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might create and sanction, was of overwhelming magni cratic element has not become nearly so large as its friends tude, should have no more voice or influence in the matter expected. The large towns were entranchised, but not to the than petty villages, the riches and intellect of which were extent that their wealth and population demanded, and divided between the squire and the parson. This feeling had throughout the counties, and in most of the smaller boroughs, been long growing in the minds of the people. The selfish, the aristocracy were always able to secure the return of and in some degree cold and lifeless movements of the members of their own body through the influence they posgreat Whig party, at and after the Revolution of 1688, sessed over the tradesmen, who were mostly dependent on had never been able to extinguish it. It had gone on in their custom and patronage, and the farmers, who held their creasing as the great towns increased, amidst the jacobite land at their mercy. This state of things has had a powerful struggles and conspiracies of the time of the two first Georges, intluence in the discussion of all questions involving an extenand the terrible crisis which followed upon the first French sion of popular privileges, or the acknowledgment of popular Revolution. The outbreak of that wondrous movement was rights. a great source of rejoicing for the reform party in England. A new agitation, headed by the free-trade leaders, has They considered, and naturally enough, that their own therefore been springing up within the last few years, and had triumph was close at hand, that the utter abasement and been so successful that Lord John Russell, when in power, overthrow of territorial influences in France could not but although he had pronounced the first Reform Bill a "final weaken the hopes and dismay the hearts of the Tory party measure," introduced a bill into the House of Commons, in their own country. But they were disappointed. The making some very important alterations in the distribution of frightful excesses of the French democrats, the utter disregard, the franchise. The overthrow of his cabinet in the spring of not only of the claims of property, but of those of humanity last year, of course crushed the measure in the bud, and and religion, and their attempts at propagandism, produced left the Reform party to struggle on a little longer. How an instant reaction amongst the timid and lukewarm, in much longer it may last we know not, but this we know, that short, amongst all those who advocate great principles, not until the representation is placed upon a broad and comprehenbecause of their truth or intrinsic value, but because they
sive basis, there will be no real progress in England,- none give occupation to their minds without endangering their that will elevate the condition of the working classes, and worldly interests.
silence the clamours of discontent. The outcry against reform amongst men of all classes The House of Commons has its own history, its episodes of now became, strange to say, as strong as the desire the glory and shame, of sublime self-sacrifice and of hateful corother way had before been great. The very mob forgot ruption. Many, very many, of the men who in modern times the politics which are generally supposed to appertain to its
have filled the world with their name and works, have played condition, and joined in the cry of “ Church and King,"
their parts in ieverish anxiety on its benches, and many a raised by the Tories and reactionaries. Dr. Priestley, a
great thought has here borne fruit in the diffusion of happiman to whom the scientific world owes an overwhelming ness and the practical embodiment of great truths. With all debt of gratitude, was suspected, and with truth, of sym
its faults and follies, sins of omission and commission, there is pathising with the principles which prompted the French
much in it to be loved and admired. The present building, people to overthrow the ancient rgime; his retired life
as, doubtless, most of our readers are aware, is a now crection, amongst his books and apparatus, his unassuming manners which was completed only last year; the old Ilouses of Parand devotion to scientific research, did not save him from liament having been burnt down in 1837. The new structure having his house sacked, and his furniture, books, and papers
has cost at least two million and a half of English money, or destroyed, by an infuriated mob. These outrages were
ten million dollars. followed up by proceedings on the part of government, which,
We cannot conclude this sketch of the House of Commons though legal, were no less wanting in justice. Horne Tooke, without special reference to the Reporters' Gallery. Burke Hardy, and others, whose only crime was the honest and said there were three estates in Parliament, but in the manly expression of opinions in favour of reform in the Reporters' Gallery there sits a fourth estate, fully as imrepresentative system, were put on their trial, and prosecuted portant as any one of them. Thanks to reporters, the legiswith terrible rigour. But even in those evil days, when the lators no longer discuss in privaey great public questions, and public mind was in a panic, the love of justice and fair-play, the nation is not kept in total ignorance of what its lawwhich seems inherent in the English character, had not wholly makers are about. died out. No jury could be got to find these men guilty, and Time was, nor is the periodi remote, when the views and after a lengthened trial they