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ELOQUENT Irish Barrister, Mr. Phillips, delivered at Roscommon Assizes. 8vo. London. pp. 20.
V. The Speech of Counsellor Phillips on the State of England and Ireland, and on a Reform in Parliament; delivered at Liverpool, Oct. 31, 1816. 8vo. London. pp. 16.
WE have really been at a loss in what light to consider the series of works before us; they are all planned and constructed on a scale of such ridiculous exaggeration, there is so little law in the pleadings, so little poetry in the poems, and so little common sense. in the prose, that we almost suspected that they were intended to ridicule that inflated and jargonish style which has of late prevailed among a certain class of authors and orators in the sister kingdom. But, in opposition to this internal evidence, there are so many circumstances of external testimony, that we have been reluctantly driven to conclude that Mr. Charles Phillips is not a censor, but a professor of the new school; and that having lost his own wits, he really imagines that the rest of the world may be brought to admire such fustian in verse and such fustian in prose as cannot, perhaps, be equalled except in Chrononhotonthologos, or Bombastes Furioso.
Our readers must be aware, that we are generally inclined (though we do not shrink from giving our own honest opinion) to permit authors to speak for themselves; and to quote from their own works such passages as may appear to us to justify our criticism. We will not be more unjust to Mr. Phillips, and shall, therefore, select from his poems and pamphlets a few of those parts which are marked by his peculiar manner, and which we are well assured he considers as the most admirable specimens of his genius.
We shall begin with the following panegyric upon a certain King of Ireland called Brian Borhoime, whose age was as barbarous as his name; and whose story is as obscure as Mr. Phillips's eulogy. 'Look on Brian's verdant grave— Brian-the glory and grace of his age;
Brian--the shield of the emerald isle;
The dove was an eagle compar'd to his smile!
Wide-flaming sword of the warrior throng,
Soul of the Seneacha, "Light of the Song."
I.—10, 11.* The darkness which envelops the history of old Brian may be pleaded in excuse of the above passage, but what shall be said for
*To save space, the references are made to the number of the publication in the list
prefixed to this Article.
the following apostrophe to the late Bishop Berkely?—the Emerald Isle is, we ought to acquaint our readers, a series of apostrophes to Irish worthies, from Fin Macoul and Brian Borhoime, down to Mr. Curran and the wretched Dermody.
And Berkely, thou, in vision fair,
The following invocation to Farquhar, on the comedy of the Recruiting Serjeant, which was finished in his last illness, is a fine specimen of the grandiloquence in which Mr. Phillips delights to envelop the commonest ideas.
'Swan of the stage! whose dying moan
And stayed his dart to hear THE SONG!-I.-36. The song! what song? Serjeant Kite's is the only one we recollect in the piece; which, for a dying moan,' is comical enough.
Every one remembers Cooke the actor. He was remarkable for playing one or two parts with considerable force and skill, but his general character, even as a player, was certainly not very pre-eminent. He had, however, it seems, the good fortune to be an Irishman, and accordingly hear in what numbers Mr. Phillips lauds him.
'Lord of the soul! magician of the heart!
and so forth for six lines more, with which we will not afflict our readers. We shall conclude our poetical extracts with the description of a traitor, which will remind our readers of some of the most splendid passages of Lord Nugent's Portugal.
the traitor's impious soul Blasphemes at grace and banishes controul; It loaths all nurture but the fruit of crime;
It counts, by guilty deeds, the course of time,
We shall now give a few instances of the nonsense on stilts, which Mr. Phillips believes in his conscience to be English prose; and however he may differ from us in his opinion of their merits,
we venture to assert that he will not accuse us of having selected the worst passages.
Magna est veritas et prevalebit—is a trite proverb, and no very complicated idea; yet this simple sentence is in Mr. Phillips's version bloated out to the following size.
'Truth is omnipotent, and must prevail; it forces its way with the fire and the precision of the morning sun-beam. Vapours may surround, prejudices may impede the infancy of its progress; but the very resistance, that would check, only condenses and concentrates it, until at length it goes forth in the fulness of its meridian, all life, and light, and lustre-the whole amphitheatre of Nature glowing in its smile, and her minutest objects gilt and glittering in the grandeur of its eternity.'III.-20.
Goldsmith had compared his Parish Priest
To some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm;
This is one of the most simple and sublime passages in English poetry: Mr. Phillips-who, by the way, is as great a plagiarist as Sir Fretful, and somewhat in his manner-thus adopts it as his own.
The hand that holds the chalice should be pure, and the priests of the temple of Religion should be spotless as the vestments of her ministry. Rank only degrades, wealth only impoverishes, and ornaments only disfigure her; her sacred porch becomes the more sublime from its simplicity, and should be seated on an eminence, inaccessible to human passions-even like the summit of some Alpine WONDER, for ever crowned with the sunshine of the firmament, which the vain and feverish tempest of human infirmities breaks through harmless and unheeded.'III.-34.
In this same style of travestie, Mr. Phillips renders either unintelligible or ridiculous every thing he touches. He censures Mr. Grattan because,' as he elegantly expresses it, an Irish native has lost ITS raciness in an English atmosphere.'-II.-15. When he alludes to Monseignor Quarantotti's letter, he will not condescend to mention it but as the rescript of Italian audacity.' When the Duke of Wellington invades France, we are told that an Irish hero strikes the harp to victory upon the summit of the Pyrenees.'-p. 35. And when he would say that Mr. Grattan is an ornament to his country, it is expressed that he poured over the ruins of his country the elixir of his immortality'!—III.—35.
