the first, either of thinking upon any subject, or of putting his thoughts into rapid and connected composition; and accordingly, he not only took notes of all the lectures which he attended, but gave the freest scope to his own thoughts, and to the use of his pen in the writing out of these memoranda ;-and left behind him, we know not how many folio close written volumes on almost every course of academical lectures which he attended. This habit he continued even at a more advanced period of his academical career,-and without specifying other instances, it may be sufficient to state, that of Stewart's Lectures on Political Economy, he left five small volumes of notes ;-and of Dr. Hope's Lectures on Chemistry, he left the same number of volumes.
What he did, altogether, in this way,-even while he was yet but a mere stripling,-might seem sufficient, so far as quantity of writing was concerned, for almost the life-time of any ordinary composer. But the fact is, it cost him little trouble, his thoughts were so rapid, and in their natural flow, so well connected, and his powers of transferring them to paper so effective, that what would have been intolerable labour to any other person, implied on his part only the merit of being assiduous in using a talent which he felt himself to possess in unprecedented excess, and the exercise of which was as necessary to him as the use of their limbs to the most fleet of the animal creation,-or the employment of the wing to the most volatile of the denizens of the air. What is further remarkable in these early effusions, is the constant tendency which they manifest on the part of the writer, to make his own modes of thought, and of expressing his thoughts, the subjects of his own critical revision; he not only did the work, but he looked back on the operation, as if it had been the achievement of a person distinct from himself; -his own mind and its operations were a mystery, and a constant subject of retrospection and critical analysis to himself, and this tendency he displayed from the very earliest period at which he began to write. But we must now hear his biographer upon the subject:
"To those who only knew him in his maturity, there was nothing more prominent in the character of his intellect than its quickness. He seemed to invent arguments, and to pour out views, and to arrive at conclusions, instinctively. Preparation was a thing with which it was thought that so elastic a spirit did not require to be encumbered. Nevertheless, quick though he undoubtedly was, no slow mind was ever aided by steadier industry. If there be any thing valuable in the history of his progress, it seems to me to consist chiefly in the example of meritorious labour which his case exhibits to young men, even of the highest talent. If he had chosen to be idle, no youth would have had a stronger temptation or a better excuse for that habit; because his natural vigour made it easy for him to accomplish far more than his prescribed tasks respectably, without much trouble, and with the additional applause of doing them off hand. But his early passion for distinction was never separated from the conviction, that in order to obtain it, he must work for it.
"Accordingly, from his very boyhood, he was not only a diligent, but a very systematic student; and in particular, he got very early into the invaluable habit of accompanying all his pursuits by collateral composition;
never for the sake of display, but solely for his own culture. The steadiness with which this almost daily practice was adhered to, would be sufficiently attested by the mass of his writings which happens to be preserved; though these be obviously only small portions of what he must have executed. There are notes of lectures, essays, translations, abridgements, speeches, criticisms, tales, poems, &c. ; not one of them done from accidental or momentary impulse, but all wrought out by perseverance and forethought, with a view to his own improvement. And it is now interesting to observe how very soon he fell into that line of criticism which afterwards was the business of his life. Nearly the whole of his early original prose writings are of a critical character; and this inclination towards analysis and appreciation was so strong, that almost every one of his compositions closes by a criticism on himself."
Jeffrey's various compositions, about this period, may be thus arranged. After the voluminous body of notes taken in the different classes, and afterwards extended and modified so as to suit his own ideas upon the various subjects treated of, there come translations or imitations of the most celebrated poets and orators of antiquity-then we have speeches formed, as he then intended them to be, on the plan or model exhibited by the great ancient speakers, but suited to the peculiarities of the assemblies which orators of the present times are understood to address-after these come poems of all kinds and of all sizes, from translations amounting to 600 lines, and original compositions in verse to 1800, down to the tiniest sonnet or love poem that could be constructed-further on in the progress we have short essays on life and manners, supposed to be done in the style of Addison, Johnstone, or M'Kenzie, and last, certainly not the least unexpected of the whole mass are sermons, some of them written before he left Scotland, and others while he was a resident within the academical walls of Oxford.
Of the speeches mentioned in this enumeration, there is one entitled Speech on the slave, on the model of Demosthenes," of which Lord Cockburn remarks, that it
-"is, of course, not the least like Demosthenes, nor even a speech—it is a declamatory essay. I only mention it for the sake of the description of the style of the model which closes the imitation. On the model of Demosthenes! admirably executed! I wonder which of the characteristics of that orator I had it in my mind to imitate while I covered these pages. There can hardly be anything more unlike the style, though at times it is evident I have been jumping at that too; and the solicitude with which I have avoided special narratives and individual illustration is still more inconsistent with the instant peculiarity of that model. Now, I knew all this when I [illegible] my intention of imitation. What was it, then, that I designed to imitate? That perspicuity and simplicity of arrangement, that direct and unremitting tendency to the single object of the discourse, that naked and undisguised sincerity of sentiment, that perpetual recurrence to acknowledged and important positions, which are, certainly, the most intrinsic and infallible marks of the orations of Demosthenes. No intermission of argument, no digressive embellishment, no ostentatious collocation of parts, no artificial introduction, no rhetorical transition, is to be found in the pages of this accomplished and animated orator. He falls from argument to argument with the most direct and unaffected simplicity; and at every transition from argument to exhortation, and from exhortation to reproach, he holds the one object of
his discourse fully in his own eyes, and in those of his auditors. This I say by way of self-defence, that I may not be thought to have mistaken the character of this writer, whom my imitation evinces me to have understood so ill. In one respect it is similar to my model;—it is sincere, and has not declined any part of the argument that occurred. Towards the end it is most defective; the turgid breaking in upon me unawares. I never read ten pages on the question in my life. I pretend, therefore, that this is original."