were acquitted. But the measure the purposes of the English legislators would not have been was not wanting in effect. Long and vexatious imprisonment, known except to a narrow section of the community. Yet the anxiety attendant on a charge which affected the lives of how different is it now! Each inorning the English as fully the traversers, and the ruinous expense, damped the ardour of expect to have a complete record of the debates in the the reformers, and caused lukewarm adherents to their prin houses of parliament as they reckon upon finding their table ciples to fall off entirely ; and in the tremendous contest with spread with the morning meal; and some will, perhaps, France which followed, nothing was thought of save the enjoy the intellectual more even than the material repast. humiliation of the foe. It was folly to think of putting the Running over many columns, perhaps several pages, of internal affairs of the state in order, when its very existence the broad sheet of the paper, is a full and correct account was threatened from abroad; 1815 brought peace, and with it of all that transpired within the walls of St. Stephen's came renewed agitation. The terrible pitch to which the excite which is worth preservation; and many a member and a ment rose in 1830 is still present to the minds of most of those “stranger," who have been present in the evening, will gladly to whom the shifting panorama of the political world presents take up the written record, in order to obtain a clearer and any interest; the monster meetings in various parts of the more connected view of what transpired; while for those country; the Birmingham men, one hundred thousand strong, whose time is limited, a carefully digested “summary is singing a hymn of liberty, and swearing before heaven, in an provided, And how, we hear it inquired, is this effected? open field near the town, not to abandon the struggle until How is it that for the sum of fivepence so complete a record is their rights were secured; the fierce struggles in the House of afforded one of the position of things throughout the nation Commons; the obstinate opposition in the House of Lords ; and the world, and that such an ample resumé is preserved of the king's threats to swamp them by a new creation of peers ; the proceedings of parliament? How is it that when a speech and the final triumph of the liberal party-all these have now is, perhaps, not concluded till some time after the midnight become matters of history.
hour has struck, it is lying upon the breakfast table of the I change which the Reform bill has introduced into the manufacturer at Manchester the next morning ? To a reply com; 'sition of the House of Commons has now not turned these questions we have now to invite the attention of the out nea, y so satisfactory as might be expected. The demo reader, and it will, we believe, be found that in expatiating
over this theme there are many incidents at once interesting sioned in the publication of the paper. At the time that this and instructive to which reference is made.
practice prevailed, it was uncommon thing for the The practice of parliamentary reporting is one that has so “Morning" Chronicle not to make its appearance before nine or worked itself into the social system that it seems a necessity of ten o'clock at night. life, and the imagination has to stretch its powers to enable it to The public is indebted to the late Mr. Perry for the first realise the condition of things which would exist without it. suggestion and introduction of the greatly improved principle Yet the period is not so very distant at which the current on which parliamentary reports are now conducted. It was proceedings of the House of Commons were no more known about the year 1783, that that gentleman, on becoming the o their constituents than are now the discussions in a cabinet editor of the Gazetteer, proposed the establishment of a body council. Although accounts of single speeches, and even of of reporters to attend every night in succession in both houses; entire debates, had been occasionally printed from a much and the superior excellence of the reports thus obtained soon earlier period, the only regular record of parliamentary pro superseded the former practice. ceedings which was given to the public, up to within about a Although the duties of reporters are, as will be readily concentury of the present time, was that contained in the “His ceived, both important and arduous, it has only been of late torical Register,” and another annual publication. Parlia years that a disposition has been shown to afford them facilities ment sternly asserted its right to prohibit all promulgation of for the discharge of them. Formerly, they had no means of its doings through the press, at least while it was sitting; and entering the gallery of the Commons beyond those enjoyed by many persons maintained that it had the power to prevent any the public generally. The first arrangements for the express publication of its debates even during the recess.
purpose of affording them adequate accommodation, were The first attempt at a monthly publication of the debates made a few years before the death of Mr. Pitt. It happened, was made in an extraordinary number of the “Gentleman's one night, when the Premier was to make a leading speech, Magazine” for August, 1735, which contained a report of the and the gallery was so unusually thronged, that neither by debate in the Lords' on the 23rd of January preceding. The force nor entreaty could the reporters carry on their work. practice was continued in succeeding numbers.
