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occurred at Cross Meikle, without the intervention of either Strahan or Captain Campbell :—though, it must be confessed, we should, in that case, have lost the fine sketch of the revolution created in Campbell's feelings by the death of his wife and the sight of her corpse. It does not, either, appear sufficiently plainly what induced Blair to follow Mrs. Campbell to Uigness ; for it is evident that, at that time, he had no guilty purpose. But these objections are but light in the scale against the number and degree of the beauties to be set against them.
The work is anonymous, and we have no guess who the writer may be. It was, indeed, quite by chance that we read the book at all. Its somewhat quaint title led us to imagine that it was an imitation of the Annals of the Parish, and on taking it loungingly up, we had small expectation of the power which the very first page would disclose. Whoever the author may be, he is a person of no ordinary powers, and that, we suspect, in humour as well as in more serious writing. Certain indications scattered here and there, especially the story of Mrs. Campbell's early years, shew that the author might have placed himself in the first rank of lighter composition, had he not rather chosen to seek and to gain the far higher-indeed the highest-distinction of literary genius-a mastery in portraying the workings of the human heart.
Memoires of the Last Ten Years of the Reign of George
the Second. By HORACE WALPOLE, Earl of Orford. From the original MSS. 2 vols. 4to. London, Murray, 1822.
We confess that Horace Walpole is no especial favourite of ours. The gossipping frivolity of all his writings renders him, in our eyes, no very dignified personage; and his désouci for his friends, all and sundry, amounts very nearly to utter heartlessness. Still, however, he is the Cæsar of his class ;-the Sir Benjamin Backbite of his scandalous circle. We can conceive no person better calculated to report, in a lively and piquant manner, the agreeable nothings of the society in which he lived,—to record the mots of high-born wits,-the inuendos of scandal-loving dowagers. His total disregard of those with whom he lived, made him quite careless of whom it was that he held up to ridicule, for the amusement of himself and his correspondents; and, as his circumstances threw him into the best society, there are few persons of name, during his time,-and it was a long one,-of whom we have not some ludicrous anecdote,—some caricatured resemblance. The finicking turn of Horace Walpole's mind is also evident from the works which he himself published. With few exceptions, they are collections of anecdotes—fragments of biography—the patchwork, in short, cf literature. The Mysterious Mother, and the Castle of Otranto, are almost his only productions which can be called original, unless we are to rank in that class his frivolous and feeble vers de société,--such as the fâde compliments which the printing-press at Strawberry-Hill was sure to pay to its fair visitors,
and the offerings of superannuated gallantry at the shrine of the Miss Berrys. How is it, then, that he has acquired such a reputation? The answer is, we think, quite simple. He has administered most amply to our love of scandalous anecdote. He has furnished a larger mass of light and lounging reading than any half-dozen of authors. He has shewn us the reverse of those figures which are most prominent on the tapestry of history. He has rendered us familiar with the follies and weaknesses of those whom we had been accustomed to look to with reverence.
He has introduced us to a most undignified familiarity with great people. He has brought, in a word, the great historical statues from their niches, and given them to us as companions. Does not such an author deserve well of his readers ?-How many would-be littérateurs, and ladies learning to be blue, has he not furnished with conversation ! How many have been thought to have a knowledge of history, or a taste for the arts, from having read half-a-dozen of his gossipping and desultory pages !
But it must be confessed that Horace Walpole has played his part, such as it is, with much elegance and grace. He has given interest to things even below par in frivolity ;-he has grouped his scenes and figures with much dramatic tact and effect ;-he has contrived, in short, to have the great merit of being excessively entertaining. We might term him a scandalous kaleidoscope-which has the faculty of combining trifles, worthless in themselves, into shapes of much elegance and interest.
The work before us is one on which he has evidently bestowed much labour ; but we by no means consider it his most interesting production. He here appears dressed for company; and we lose the ease and nature
of his undress in the Reminiscences of his morninggown and slippers in his correspondence. The parliamentary debates, and the never-ending, always-beginning squabbles of those hydra days of party, are given with a minuteness which, though natural in a contemporary, becomes tedious at this distance of time.
There are fewer anecdotes than one would expect from Horace Walpole ; but what are given, are, for the most part, well chosen and well told. But the great interest and merit of the work consist in the portraits of the eminent persons of the time. Walpole had a grace de pinceau, which is one of the many points of resemblance between him and the French writers of Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire,--a resemblance which was perfectly manifest before the publication of the present work. Perhaps, indeed, this book has not greatly strengthened it,- for the major part of it treats of the House of Commons, whereas the French Memoires were necessarily confined more strictly to the court.
The historical work of a contemporary may naturally be suspected of being coloured according to the partialities and aversions of the writer. Walpole anticipated this, and repeats, more than once, his assurance of impartiality. “ Some of my nearest friends," says he, “ are often mentioned in these Memoires, and their failings, I think, are as little concealed as those of any other persons.” This we perfectly - believe :—but we do not place equal reliance on his assertion when he says, “ Some whom I have little reason to love, are the fairest characters in the book.” It would cost Horace Walpole but little not to overpraise his friends, but we do not think him a man to be particularly generous to his enemies.
The following character of Lord Egmont is a sample
of that felicity of delineation of which we have spoken. It must be remembered that it is sketched by a political opponent; and, bearing that in mind, we cannot but think Lord Egmont to have been no ordinary person.
Lord Egmont* had gained his greatest reputation by opposing it (the Mutiny Bill); and he was not a man to forget, or to let any body else forget, where his strength lay. His great talent was indefatigable application, which he loved rather than wanted, for his parts were strong, and manly, and quick ; his heart rather wanted improvement than his head; though when his ambition and lust of parliament were out of the question, he was humane, friendly, and as good-humoured as it was possible for a man to be who was never known to laugh; he was once indeed seen to smile, and that was at chess. He did not dislike mirth in others, but he seemed to adjourn his attention till he could bring back the company to seriousness. He was personally very brave, as brave as if he were always in the right. His father had trained him to history and antiquities; and he early suckled his own political genius with scribbling journals and pamphlets. Towards the decline of Sir Robert Walpole's power, he had created himself a leader of the independents, a contemptible knot of desperate tradesmen, many of them converted to Jacobitism by being detected and fined at the Custom-house for contraband practices. By these people he was shoved into parliament on the expulsion of Lord Sundon and Sir Charles Wager; but having written that masterly pamphlet called Faction Detected, in defence of Lord Bath's political apostacy, the patron and champion mutually lost their popularity, and nothing was openly remembered of Lord Perceval's works, but a ridiculous history t of his own family, which he had collected and printed at an immense expense. Thus exploded, he was very willing to take sanctuary with his leader in the House of Lords; but the ministry did not
* John Perceval, the second Earl of Egmont of that name. scarce a man before he had a scheme of assembling the Jews, and making himself their king.
† It was called the History of the House of Yvory, in two large volumes. The collecting and consulting records and genealogies, and en. graving them and publishing cost him (as the heralds affirm) near 3,0001. He endeavoured afterwards to recall it, and did suppress a great many copies.