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considerable quantity or variety of new information. That he can reason well, appears often in the strength and shrewdness of his remarks and inferences; but his speeches cannot be said to have argumentation for a leading characteristic. His arguments are singly forcible, rather than collectively chained.
Sheridan is not peculiarly eminent for continuous reply, although his speeches, in opening a debate or discussing a question proposed by himself, be distinguished for ability, ingenuity, and eloquence. But, if his replies are defective, it requires no great penetration to see that the deficiency is owing to the want of particular knowledge, not of general powers. He has dealt more in sarcasm than any speaker in the house. Burke, indeed, could be as sarcastic as any man ; but was not so often so as Sheridan. I remember, when Sheridan, Fox, and Burke were co-operators in politics, to have heard a gentleman give the following character of the severities which each of them occasionally employed, and Sheridan most frequently.
casms of Sheridan, mingled as they are with the strongest humour and adorned with the most brilliant wit, appear to result from natural or habitual acidity of temper ; Burke's to arise either from particular irritatlon, political opposition, or moral censure; Fox never sour, seldom transported into rage, abounding in the milk of human kindness, was rarely severe, but from the opposition of party or the disapprobation of patriotism and virtue.' Sheridan displays a very thorough knowledge of human nature, not indeed so much of the anatomy of mind, as of its active powers, and the springs that set them in motion. His writings do not only exhibit manners and the surface of life; but character, sentiment, and passion; with their causes and their operation. Men of genius, in imitative performances, as they advance in experience, knowing Nature better, copy from her more closely. In the plays of Fielding, written in the early part of his life, we meet with several fancy pictures ; in his first novel, although there be a considerable de
gree of imitation of real life, yet there is in it a good deal that has no archetype but in the author's imagination. Tom Jones is a complete copy of actual and usual existence. This has been the case with Sheridan in his first comedy: ingenious and able as it is, some of the principal characters either do not at all resemble any to be found in real life, or resemble them very slightly; of the first sort is Acres, of the second is Lydia Languish. In the School for Scandal there is not a character, of which originals are not to be daily found in real life. This progression from fancy to actual existence is, in imitative performances, analogous to that in philosophical researches from abstraction to experience. The Rivals is the work of great genius, operating on somewhat scanty materials, collected partly only from observation, and therefore having recourse to fancy: the School for Scandal is the work of great genius, matured in the knowledge of that class of objects on which its exertions are employed, and taking real conduct for its archetype.
Sheridan first distinguished himself in Parliament-by a speech concerning the employment of the military during the riots. Its object was to ascertain the circumstances in which it might be necessary to have recourse to the military power, and to inquire whether that necessity, in the case of the riots, was not owing to the negligence of the magistracy. Burke voted for his motions, but did not exert himself in their support. He probably thought that it was impossible to define, a priori, what should constitute such a necessity.
In a discussion concerning Indian affairs, Lord North proposed certain regulations of the commercial profits and territorial acquisitions of the East India Company, against which Burke made a very eloquent speech, intended to shew that the plan of the Minister was a violation of chartered rights; an attempt to rob the Company, in order to extend the influence of the Minister, by an addition of lavish and
The detractors from Burke have endeavoured to prove, that his defence of chartered rights, on this and preceding questions concerning India affairs, and the proposed infringement of charters by the East India bill in 1783, were inconsistent with each other. That allegation I shall consider when I come to Mr. Fox's bills.
Towards the close of the session Burke made a motion concerning the extreme rigour
that had been used to the inhabitants of St. Eustatius, after the capture of that island. He described their sufferings, and the rapacity of the conquerors, in the strongest colours; and took, as he usually did, a large and general view of the subject; investigating, from history and from the writings of the civilians, the right of conquerors to the effects of the conquered ; and endeavouring to prove that the seizure of private property belonging to enemies, in such circumstances, was a violation of the law of nations. If by the law of nations is meant the custom of civilized states, in