They took counsel together, and the result was, that next however, no publication of the debates during the sitting of the morning, instead of the rounded periods of the minister, there houses; the session was always ended before anything which appeared nothing but one dire blank, accompanied by a strong was done in the course of it was given in the magazine. Even comment on the grievance in which it had originated. The while following this distance, the reports were of the most almost immediate result was the appropriation, under the timid and cautious description. The names of the speakers direction of the Speaker Abbott, of the uppermost bench of were indicated by the first and last letters, and in many cases the gallery to the exclusive use of the reporters, with a door no name was mentioned ; all that appeared being a summary in the centre, by which they alone had a right to enter. Soon of the argument and discussion.
after, a small room at the end of the gallery passage, which As time passed on, more of boldness characterised the pro bore on its glass pannels the words Reporters' Room"ceedings of the reporters, and the names were printed at full notwithstanding the standing order, which denounced penalties length. This brought about official inquiry, and the Speaker against any such breach of privilege-was added for the conand some members brought the matter before the attention of the
venience of the gentlemen previous to taking their places in House of Commons. Sir Thomas Winnington demanded the
the gallery, and during the divisions. The Lords followed intervention of Parliament to stop such audacity.
the Commons in their accommodation of the Press; but at will be the consequence,” he asked, “ if you allow these
the due distance which befitted its dignity. It was not till reports to go on unchecked: Why, Sir, you will have every
about thirty years ago, that a note-book might be seen at the word spoken here by gentlemen misrepresented by fellows
bar of the House of Peers. The first person who ventured who thrust themselves into our gallery. You will have the to rest his book on the bar is said to have been Mr. Windyer, speeches of this house every day printed, even during your
and his example was followed. Only two sessions afterwards, session ; and we shall be looked upon as the most contemplible the robe of Lord Eldon, while his lordship was proceeding to assembly on the face of the earth !"
the bar to receive a deputation of the Lower House, having Not long afterwards, Samuel Johnson came to London, and accidentally caused Mr. Windyer to drop his book within the was engaged by Cave to write the debates for his magazine, bar, the noble earl stopped, picked up the fragments of the and the reports, from the end of 1740 to February 1743, are
passing debate, and returned them, with an enjoying smile, to considered to have been entirely prepared by him. The plan
their possessor. * adopted seems to have been for Guthrie, who had a good In the session of 1828-9, during the debates on the Roman memory, to bring home as much as he could recollect of the Catholic question, a portion of the space below the bar was debate, mending his draft by whatever other assistance he
railed off for the reporters; and a session or two afterwards, could obtain ; after this, Johnson touched up the whole. At
when a stranger's gallery was added to the Lord's, a seat was times, according to Boswell, he had no other aid than the set apart for their use. The accommodation now provided in names of the speakers, and the side they took, being left to his both houses is in every respect satisfactory—or at least, there own resources to find the argument and language. The is as much of completeness about the arrangements for their celebrated speech put into the mouth of Mr. Pitt, in 1741,
convenience as is provided for other departments in the new when that distinguished orator replied to the taunts of Horace
Palace at Westminster. Walpole on account of his youth, Johnson afterwards declared, In some cases complaints have been made against the in the company of Francis, Wedderburn, Foote, and Murphy, reporters by honourable members in reference to an apparently that he wrote in a garret in Exeter-street. Still his reports systematic neglect of their speeches. Little, however, is are considered the most authentic extant, usually embodying usually the gain made by the complainants for their trouble, the argument, if not the style, of the speakers.
