RANDOM RECOLLECTIONS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
nuts volume is the result of observations made by the author and of impressions produced upon his mind during an attendance of some years in the House of Commons,—although he states, what is evidently impossible, that it is "an accumulation of notes." The essential character of the writer's mind is a material vulgarity, developed in an extraordinary degree. It has been said that poetry pleases by presenting the essence of things apart from their extrinsic circumstances, and thus producing a more striking impression than the reality itself. But this quality is not limited
to poetry; it extends to every operation of the mind. We are pleased with the future and the past ; the character of the dead is softened, and the grief of the survivors exalted, by the separation of the essence of things from their material concomitants. This finality is even exhibited in a common narrative, if the narrator be commonly skilful ; and hardly a letter is written on the matters of life without displaying more or less of this power. Notwithstand- ing a coarse shrewdness, and a perception which has been sharpened by his (apparent) business of reporting, the author of Random Recollections is a most extraordinary deviation from this rule; unconsciously stripping things of all light and atmosphere and spirit, and, by some peculiar mental chemistry, presenting his reader with the quintessence of the gross and palpable. His descriptions are not deficient in force, truth, or interest; but it is all of a material kind. He rather specifies than paints; he enables us to identify rather than to recognize; and characterizes a senator as he would advertise a felon,—his portraits strongly re- minding one of the " descriptions " in the Hue and Cry. Did a person, in thief-taker's language, desire to "grab" a Member, he might carry this book in his, hand, and, as soon as the orator concluded, he would feel no difficulty in saying, "You are the man I want."
The matter of the book is of two kinds,—that which the author
has collected from his own observations; and that which lie has borrowed from other sources. The first is told con more, and with the decisive manner of an arbiter elegantiarum upon his own floor. He describes the persons of all, the coats of many, and the waistcoats and trousers of not a few. He tells how one man stretches out his fingers in speaking, how another waves his arms, and how many times a third on " an average " thumps the table or the box. When he criticizes higher matters, he seems to re- echo the popular opinion of the Gallery ; and discovers too much of a reporter-like disposition to measure a man by his capabilities as a speaking-machine—one of his most important tests being that of being " audible in the Gallery :" at the same time, he does not badly hit off undue airs, or silly superciliousness, or affectation. His estimates of' character and intellect are for the most part not only borrowed, but they have a borrowed air ; his censures of the orator and the statesman contrasting oddly enough against his previous spontaneous praise of their showy or rather their/ashy qualities,—as in the case of Sir ROBERT PEEL.
The formal arrangement of the Recollections is good, and
exhausts the subject without overlaying it. The book opens with a detailed description of the old House ; the Parliamentary forms, rules, and regulations, are neit treated of; and the author then details the practices by which the Speaker contrives to carry on business ; and the disorderly and disgraceful "scenes "—of which it is speaking mildly to say that no other body of men in the kingdom would be guilty of the brutal coarseness described—that the head of " the first assembly of gentlemen in the world" is reduced to witness without the power of checking them. Having dismissed the general features of his subject, the writer comes to individuals ; and commences with the two Speakers, MANNERS SurroN and ABERCROMBY. The elite of the late and present Members of the Tory party follow ; next come those of the Neutral Party ; and in short, (not to particularize the different classes into which the Members are arranged), it is contrived, in a'Jout a dozen sections, to present the reader with " personal sketches" of the most marked Representatives of the People.
The first extracts shall be selected to support the depreciating
part of our criticism : and the " personal sketch" of the Tory Leader affords as good a sample as could be desired. The reader who may have formed a notion of the late Premier from LAw- nENcit's portrait, would be prepared to expect a man not exactly resembling the high nobility,—for even the courtly genius of the artist was unable to get rid of the superfine vulgarity of the " cotton-
te the man from his waistcoat and
his watch-chain: there was, however, a kind of acquired air about him, which completely evaporates under the hands of our Gallery friend. The notice is obviously intended to be complimentary ; but what a notion it conveys of the statesman and his admirer ! Shade of CHESTERFIELD, wherever you be, think of a Prime Minister attempting to fulfil your command of "sacrifice to the graces," by "displaying a watch-chain on his breast, with a bunch of gold seals of unusually large dimensions and great splendour 1" But we detain the reader from the portrait of
THE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME.
Sir Robert Peel is now, as he has been since the death of Mr. Canning, the leader of the Tory party in the House of Commons. He is a remarkably good. i looking (?) man, rather above the usual size, and finely proportioned. He s of a clear complexion, full round face, and red-haired. His usual dress is a green surtout, a light waiteoat, and dark trousers. He generally displays a Watch- chain on his breast, with a bunch of gold seals of unusually large dimensions and great splendour. He can scarcely be called a dandy, and yet he sacrifices a good deal to the graces. I hardly khow a public man who dresses in better taste.
Sir ROBERT, however, is not the only man who is presented in the habit which he wears. In this view, the book is a tole- rably complete Senatorial Mirror of Fashions. Hero are a few examples.
MR. SPRING RICE
Is somewhat of a dandy. He wears a profusion of rings on his fingers: I think I have counted, on more than one occasion, seven or eight, though I will not now be positive as to the exact number. He usually wears a green surtout and a smart black stock. The collar of his shirt is of unusual height. James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, :mentions in his Autobiography, that the first time he saw Mr. Galt, the left ear of that celebrated writer was completely concealed from view by the height or depth, call it which you please, of his collar. Mr. Galt once alluded, in conversation with me, to this statement of Hogg ; which he characterized as altogether unfounded, but charitably ascribed it to some imperfection of memory, or other unintentional mistake, on the part of the Ettrick Shepherd. I only, however, speak the words of truth when I mention, that Mr. Spring Rice's shirt-collar is so high that I have often won- dered his ears were not cut by it. Without a high collar and a smart stiff stock he would be nothing in his own estimation. Ile has altogether a prim appearance both in his manners and dress.
Dresses with extreme plainness, sometimes almost slovenly. His clothes are never well made, and hardly ever look as if new. Ile almost invariably wears a blue coat and dark trousers, aud generally has "a shocking bad hat."
MR. D. W. 'HARVEY
Dresses plainly. He almost invariably wears a blue coat with a velvet collar. The other parts of his dress vary with the season, but his predilections seem to be in favour of a light colour.
Usually wears a blue coat. During last session he chiefly wore a tartan waistcoat and light-coloured cassimere trousers. His waistcoat is always double-breasted, and is usually close-buttoned up to the chin.
Almost invariably wears a blue coat, with (lark or light waistcoat and trou- sers, according to the season of the year. His trousers are generally remark- able for their shortness. They remind one of schoolboy-days, being two or three inches from the upper part of the shoes, and showing the stockings to advantage.
But there are better and more striking things than these in the book ; for the writer has animal vigour, a perception of the ob- vious, and a clear style. Occasionally, however, he uses words which evidently do not convey his meaning. " Consequential," for instance, in the following character, is a case in point : the Member for Bath is consequential in the eyes of other men, but important in his own.
Mr. Roebuck's politics are substantially the same as those of Mr. Attwood ; but he is a very different person in many respects. A fracas with an oppo- nent, at the time lie was elected 'Member for Bath, gave him the cha- racter of an ill-tempered and easily-irritated man. His conduct in the House, as well as out of it, has proved the character he then got was a just one. You see the cynic in his face. He is one of the most petulant and discontented, and, at the same time, conceited-looking men in the House. He is full of airs. He is, in his own eye, one of the most consequential men within the walls of Parliament. He not only must needs speak on every question of importance,— that is to say, if he is sufficiently fortunate to catch i the Speaker's eye,—as if
there were something oracular n every thing he says ; but he has the pre- sumption often to attempt to get possession of the House immediately after some of the ablest Members of the Opposition have spoken, with the view of replying to them. He is a man of fair talents, but nothing more. He speaks with considerable fluency when he makes a set speech, because, in that case, he writes it out at full length, and commits it to niemory in the same way as a schoolboy does his task ; but when he attempts speaking on the spur of the moment, he often stammers, and has to correct and recorrect his ill constructed sentences. His voice is feeble, but clear and distinct in its tones. His fa- vourite gesture is to raise his right arm, spread out his fingers, and turn his face and body from one part of the House to the other ; but when lie flatters himself—which he often does—that he is saying something unusually clever and of commanding importance, he strikes the books or box on the table with his right-hand with great violence,—having, before commencing his speech, removed for that purpose from his usual seat to one close to the tilde.
Mr. Roebuck s diminutive in person. Ile is much under the middle size, and is so slender withal that he has quite a boyish appearance. His counte- nance is of a pale and sickly complexion; it has very little flesh on it. His nose is rather prominent, and his eyes are disproportionally large and snakes. There is a scowl so visibly impressed on his brow, that the merest novice in physiognomy must observe it. He is in his thirty-third year. He is not a favourite in the House ; and the limited popularity he has acquired out of doors seems to be on the decline. This extract will have given a tolerable idea of the method and manner of the writer. Here is another marked man. It will be seen that the same fault (most probably) occurs : unless the Member for Lincoln wears a wig, "friseur" should have been used instead of" perruquier."
MR. E. L. BULIVER.
The most distinguished literary man in the House is Mr. E. L. Bulwer, Member for Lincoln, sad author of Pelham, Eugene Aram, &c. He does not speak often. When he does, his speeches an not only previously turned over with great eare in his mind, but are written out at full length, and conunitted as carefully to memory s if he were going to recite them at some minuet examination of some public school. He is artificial throughout—the mere creature of self-discipline—in all his exhibitions in the House. You see art and affectation in his very personal appearance, in his mode of dres.sing, and in his every movement. One of his schoolfellows has told me, that at school he was as mud; uoted for his attention to the cut of his coat as to his intellectual pur. PllitS. He is the same man still. He is a great patron of the tailor and perruqui,r. He is always dressed in the extreme of fiishion. He sometimes affects a modesty of demeanour ; but it is too transparent to deceive any one who has the least discernment. You see at once that he is on stilts ; that it costs him an effort even to assume the virtue which lie has not. His manner of speaking is very affected— the management of his voice is especially so : but for this he would be a pleasant epeaker. His voice, though weak, is agreeable, and he speaks with consi- derable fluency. His speeches are usually argumentative. You see at once that he is a person of great intellectual acquirements, though his speeches appear much better in print than when son hear them delivered. His articu- lation is impaired by the affected manner of his pronunciation and the rapidity of his utterance. his favourite subject in the House is the repeal of the taxes on newspapers. On that question he makes a motion every session. I believe him to be sincerely anxious for the abolition of those duties ; but had he, last year, not yielded to the previously-expreSsed solicitations of the friends of Mr. Spring Rice to withdraw his motion, the newspaper-taxes would by this time have ceased to exist. There were a considerable majority in the House at the time in favour of his motion ; and I recollect observing the exultation expressed in their countenances at their anticipated triumph. But the secret of the matter was, that he brought forward his motion at that time, not with the intention of carrying it, but for the mere sake of a little display, coupled, per- haps, with a wish to make an appearance of redeeming a pledge he had pre- viously given to bring the subject forward in the course of the stallion.
Mr. Bulwer is a fine-looking man. Ile is rather tall am! handsome. His complexion is fair, and his hair of a dark-brown. His nose is aquiline and prominent, and his face angular. He usually wears a green surtout ; he is young. I cannot give his precise age, but I am certain it cannot exceed thirty- five. He is understood to average from 1200/. to BOO/. a year by his literary labours.
One of the best portraits in the gallery is that of O'CorgrrELL. From the superior manner in which the mere personnel is treated, and from the greater acumen which pervades the whole, it might almost be supposed that the paper had been supplied by another hand. Here is part of the sketch.
TIM MEMBER FOR IRELAND.
Mr. O'Connell is a man of the highest order of genius. There is not a Member in the House who, in this respect, can for a moment be put in compa-
rison with him. You see the greatness of his genius in almost every sentence he utters. There are others, Sir Robert Peel for example, who have much more tact and greater dexterity in debate ; but in point of genius none approach to him. It ever and anon bursts forth with a brilliancy and effect which are quite overwhelming. You have not well recovered from the overpowering sur- prise and admiration caused by one of his brilliant effusions, when another flashes upon you and produces the same effect. You have no time, nor are you in a condition to weigh the force of his arguments ; you are taken captive wherever the speaker chooses to lead you, from beginning to end. If there be untenable propositions and inconclusive reasonings in his speech, you can only detect them when he has resumed his seat, and his voice no longer greets your ear. What greatly adds to the effect of the effusions of Mr. O'Connell's genius
is, that you see at once they are perfectly spontaneous, the result of the feeling of the moment, and not of careful thought in a previous preparation of his speech. I have known him, times without number, both in the House and elsewhere, make some most brilliant and most effective allusions to circum- stances which had only occurred either while speaking, or immediately before be commenced his addre"s. The reference to the "last rose of summer," in the case of Mr. Wafter, as noticed in the short sketch I have given of that gentleman, was one among innumerable other instances of a similar kind.
One of the most extraordinary attributes in Mr. O'Connell's oratory, is the ease and facility with which he can make a transition from one topic to another. " From grave to gay, from lively to severe," never costs him an effort. Ile seems, indeed, to be himself insensible of the transition. I have seen him begin his speech by alluding to topics of an affecting nature, in such a manner as to excite the deepest sympathy towards the sufferers in the mind of the most un- feeling person present. I have seen, in other words-1 speak with regard to particular instances—the tear literally glistening in the eyes of men altogether unused to the melting mood, and in a moment afterwards, by a transition front the grave to the humorous, I have seen the whole audience convulsed with laughter. On the other band, I have often heard him commence his speech in a strain of the most exquisite humour, awl by a sudden transition to deep pathos, produce the stillness of death in a place in which but one moment before the air was rent with shouts of laughter. His mastery over the passions is the most perfect I ever witnessed. He can touch—and touch with inimitable effect —every chord in the human breast. The passions of his audience are mere playthings in his hand. If he cannot "call spirits from the vasty deep," he cart do as he pleases with the spirits of those on the confines of the earth. Nor is Mr. O'Connell's complete power over the passions confined either to a refined or to an unintellectual audience. It is equally great in both cases. His oratory tells with the same effect whether he addresses the " first assembly of gentlemen in the world," or the ragged and ignorant rabble of Dublin. • • • Mr. O'Connell does not excel as a reasoner. His speeches are seldom argumen-
tative, and when they are intended to be so, they are by no means happy. His great forte, when he seeks to discomfit an opponent, is to laugh or banter him out ot his positions.- And here again he stands alone : no man in the House at all approaches him in the effectiveness of his wit and ridicule ; and yet there is no man, unless provoked to it, who indulges in fewer personalities.
Mr. O'Connell'sstvle is not polished or elegant ; but it is terse arid vigorous. He is fond of short, tiithysentences. His style reminds me, in some measure, of
that of Tacitus. His ideas flow too rapidly on him to allow him to elaborate his diction. As Mr. Shall once observed, in one of his series of " Sketches of the Irish Bar," which appeared ten or eleven years ago in the New Monthly Magazine, "Mr. O'Connell, with the improvidence of his country, flings a brood of robust thoughts upon the world without a rag to cover them." With most men it requires an effort of no ordinary kind to hit on a few toler- able ideas. In Mr. O'Connell's mind they grow. up naturally, and with a luxuriance which, if there be prop iety in the expression, is inconvenient to him. I have known his mind to be so overcharged with ideas as to render him miserable until begot an opportunity of ridding himself of a portion of them, by "flinging them abroad on the world" in prodigal profusion.
1■Is. O'Connell is not a graceful speaker, either as respects the management of his voice or his gesture. He has a broad Irish accent, which, though by no means unpleasant, falls somewhat strangely on an English ear. His voice is rich, clear, strong, and often musical. It is capable of being modulated with the best effect ; but the art of modulation is one which Mr. O'Connell seems never to have studied. The intonations of his voice are never regulated by any arti-
ficial rule ; they are regulated, unconsciously to himself, by his feelings alone. If, therefore, the subject on which he is speaking be not one involving important principles, or one which appeals to his feelings, there is a degree of coldness about his manner and a monotony about the tome of his voice, which is sure to make a person who never heard him before go away with an unfavourable im- pression of his talents, and wondering how he could ever have attained to 80
much popularity. • • • Ile sometimes, not often, stammers slightly, simply from two or more ideas struggling at the same moment in his mind for priority of birth. I have often known him, in this conflict of ideas, break off abruptly in the middle of a sentence, which he would never afterward, finish, owing to some brilliant thought suggesting itself at the moment. A per- son of less impetuous and more artificial mind would first finish the sentence and then give expression to the new idea which had occurred to him.
Mr. O'Connell's gesture is also very deficient in gracefulness. He puts him- self into an endless variety of attitudes, every one of which is awkward. At one time you see hini with his bead and body stooping, aud his right arm par- tially extended ; at another, and perhaps the next moment, you bee hint usith his head thrown back, and his arms placed a-kimbo on his breast. Then, again, you see him stretching out his neck and making wry faces, as if about to un- dergo the process of decapitation. If you withdraw your eyes a few seconds from him, you see him, when you again look at him, with both his arms raised elute his head, and his fists as tin rely clenched as if about to engage in a regular Donnybrook row. Then, again, you see hint apply both Isis hands to his wig lie wears a wig—with as iruch violence as if about to tear it in pieces ; but in- stead of this it turns out that he has only carefully adjusted it. But the most singular thing I ever heard of his doing in the course of the delivery of any of his speeches, was that of untying and taking tiff his cravat, when in one of the best parts of his speech, in Is34, on the Repeal of the Union, and when he had
worked himself up to the utmost enthusiasm of manner. * • • He is always in excellent spirits. You never see Flint cast down or dejected. In the most adverse circumstances his faith in the eventual triumph of the great cause of justice and humanity is unbounded. It never wavers for a moment. He always has his eye fixed on the sunny side of the picture. Hence he is ever cheerful. ion see a perp tual smile on his countenance, whether he be addres- sing the House or reclining in his seat, whether in the family circle or • • • haranguing the populace at the Corn Exchange. Mr. O'Connell's person is tall and athletic. His frame is one of the most muscular in the Hou.e, especially about the shoulders. If any of his enemies were to attempt to put their threats of personal chastisement into execution once, they would not, I am sure, attempt it a second time. If compelled, in self, defence, to play the pugilist, I airs satisfied there are very few men in the country who would prove a match for him. He has not only, as I have already observed, a perpetual flow of excellent spirits, but he seems as healthy and of as vigorous a constitution, notwithstand- ing the wear and tear of sixty-one years, most of which have been spent in hard and constant labour, as if his age were only thirty. It is this circumstance, coupled with that of most of his ancestors 6ving lived to nearly one hundred years of age, which has caused him to adopt the singular notion that Ile is to live other thirty years yet, making his age, at the supposed time of his death, ninety-six. His face, like his person, is large. It is round, but can hardly be called fat. His complexion has a freshness and ruddiness about it which are indicative both of his good health and excellent spirits. His nose is rather flat, and is slightly cocked up. He has dark, laughing eyes, expressive at once of benevo- lence and intellect. His forehead has nothing peculiar about it. * * • When sitting it, the House, his usual position is that of having hie right leg over his left. His son Maurice, to whom he is particularly attached, though devotedly fond of all his family, often sits beside him ; and I have repeatedly seen him, in the most affectionate manner, take 3Iaurice's hand in his own, and keep his bold of it for a considerable length of time.
It will have been conjectured that the Random Recollections is. not a work to be recommended for its literary merit; but it is at the same time a book that deserves reading. It possesses in its subjects a considerable interest; it treats of men and things about which every one feels a curiosity ; and it exhilAs a succes- sion of literal likenesses of persons whose names are for the time being household words. Moreover, it is never dull ; for the very qualities of the writer which lower his literature, add considerably to his powers of amusing.