LORD ADVOCATE JEFFREY.
THE Scotch nation are in a sort of ferment about Mr. JEFFREY. Sonic are indignant at the means by which he has obtained the tem- porary occupancy of a seat in Parliament, NVilidl it is supposed he cannot retain beyond a few weeks ; but the far greater number are highly elated at the prospect of his appearing there, no matter how returned, and by the anticipations they have formed of the conquests that his eloquence is to achieve. We sympathize with them in their expectations, but our confidence of hope is not quite so strong as theirs. We believe timid Mr. JEFFREY will do justice to the opinions of his countrymen ; but our belief is founded more on what we think he is capable of doing, than on any thing he has yet-done. The Scotch school of eloquence is almost entirely confined to the pulpit and the bar." Of the former it can furnish, at the present day, some splendid specimens. There are few English- men, even of the most correctly-disciplined ears, that could listen to the energetic appeals of CHALMERS, or to the masterly exposi- tions of ANDREW THOMSON, Without being led captive by the brilliancy and force of these two masters in Israel. Of forensic eloquence the Scots are more amply provided than the English. The spirit of business that regulates every thing in London, has reduced the speeches of our lav.-yers to dry and methodical state- ments of fact ; from the practice of the bar, all figures hut those of arithmetic are sedulously excluded' and the law itself is too
great an engrosser of fictions to tolerate the use of them in its ser- vants. The Scotch lawyers have more time, for their cases are fewer ; they have a more patient and a more enlig,htened audience, for until of late their juries were not merely special, but select ; and the forms of the Scotch criminal law, more humane than ours, not only permit, but legalize those appeals to the pity of the court, which an English pleader must be content to interpolate in the discussion of a technical nicety, or to suggest in a cross- examination. The forensic eloquence of the Scot ch thus takes a wider range and is of a higher order than ours ; but still it is the eloquence of the bar ; and we need hardly remark, what most persons have had occasion to observe, that the oratory of lawyers, when dissevered from the courts, is rarely of much practical value. Of that description of oratory with which almost every village in England abounds, which addresses itself to everyday under- standings, and treats of everyday topics, the Scotch have none. They have no vestries, no parochial meetings, no convocations of hundreds ; their county meetings are open only to a few of the upper classes ; hustings they do not know but by name ; they have not the elements of popular election in any one department. Every thing is managed by the chosen few, from the election of a parish beadle to the election of a member of Parliament. Since the -people are thus destitute of the means of acquiring facility in public speaking, and cut off from all inducements to the Study of
• it, it will not appear surprising, that when by any chance a popular meeting does take place in Scotland, the management of it should, by tacit agreement, be resigned into the hands of speakers by pro- fession: Accordingly, with a few exceptions, and those of late years, all the public business of the Scotch people has been ma- naged by lawyers, or if it was of a more restricted and sober kind, by clergymen. Among those who have been foremost on almost every occa- sion when the public-spirit of his townsmen of Edinburgh was to
be invoked, is Lord Advocate JEFFREY. His perfect mastery
of facts, his ingenuity of argument, his soundness of law, have placed him among the foremost of his professional brethren. His
long connexion with the Edinburgh Review has not only engaged
on his side the whole of the Scotch Whigs, whose ablest cham- pion he is, but it has conciliated the affections even of those who hated the politics of a work which they could not deny had raised the
literary character of their country. Add to this, that Mr. JEFFREY is a man of agreeable temper and bland manners—that he is in
possession, from his earnings, of what even in London might be
termed an easy. fortune—that he is connected more or less inti- mately with almost every literary and political character of note,
not only in Britain, but on the Continent—that his wit, though ever sparkling, is never offensive—that his humour, though not without breadth, is never vulgar—that his language, if not the
purest in respect of idiom, is both refined and copious—that he speaks with extreme facility, the spring of his oratory welling up, not by gushes, but in one pure, pellucid, perennial flow—when all these circumstances are taken together, it will not appear surpris- in.. that Mr. JEFFREY is the enfant gate of the Scotch public ; and that when lie opens his mouth to speak, he must be a dog, and an impudent one too, that would venture to bark in interruption.
In fact, it would be difficult to congregate a meeting of any kind or fur any purpose in Edinburgh, of which the friends, acquaint- ances, and admirers of the Lord Advocate did not form a large majority. He has never, in consequence, had to plead a cause "sub iniquo judice ;" his audience have been generally prepared to applaud his propositions—always prepared to applaud the pro- poser. We must not be understood to insinuate that the Lord Advocate has been spoiled by this indulgence—which might yet have spoiled a meaner man • but, unquestionably, it is not by such treatment that the description of eloquence best calculated to flourish in the trying atmosphere of the House of Commons is likely to be reared.
There are other particulars in which Edinburgh meetings differ considerably from those of the South. The Modern Athens is a city of lawyers and men of letters. The bustle of traffic and the rudeness of traffickers are almost unknown to it. Allusions are thus caught up, refinements of wit are relished, delicacies of expression are appreciated, which would fall still-born on the blunter ears of plain John Bull ; and the same harangue which would give our Northern brethren unsated delight, would be listened to by a Londoner with languor and weariness. Besides, the Scotch people are more distinguished by intellectual acuteness, more addicted to nicety of distinction and subtlety of argument, than the English ; who have seldom time, and More rarely incli- nation, to follow a long-winded speaker, however musically he may harangue—who call for matter-of-fact statements, and straight- forward appeals, which carry conviction and persuasion to ordi- nary understandings. The Scotch, again, with all their charac- teristic sturdiness, are a dubitative race •; they are fond of balanc- ing probabilities—of comparing evidence—averse not only from rash decision, but from positive assertion. It is said of one of their teachers of Divinity, that he made most of his pupils So- cinians, by stating the arguments against the Trinity too fairly ; and a professor of Metaphysics has been known publicly to es- pouse one theory of action in one series of lectures and its oppo- site in another series. This halting between two opinions is almost equally offensive to the morals and the judgment of John Bull ; who will rather jump to a wrong conclusion, than arrive at none at all—with whom sincerity, or the semblance of it, is essential to credit—and who counts it the first of virtues to stand for his party and his principles per fas cut nefas. With a very large share of the virtues of the Scotch school of eloquence, we cannot help suspecting that Mr. JEFFREY has not a few of its faults. We fear that his language will be found too much the language of books—his sentences too elaborately rounded—his allusions too rechercides—his wit too fine—his sarcasm too delicate—his reasoning too formal for English auditors, and his whole style and manner wanting in that vigour and deter- mination which are required in the popular arena on which he is now entering. In mere elegance of expression, he is perhaps equal to CANNING, it was said that Mr. PITT could speak a King's speech: Mr. JEFFREY could speak an essay on beauty. His figures are well chosen, and his illustrations, in which indeed he excels, for the most part singularly happy. But he wants Cax- iviwo's pith and simplicity. That most successful speaker had a really poetical fancy, and nothing could be more delightful than some of its flights ; but they were rarely indulged in. CANNING'S pictures consisted for the most part of a few bold strokes, and they were used in strict subservience to his general argument. It is the characteristic of the rhetorical school—to which Mr. JEF- FREY belongs, rather than to the oratorical—that its professors are apt to lavish more care on the accidents than the essentials of a discourse; they neglect the picture, to elaborate the frame ; the style of the orator is ornamental, of the rhetorician ornate. Mr. CANNING had a great advantage over Mr. JEFFREY, in being bred if not born an Englishman. No length of study will ever give to a stranger to the soil of England that intimate acquaintance with its rich and varied idiom which is acquired by boyhood. practice. CANNING'S English was neither the English of the ordinary classes of the present day, such as COBBETT.S, nor was it derived to him by long and earnest draughts at the older and undefiled wells of the Elizabethan age, like BROUGHAMS : it was the lan- guage of a well-educated English gentleman, long conversant with the living sources of purity and elegance of speech—the great practical statesmen who were the companions and forerunners of his not short nor inglorious career.
It may appear of small moment, though in the first instance it will tell against the Lord Advocate, that, as was said of St. Paul, " his bodily presence is weak ;" a defect which is not improved by a voice somewhat of the thinnest, and issuieg as it were by jerks from his chest, and a pronunciation which we can only describe by saying that it is neither Scotch, English, nor Irish. The ad- vantage of a noble person and a powerful voice are very great in a popular assembly, and more especially in the House of Com- mons, where, what with the noise in the gallery, the restlessness below, and the languor and drowsiness that prevail above the bar, the best argument, if feebly enunciated, will obtain less attention than the worst when distinctly spoken. Almost all the men that have shone in the House have been men of commanding appearance,—PITT was six feet ; Fox was a ton of a man ; WHITBREAD had the shoulders of a ticket porter; CANNING was a man of most impressive countenance and finest symmetry ; BROUGHAM is lathy, but he has the sinews of a Cumberland prize- wrestler. The physical deficiencies of Mr. JEFFREY are past cure —he cannot by taking thought add a cubit to his stature ; and the faults of his voice and his pronunciation are, we fear, equally irremediable. His style, however, he must contrive to adapt to his new auditory. He must change general for particular examples ; he must drop learned allusions, for common ; he must give more prominence to his own argument, and less to his opponent's ; he must lend his wit more weight, though its fine edge should be impaired by the process ; he must change roundabout description for direct statement, dubious announcement for sturdy assertion, downright blows for accuracy of fence—in a word, he must vul- garize his entire practice down to the level of the commonplace capacities, and sometimes impatient, often hostile, always uncour- teous temper of an English House of Commons.
If he attempt to surprise or astonish the members, he will al- most infallibly fail ; and if he break down in the commencement of his course, he may calculate on limping for the remainder of the session. There is no point about the House so much to be ad- mired as the tact with which for the most part they contrive to estimate and put down ambitious display. They can bear a great deal of stupidity, a great deal of nonsense, and they must bear a great deal of downright impudence ; but the trash of affectation, no art nor persuasion will induce them to tolerate.
Mr. JEFFREY enters the House of Commons at a good time. Perhaps at no period during its history has it held less of the materials of eloquence. We would ask no better method of con- vincing the mot violent Church and King man that ever breathed, of the necessity of reform, than to seat him for eight or ten hours in the gallery of the House on a grand debate night. The endless absurdities, mistakes, and misrepresentations—the false facts and foolish arguments—the prosing of some, the pertness of others, the vexation of the harangues, and the vanity of the conclusion, when, after a succession of rigmarole speeches, in which every question is discussed but the question in hand, the honourable mover closes the epilogue to what might be called a farce, did it afford even the ghost of a laugh either to actors or audience, by asking leave to withdraw his resolution.—Such a combination of the flat, stale, and unprofitable would make a Tory of sixteen quarters shake hands with HUNT and call O'CONNELL a gentleman. The only danger to Mr. JEFFREY is, that he may have formed too high an estimate of his own powers or of the powers of the House—that he may be too easily wearied with ignorance—that, petted as he has long been by a partial audience, he may be dis- posed to bear with impatience an audience that is partial to nothing but its own ease, and which cares only for its own pleasure. He brings to Parliament much knowledge—habits of great diligence —soundness of principle: if he can only make his facts and his arguments tell—if he do not injure effect by too much attention to minuteness of finish,---he may not prove so shining a light as his countrymen expect, but he will not fail to be a useful, and, whether he shine or not, we know he will prove_an honest senator.