for they are politely informed by the reporter, that they have The greatest advance in the practice of newspaper reports
no doubt that what the honourable speakers intended to have was made by Mr. George Woodfall, the proprietor and editor,
said was very lucidly and powerfully expressed in his manufirst of the Public Advertiser, and afterwards of the Morning script; but that what they did say in the House was that Chronicle. Mr. Woodfall had so retentive a memory, that it is
which was attributed to them. And this declaration, if corsaid, he used frequently to write out the account of a whole rect, can be easily substantiated in the main by the concurring evening's debate after having merely heard it in the gallery,
testimony of those who reported the same speech for others of and without having taken any notes. It would, however, be a
the daily papers. The evidence thus afforded is conclusive. mistake to suppose that the speeches thus carried away were
The fact is, that newspapers, and all connected with them, are given with anything like the fulness and accuracy of modern
too anxious to secure anything for their columns which is reports. Another inconvenience attending the employment of only one reporter for the night, was the delay which it occa
# Wade's British Chronology.
worth the record, to omit anything that the world would care all he had to say. The people, of course, most heartily to hear.
enjoyed the joke against the English reporters, whilst in this In July, 1833, O'Connell made an attack upon the reporters merriment the latter very good-humouredly joined. * for what he regarded as a neglect of his merits, and imputed A bad imitation of his father's course was made by Mr. dishonourable motives to those whom he accused. He even John O'Connell in 1849, who cleared the House because he moved that the representatives of the Times and Chronicle thought that his speeches were not reported at sufficient length. should be brought to the bar of the House for not reporting But, after exposing himself to the scorching ridicule of those his speeches in full. The motion was seconded by a Mr. whom he had excluded by his officiousness, he was glad to O'Dwyer, who, it is said, had been employed on the Times, let the matter drop; and there can be no doubt, should any and of whom it had been currently remarked, that he had member of the House be foolish enough to attempt the reiteexchanged his vocation on the ground of incompetency for the ration of such a step, that parliament will at once put an end higher duties, and the statement concluded with the words, to the fictions of the matter, and give its official authorisation “ And so, not being clever enough for the Times, they made to the reporting of their proceedings. him an M.P."
The personal history of the reporters' gallery must not go The assault thus made upon the reporters' gallery could unnoticed, especially as with its recollections many singular not be replied to within the House by those attacked, though characters have been associated. One of these was Mark they could give a sufficiently damaging response out of doors; Suffle, who was an Irish eccentric of the first water. He but there were those among the members of the Lower House was a large-boned and loud-voiced man, having in his compowho were ready to vindicate the fairness of the newspaper sition more fun than he knew what to do with. After taking reports. Among these was the late Sir Robert Peel, who de in an allowance of wine at Bellamy's, he went into the galclared his conviction that the work was done with great fair lery, and reported the speeches of the honourable members ness and impartiality ; and he remarked, amidst loud cheers, with such success, that they hardly knew their own producthat during fifteen out of those twenty years he had held tions again, they were so much improved in the cooking. office, and through the whole of that time, he had never Still they had too much sense to complain of the alterations, received any communication from any person connected with they pocketed the affront on their eloquence, and fathered the Press respecting the manner in which his speeches had speeches which they had never made. It is said of Suffle, been reported. He had never during that time received any that his “way" was “the hyperbole, a strong view of solicitation for any favour or patronage from any reporter ;
orientalism, with a dash of the bog-trotter.” He was the and he believed he might say that no application had been licensed wag of the gallery, and Mr. Jerdan declares, that, to made to any of his colleagues while he was in office for any his apprehension and recollection, he possessed more of the such patronage or favour from any reporter, in consequence of
humour of a Dean Swift, without acerbity or ill-nature, than his having reported their speeches fully. If, he added, he perhaps any individual since his date. “His drollery was could bear his testimony to the independence of the reporters, truly Swiftish,” he adds, "and the muddy, snuffling, quaint founded, as it was, on the experience of fifteen years in office, way with which he drawled it out, imparted an extra laughhe thought that he might challenge those who had succeeded able originality all his own." him to say, whether they could not bear the same evidence. One evening Mark Suffle was at his post in the gallery, These sentiments were greeted by loud cries of “Hear, when for a moment a dead silence happened to prevail in the hear."
House. Seeing Mr. Abbot on the treasury bench, the House The imputations which had been alleged against the being in committee, he called out: “A song from Mr. reporters by Mr. O'Connell, led them to adopt a course Speaker !" The fierce indignation of the chair rose hotly, altogether unexpected. They drew up a statement, in which and was intensified by want of preparation for such an interthey complained that a member of the House had falsely ruption and insult
, while the members were convulsed with accused them, under the shelter of the privileges of the laughter ; but the serjeant-at-arms was at once despatched to House, of dishonourable motives; and they announced their the gallery to take the offender into custody. Mark Suffle, determination not to report a line of what he said until the however, adroitly escaped, by pointing the officer to a stout, unjust imputation had been withdrawn.
peaceful-looking Quaker, and nodding a significant intimation Meanwhile, the friends of Mr. O'Connell mustered that he was the culprit. The affair ended by the Quaker being strongly as they could to support his motion, but they only turned out, despite his protestations of innocence; but he was numbered some forty-eight, while a hundred and fifty-nine subsequently released without having fees to pay, and the voted against him.
real offender, after a reprimand, acquitted. While Mr. O'Connell was very anxious to have full publi
Another oddity among this class must not go unnoticed. city given to his speeches in England, he sometimes thought Mr. Proby was, as some of our continental neighbours would it advisable that some of the things he said in Ireland should express it, a man unique. He had never been out of London, not go further than the mob he addressed. An amusing story
never on horseback, never in a boat. To the end of the time is told, which at once illustrates this fact, and indicates the
at which bag-wigs were worn, he wore one ; he was the last readiness of wit and purpose which characterised the Irish
man who walked with a cane as long as himself, which he agitator. He was on a visit to Ireland, and indulging in long
ultimately exchanged for an umbrella, which he was never speeches of a combustible character, when the Government
seen without, in wet or dry weather; yet he usually reported thought fit to send over some short-hand writers to take down
the whole debates in the House of Peers from memory, without his harangues. The first appearance of these reporters was at
a note, for the Morning Chronicle, and wrote two or three novels, a meeting at Kanturk, and they belonged to Mr. Gurney's
depicting the social manners of the times ! “He was a strange staff. In order that all might be done in a fair and open way,
feeder,” says Mr. Jerdan, in his Autobiography, " and ruined they went on to the platform and introduced themselves to
himself in eating pastry at the confectioners' shops (for one Mr. O'Connell. He received them with every manifestation
of whose scores Taylor and I bailed him out); he was always of cordiality, and said to those around him, that “nothing
in a perspiration, whence George Colman christened him, could be done until those gentlemen were afforded every
*King Porus;' and he was always so punctual to a minute, that requisite accommodation.” This was at once provided, and
when he arrived in sight of the office window, the hurry aaving assured Mr. O'Connell, in reply to his inquiries, that
used to begin, “There's Proby-it is half-past two,' and yet he they were “perfectly ready' in every respect, he came forward
never set his watch. If ever it came to right time I cannot to address the people, and commenced his speech, to the dis
tell; but if you would ask him what a clock it was, he would may of the English reporters, in the Irish language, of which
look at it, and calculate something in this sort : 'I am twentythey understood not a word. He then explained to the mul.
six minutes past seven-four, twenty-one from twelve-forty titude who they were, and how he had humbugged them, and
-it is just three minutes past three !" then continued in the same tongue to address to the meeting
• Hunt's Fourth Estate.
! Poor, strange, and simple, yet curiously-informed, Proby! the remark made by a distinguished member of the Lower his last domicile was the Lambeth parish-workhouse, out of House, that the average of the speaking there is only "good which he would come in his coarse grey garb, and call upon after-dinner talk." his friends as freely and unceremoniously as before, to the Efforts have been made once or twice to obtain verbatim surprise of servants, who entertain 'an 'orrid' jealousy of reports of the speeches in parliament, and thus when the paupers, and who could not comprehend why a person so clad New Times was started, this was attempted, but it is said that, was shown in. The last letter I had from him spoke of his within a week, the proprietors were threatened with actions having been chosen to teach the young children in the house for damages, for burlesquing the speeches of the honourable their A, B, C, which conferred some extra accommodation upon gentlemen. The Times tells us that Mr. Sadler, Mr. Trant, him, and thanking me for my share in the subscription of a and some other members, dissatisfied with the meagre reports few pounds a-ycar, which those who knew him in happier of their speeches in the daily papers, engaged Mr. Hodge to days put together to purchase such comforts as his humble report them in full. On reading the speeches so reported, situation would admit."
they were found such sheer nonsence, that the practice was At the present time the reports of the debates in parliament incontinently abandoned. are obtained with singular success. A body of gentlemen of Mr. Angus B. Reach, well known as the author of many first-rate education, of thorough competency as writers, and of literary sketches of men and manners, who is an experienced great familiarity with parliamentary men and usages, perform reporter, has given a facetious, but, on the whole, a truthful dethis work in connection with each of the great morning papers. lineation of the scene presented by the reporters at their posts, One of these gentlemen-of whom many have risen to dis with which we shall conclude. He tells us that on the little tinguished positions in public life-on the staff of each paper door opening, he stood in the reporters' gallery, the back of is present in the house during from half an hour to an hour, the Speaker's ugly Gothic chair being below; the senators, with when he is succeeded by another, while he hastens back to the their hats on, were sitting, standing, walking, lolling lazily on office to write out the portion of the debate he has brought. either side ; while the clerk's table, with the mace, and the a way with him. A long speech may thus be said to extend shiningly bound volumes of the statutes at large, filled up the from the mouth of the speaker to Printing-house-square, or picture in the body of the house. wherever else the office of the paper may be. Perhaps one “ The hon. member for Fortywinks was on his legs, part is being delivered in the house-another part is travel although his luminous remarks could only be heard amid ing along the Strand
-a third is in the hands of the compo the buzz of about a hundred and fifty distinct conversations sitor—while the rest is printed and lying on the desk of the going on around. But the hon. member had got his speech ed itor, who is engaged in compressing its substance into a by heart, and was speaking to his constituents through leading article for the next morning's paper. No reporter the reporters' gallery. Hapless man! The Times reclined now thinks of depending merely upon his memory: all take gracefully back, and amused himself by sharpening his pencils. notes, more or less extended, though many have no regular The Chronicle was talking to The Herald about Alboni. The system of short-hand. The object aimed at, is not a literal Morning Post was drawing caricatures in his note-book; and report, but a faithful abridgment of the sentiment, matter, The Morning Advertiser was musing on what he would have and style of the speaker. The chief speeches are given with for supper. So the hon. member talked, and no one heeded extraordinary correctness; of inferior ones, or those by men in him. who m the public feels little interest, only the principal parts “ After him came another, an Irish orator, standing up in are indicated, while many are consigned to a deseryed the midst of a whirlpool of his blazing and dazzling metaphors oblivion.
and similes, like a juggler casting round his head a halo of Many of the gentlemen occupying the reporters' gal brass balls. But no nimble pencil followed the burning lery have been engaged in the work for considerable periods phrases of the patriot. of time. “ Amongst the seniors, if not the senior," says • What are they about :' we whispered to our conductor Mr. F. K. Hunt, are Mr. Dod, the author of the in dismay; "there is eloquence running to waste.' Pecrage, and of the useful little blue-covered volume, the "• They are waiting,' replied our Mentor, “they are waiting Parliamentary Companion, who has been in the gallery for till he makes a point; papers have no room for flourishes. The Times for between thirty and forty years; and Mr. Tyas, Imagine the consequence were every word spoken in the another veteran of more than thirty years' parliamentary IIouse of Commons set down in cold-blooded type exactly as service on the same paper. Tyas is said to have been the it is uttered ! What a huge conglomeration of truisms, author of sharp critiques on Lord Brougham's classical absurdities, bad taste, wretched taste, and worse grammar! knowledge ; and is spoken of as the author of another gallery Depend upon it, sir, literally-reported debates would infallibly tradition. The story runs that Tyas had been luxuriating disgust the nation with representative government.' oyer a glass of wine and the pages of Cicero, when the hour " " Then you pick and choose,' we interrupted. came, and he was due in the House. As he took his pencil, “Yes; we are the winnowers in this great granary of Lord Brougham was speaking, and soon the pencil of Tyas words. Men there are who, when they speak, drop from was on his track. The legal orator went on, and the mind of their lips ripe wholesome grain ; but from the mouths of the reporter unconsciously kept upon the double thread of most come fiying empty torrents of mere husks and chaff. Brougham and Cicero. The scholar in the gallery, thought It is ours to wait, and watch, and sift out the scattered the scholar on the floor of the House, would remember a fine globules of fact or argument, and enshrine them in printer's illustrative passage in the Roman orator ; but he passed it ink.' and concluded his harangue. Tyas went to work to write out But you do not,' we said, 'arrogate the right of it in his notes, and when the arguments required it, he put in judgment on the soundness of an argument, or the authcarnearly a page of Cicero. Brougham reprinted the speech, ticity of a fact : adopting, without remark, the whole of the interpolated Clearly not,' says the reporter, ‘we record all arguments, matter.”
good, bad, or indifferent; we set down all facts, certain or If the reader of our parliamentary reports were never to dubious. But ours is to separate the arguments and facts enter the Houses of Parliament, he might live under the im from the words--the mere empty verbiage in which they are pression that all its members were orators ; that they had but oftentimes all but smothered. IIow many inaccuracies do we to ope their mouths, and that there issued forth, almost not patch up! How many inelegances do we not lick into without an effort, a train of clear, consecutive thoughts, graceful form! How many unfinished sentences do we not clothed in appropriate language. But let the halls of our file up and round off! How many slovenly speeches do not senators be visited, and it will be found how much is due to appear shortened one hundred, and improved two hundred »the reporters of the speeches there delivered, how much of per cent., by passing through the alembic of this little tuttering, hesitation, and repetition is omitted, and how true is gallery!"
GEOFFREY CHAUCER is one of the triumvirate of great poets sure sign of sorrow and distress. In the words of Beowulf, who flourished in the middle ages. The other two were “There is no joy of the harp-no pleasure of the musical wood.” Italians, Dante and Petrarch. The British bard is justly
Sometimes the “glee-men" went about wandering through styled the father of English poetry; but in order to justify his
many nations, telling their tales of wonder, singing their songs title to that glorious distinction, and to trace his influence on
of praise, and ever meeting with some noble thane, our literature, it is necessary to glance at its condition in the
sparing of gifts.” They celebrated the virtues of courage, times previous to the age in which he lived. Mr. Wright, in
generosity, and fidelity, pouring their denunciations without his recent work, " The Celt, the Roman, and the Saxon,” has
stint on the coward, the niggard, and the traitor, and always thrown some new light on the sources of the English language, mentioning woman with the tender respect never wanting in as well as on the races which make up our present cosmopolite the heart of the true poet. population, probably the most mixed in the world. During Such was the literature which the Saxons brought to Engthe long dominion of the Romans, the upper classes of the
land, which found here a genial soil. The subjects of their towns consisted of Roman legionaries, who settled here when
songs were either mythological or historical facts. The their term of service was ended. Of these there was a con
songs were committed to memory, and handed down from age stant succession. They came from all parts of the empire;
to age, forming a body of mythological poetry, which held the from Asia and Africa as well as the south of Europe. They
same place in our national literature that the Iliad or Odyssey mingled with the mass of the Celtic population, and their did in Greek literature. practice of polygamy enabled them to diffuse foreign blood
This literature was superseded, to a large extent, in the extensively through the social system. The Roman towns,
public mind by the religious poetry introduced by the Mission the bulk of whose inhabitants must have been Britons, who
naries; of which, however, no manuscripts in the Saxoimproved rapidly by contact with the civilised settlers, re
language are found earlier than the reign of Alfred the Great, tained their municipalities after the fall of the empire, and
in the middle of the ninth century. Though delighting in the there municipalities survived even under the feudalism of the
Latin language, which they carefully cultivated, the Christian Saxons and Danes,—who themselves preferred a country life, teachers availed themselves diligently of the Saxon, in order and despised the urban industry by which they profited.
to instruct the people. For two centuries before the Norman Hence the fact recorded by Mr. Wright, that the “Antiquities
conquest this language underwent little change. After that of Anglo-Saxon Paganism are derived almost entirely from
great revolution, its use, as a written language, was superseded, their graves." This would not have been so if their power
partly by the Latin introduced by the foreign ecclesiastics, some predominated in the towns.