That Jeffrey was most decidedly ambitious of the honour of being a poet is unquestionable-all his earliest tendencies seem to have been directed in that way-but though he had both the fancy and the feeling necessary to have carried him to the attainment of this object of his ambition, still his thoughts, or feelings, or imaginations, would not submit gracefully and successfully to the trammels of verse-so that, in fact, there was more poetry in his ordinary conversation, or in his prose compositions, than in his rythmical efforts-and it is admitted by his biographer," that the publication of such of his poetical attempts as remain, though it might shew his industry and ambition, would not give him the poetical wreath, and of course would not raise his reputation." Jeffrey himself was quite aware of this, and shewed his good sense-as he did in many other things-by not pressing his inclination beyond the boundary which prudence and propriety permitted.
His essays on life and manners, after the manner of Addison and others, are said to display wonderful powers of observation, and of independent thought and Lord Cockburn concludes the paragraph in which this topic is discussed-but which, we think, the least happy in expression of his Lordship's efforts by saying, that the especial" wonder is, how such thoughts got into so young a head, or how such sentences flowed from so untaught a pen."
Of the sermons, which it certainly would have required no ordinary nimbleness of tongue to have delivered with effect, his Lordship remarks, that they are about as good as any sermons can be, which are got up as mere rhetorical exercises." His Lordship also notices, that this seems to be a species of composition rather seductive to literary laymen. Now we know that many of these literary laymen are of opinion, either that the composition of sermons requires but a very slight effort of judgment or of feeling-or, at least, that far better models of this species of composition might be formed than even the best of those which we are in the habit of hearing delivered to the best attended of our congregations. But such efforts on the part of literary laymen have, we believe, almost universally failed in attaining the excellence at which the composers aimed; and we venture to believe, that as there are undoubtedly many respectable preachers who would find themselves greatly bewildered in trying to write a book-so, on the other hand, there are many persons who would get respectably through the discursive topics and style of an ordinary volume on secular subjects, who would fail most egregiously if called on to discuss the well compacted trains of thought, and to display the sustained current of devout or moral feeling which must characterise any sermon that is entitled to the epithets good or even respectable.
On the whole of these early productions of Jeffrey's pen, we may
remark, that they strikingly display the very same tendency to reflective and critical thought-and the same exuberance and peculiar turn of style, which remained with him, and characterised his efforts at the more advanced and more matured periods of his literary life—and that in this respect at least the saying was true, "that as the twig was bent,"whether by nature or by art-" the tree inclined."
But Jeffrey had now put off his Oxford cap and gown-and was once more pacing the streets of Edinburgh and of Glasgow-in the dress, at least, of an ordinary young man-but without any well defined plan as to his future projects or pursuits;-it was, he says, the loneliest period of his existence he made no new friends at Oxford-those whom he had previously known in Scotland had in most instances disappeared or been scattered he saw very indistinctly his own future career-but the feeling of great powers of some kind was strong within him—and he mused, lonely and drearily enough, as most young men in similar circumstances, and at the same period of life, naturally do, on the probable work that was assigned him in life, and on the small apparent means which he possessed of realising the purpose of his secret aspirations.
His most intimate friend, during the earlier portion of his career, was the late amiable and accomplished Dr Morehead-who was the son of that Mr Morehead of Herbertshire, so often mentioned in the course of this biography-and from whose mild and liberal modes of thought, Jeffrey is understood to have imbibed, or, at least strengthened, that tendency to Whig principles which it had been the habitual wish of his father to cramp or to extirpate.-Robert Morehead, therefore, was his near relation and his character is thus drawn by Jeffrey's biographer:
"Simple, humble, pious, and benevolent-devoted to his official duties, of literary habits, contented with every position in which it pleased Providence to place him he could not be but beloved by all who knew his quiet virtues. To Jeffrey, who had been his playmate in the fields of Herbertshire, and throughout life was never estranged from him one moment, and knew his very heart, he was an object of special affection. No two crcatures of the same species could be more unlike; but, in mutual regard, they were one."
But though certainly unlike, they were not unequal-they were, both of them, addicted to the composition of poetry-both of them great admirers of nature-both fond of moral or metaphysical speculation-both desirous of literary distinction-and both of them, at this time, rather doubtful as to the career they were yet to run in life. To Jeffrey's fluency, and exhaustless ingenuity, Mr Morehead made no pretensions; but, as a poet, he was allowed by Jeffrey himself to be his superior-he arrived at conclusions in moral speculation, not by the ingenious analysis which Jeffrey delighted to pursue, but by a steady and luminous and unprejudiced perception of the truest and most beautiful aspects which any of the subjects that come under discussion were fitted to assume.— He was long the colleague of Mr Alison, who was, beyond all question, the most captivating preacher of his time-and in their joint incumbency, Dr Morehead's public exhibitions assuredly were by no means unworthy the fellowship of so distinguished a colleague.
It was chiefly in company with this delightful and accomplished friend