When some judicious persons at Liverpool toast the health of this wild ranter, he modestly and intelligibly describes the effect which this great event will have in Ireland
Oh! yes, I do foresee when she (Ireland) shall hear with what courtesy her most pretentionless advocate (Mr. Phillips) has been
treated, how the same wind that wafts her the intelligence, will revive that flame within her, which the blood of ages has not been able to extinguish. It may be a delusive hope, but I am glad to grasp at any phantom that flits across the solitude of that country's desolation'!!— V.-2.
There is, it seems, a certain Irishman of the name of Casey resident in Liverpool, and, we presume, he was one of the promoters of the before-mentioned toast; for Mr. Phillips, after a magnificent description of this worthy gentleman, exclaims, in an agony of patriotism, Alas, Ireland has little now to console her except the consciousness of having produced such men'—as Mr. Casey of Liverpool!
We reserve for the last example of Mr. Phillips's style, two passages which, we are informed by Mr. Phillips himself or his editor, (if indeed Mr. Phillips be not his own editor,) were received with enthusiastic applauses. The first is meant to be a satire on bigotry and the other a panegyric on Mr. Grattan-
But, oh! there will never be a time with Bigotry-she has no head, and cannot think-she has no heart, and cannot feel-when she moves, it is in wrath-when she pauses, it is amid ruin-her prayers are cursesher God is a demon-her communion is death-her vengeance is eternity -her decalogue is written in the blood of her victims; and if she stoops' for a moment from her infernal flight, it is upon some kindred rock to whet her vulture-fang for keener rapine, and replume her wing for a more sanguinary desolation !—III.—22.
'When the screech-owl of intolerance was yelling and the night of bigotry was brooding on the land, he came forth with the heart of a hero! and the tongue of an angel! till, at his bidding, the spectre vanished; the colour of our fields revived, and Ireland, poor Ireland,' &c. &c.-III.—14.
Such-to speak figuratively of this great figure-maker-such are the tumid and empty bladders upon which the reputation of Mr. Phillips is trying to become buoyant. We believe our readers will, by this time, think that we have fully justified our opinion of the style of this Dublin Demosthenes.
But we have something more than mere errors of style to object to Mr. Phillips; we shall say little of the want of professional ability which his two pleadings exhibit, because he so little intends them to be considered as legal arguments, that there is but one passage in the statement of two legal cases in which there is the slightest allusion to the law, and that allusion only serves to shew the advocate's ignorance of, and contempt for, the more serious parts of the profession he was exercising.
Do not suppose I am endeavouring to influence you by the power of DECLAMATION. I am laying down to you the British law, as liberally expounded and solemnly adjudged. I speak the language of the English
Lord Eldon, a Judge of great experience and greater learning-(Mr. Phillips here cited several cases as decided by Lord Eldon)-Such, Gentlemen, is the language of Lord Eldon. I speak also on the authority of our own Lord Avonmoree-a Judge who illuminated the Bench by his genius, endeared it by his suavity, and dignified it by his bold uncompromising probity!!!-one of those rare men, who hid the thrones of law beneath the brightest flowers of literature, and as it were with the hand of an enchanter, changed a wilderness into a garden!-V.-17.
No, declamation is not the weapon of Mr. Phillips !-One thing, indeed, we learn from all this, that Mr. Phillips's countrymen appreciate his legal talents at their true worth-We may be sure that he has published every frantic speech he ever made; and they are but two, and both on subjects in which the want of legal education and professional acquirement would be least observed; and accordingly we may say-to borrow a happy expression of Louis the XVIth's, relative to one of his chaplains who had preached a flowery sermon on all things but religion-that if Mr. Phillips in his pleadings had only said a word or two about law, he would have spoken of every thing.
But we have done with the advocate, blessing our stars that lawyers in this country are not of the same breed, and hoping (as indeed we are inclined to believe) that even in Ireland none but the lawyers of the Catholic Board, and one or two adventurers who assume that title as a 'nom de guerre,' are capable of such a union of ignorance and confidence, of inanity and pretension. We have indeed to observe, for the honour of Ireland, that all these rhodomontades are printed in England, and we believe that few, if any of them, have been heard of in the place of their supposed nativity.
We now come to Mr. Phillips in the character upon which, of all others, it is evident he piques himself most, namely, that of a
Mr. Phillips's first political pretension is honesty; he is, if you will take his own word for it, a model of integrity and decision, a pattern for all the young men of the empire who will be warmed into emulation by Mr. Casey's Liverpool dinner. Lest our readers should doubt the modesty of this blushing Hibernian, we shall give his own words—a course which is always the safest, and, with so profuse a talker as Mr. Phillips, the most decisive and convincing.
I hope, however, the benefit of this day will not be confined to the humble individual (Phillips, scilicet) you have so honoured; I hope it will cheer on the young aspirants after virtuous fame in both our countries, by proving to them, that however, for the moment, envy, or ignorance, or corruption, may depreciate them, there is a reward in store for THE MAN (Phillips) WHO THINKS WITH INTEGRITY AND ACTS WITH DECISION.'-V.-16.