of whom were highly distinguished for their learning; and The Venerable Bede states that three languages were spoken
whose successors maintained it in a flourishing condition till in England in his time, the Latin, the British, and the Anglo
the thirteenth century. But the vernacular dialect of the Saxon. Had the Romans been a majority in the towns, the
conquerors was Anglo-Norman, or corrupted French, which Roman dialect, a corruption of the Latin, must have prevailed was not laid aside till the middle of the fourteenth century,here as well as in the south of France. Instead of this, Latin
when Chaucer began to write. Owing to these influences, enters into our language only in single words, which conform
the Saxon language had degenerated, through neglect, and to the regimen of the stock on which they are grafted. That
was treated with contempt as the vulgar dialect of the stock is the Saxon, but greatly modified by the British. It
“rascal Englishry”—the vile commonality who had ben rehas been satisfactorily shown that the English language has duced to serfdom and slavery. In the middle of the thirteenth characteristics to which no analogies can be traced in any
century, the pure Saxon was scarcely understood, and the lanLatin or German dialects, but which are found in the modern
guage that had taken its place in common use, has been called Breton, Gaelic, and Manx, and are thus proved to be of British
“Semi-Saxon;" while that which pretailed from this period origin. The predominance of the Saxon element in our
till Elizabeth's reign, has been called “Middle English.” language is accounted for by the fact that the British, long a One great cause of the decline of the Norman was the separasubjugated race, had no taste for the cultivation of literature.
tion of England from Normandy, by the conquests of Philip During the three centuries of Roman domination no author
Augustus. Norman poets, and literary men, from that time of eminence appeared among them—a striking proof of the
began to pay less frequent visits to the English court. As soon, debasing effect of conquest-for the genius of a nation also, as a taste for literature began to spring up among the lower perishes with its independence and its freedom.
classes, the burgesses and priests, they were driven to cultivate It was different with the conquering and ruling Saxons, the Saxon tongue, from the difficulty they experienced in exwhose life of wild adventure and free enjoyment was power pressing their ideas in a language which was not their own. fully calculated to excite the passions, whose appropriate These authors, drawn from the lower classes, were distinguished language is poetry. For, in the ruder ages of the world, by their esteem for the labouring classes, peasantry, millers, or minstrelsy has ever been the handmaid of heroism. Where innkeepers. The Norman minstrels, on the other hand, treated great deeds are done, they are sure to be sung. The muses men of this class with the utmost contempt. Their heroes are hero-worshippers. Next in honour to the chief was the were all puissant barons, noble dames, gentle knights and damsels. minstrel who celebrated the exploits of his ancestors, already The English, on the contrary, took plebeian adventures for the clothed in a mythic garb, and admitted to a supernatural subject of their tales, such as those of Peter Ploughman. hierachy, in which it was the great ambition of their living Chaucer was one of the principal poets of this class. Their representative to win the place promised him in the flattering leading characteristic was hatred for the Norman language, strains of the poet, who, with his harp, soothed or excited at and for those who used it. In the romance of Arthur and will the passions of the warriors who surrounded him in the Merlin, this is expressed as follows: festive hall. The minstrel, indeed, was their only educator
“ Right is that Inglishe, Inglishe understond and historian, and from him they learned to speak in poetry.
That was born in Englond : "The poet or minstrel,” says Mr. Wright, was held in high
Freynshe use this gentilman 'esteem among the Saxóns. His genius was looked upon as a
As everich Inglishe can." birthright, not an acquired art, and it obtained for him every Chaucer also contemptuously contrasts the French which where the respect and protection of the great and the powerful. the Norman nobles spoke,- antiquated, uncouth, and impure His place was in the hall of princes, where he never failed --with the graceful French spoken at Paris. to earn admiration and applause, attended generally with
“And French she spake full fayre and fetisly advantages of a more substantial nature." There the chief
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, joy was the wonted minstrelsy, the absence of which was a
For French of Paris was to hir unknow."