Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

of his reward ; and it was long before their bitter flavour passed away.

The autumn of 1830 he passed for the most part in retirement. His favourite books at this time were the Greek Orators, to the study of which he devoted peculiar care. For Demosthenes he had always entertained feelings of enthusiastic admiration. He seemed much taken by an opinion of Lord Brougham, then much spoken of, that from that source he traced much of his own oratorical success. Æschines, Isocrates, and Thucydides likewise engaged many of his leisure hours. He often likewise recurred in after years to minute facts and descriptions in Josephus and Eusebius, and other writers on the early history of the Church. “He had embraced too, at that period, the New Testament as a Greek and religious study, and was duly alive to its contents in both respects. 'St. Paul's speeches,' as he used to call them, in the Acts, especially that before Agrippa, greatly captivated

His religious convictions were doubtless strengthened by these pursuits, and when in the society of those with whom he took an interest in conversing on such subjects, he with characteristic

him."*

* Letter from Rev. John Ennis to the Author, 24th March,

eagerness avowed the retention of those impressions which had early been formed in his mind. Like most men of vigorous and independent habits of thought, he had, when at the University and the Temple, been much attracted by the philosophical opinions of writers like Gibbon and Voltaire. His fearless spirit of inquiry led him to read with eager curiosity speculative works of all kinds. For the Scotch metaphysicians and their manner of treating “the greatest of questions,” he had always a strong disrelish. The exclusively anal tical method failed to satisfy his imaginative mind. “There is something more,” he used to say, “which they have not caught and cannot dissect;" and he had no faith in the stability of morals based upon expediency alone. Nevertheless he was long unable to eradicate the misgivings which his own meditations, and the suggestions of discursive reading, had sown within him. The dimness of doubt exercised over his mind a certain fascination. His toleration forbade him to condemn as sinful, theoretic errors which he found combined in various forms with the noblest feelings and the purest lives; and yet his whole nature recoiled from the repudiation of those mysterious tenets, as mere illusions, which had been first impressed upon his mind in childhood. Many who have

[ocr errors]

been troubled with a similar conflict of emotions pass in the world for undeviatingly devout and orthodox men, simply because they have neither the courage nor the candour to permit their half-thoughts and the flaws in their faith to become known. But such was not his way. He was incapable of habitually concealing from those who shared his intimacy the ideas uppermost in his mind; and the temptation of finding either sympathy or instruction, even from comparative strangers, continually led him to speak with startling unreserve on subjects that are conventionally approached in a very different tone. He liked to argue with men of the most opposite opinions on subjects of natural theology, and on the comparative merits of different systems of belief-less from any love of controversy, in the common acceptation of the term, than as a means of speculative investigation. When little more than nineteen, a fellow-student, with whom he was but slightly acquainted, in the Historical Society, was surprised by an abrupt interrogatory as to whether it would be easy to show that civilization and social happiness might not have equally advanced under a refined and purified system of polytheism, as under that of Christianity. The good feeling and discernment of the person thus addressed

forbade him to attribute the question to any deliberately formed opinion, whence in point of fact it never sprang: but he was not always so fortunate in finding justice or charity from those in whose presence he rashly thought aloud. Throughout the earlier part of his career, imputations were frequently cast upon his religious sincerity by those who envied his talents, or had been made to wince under the sometimes too reckless lash of his wit.

During the latter days of agitation he had striven hard to place a curb upon his love of sarcasm and badinage, the indulgence of which he found productive of serious hurt to his influence over those with whom he was compelled to act. But with the attitude and garb of demagogue,

he was but too glad to lay aside a restraint that had always been irksome. Insolence or ill-pature there was indeed none, even in his jests at the expense of others; but the ludicrous side of things rarely escaped his observation, and where others laughed inwardly he laughed aloud. Being asked on one occasion who was the Mr. Redmond that had made a violent speech against the Government, he replied, “Mr. Redmond is a very worthy and well-disposed man, but he happens to be patriot to a brewery."

His society at this time became more sought after

and appreciated. He was not unfrequently a guest at the tables of persons whose official or political position would in Ireland have previously formed a barrier to any social intercourse. It happened that the day on which the news arrived of the defeat of ministers on Sir Henry Parnell's motion regarding the Civil List, he dined with the Duke of Northumberland, who then filled the office of Viceroy. The consequences of the event seemed to be fully understood by all who were present. Displacement was too obviously uppermost in the thoughts of the greater number; the anecdotes and pleasantries of Sir Philip Crampton extorted but a mechanical smile: and the whole affair was as dismal and as dull as the convivial obsequies of party usually are. The following day brought the intelligence that the Wellington Cabinet was at an end, and that Earl Grey had been summoned to form a new administration.

Soon after the Whig Government had been formed, he visited London, when Lord Anglesea, who was about to resume the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, desired to see him. The acquaintance thus commenced was soon attended with results equally gratifying and advantageous to him. His exclusion from Parliament was the goading thought from

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »