Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

the book of nature, and the code antecedent to and superseding all special-pleading subtleties, were for him. He was lamentably thrown away on such a society as that of Bombay. Accustomed to lead in the conversations of the conversation-men of the metropolis,—such as Sharpe, Rogers, Dumont, he found himself transplanted amongst those who afforded a sad and bitter contrast. It was like Goëthe's oak-plant,* with its giant fibres, compressed within the dimensions of a flower-pot. On the third day after his arrival, most forcibly was he reminded of the contrast, when one of the members of the council, the conversation turning upon quadrupeds, turned to him and inquired, what was a quadruped ? It was the same sagacious Solomon (the writer has often heard Mackintosh relate the anecdote), who asked him for the loan of some book, in which he could find a good account of Julius Cæsar. Mackintosh jocosely took down a volume of Lord Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, in which mention is made of a Sir Julius Cæsar, Master of the Rolls in the time of Charles the First. The wiseacre actually took the book home with him, and after some days brought it back to Sir James, remarking that he was disappointed on finding that the book referred to Julius Cæsar only as a lawyer, without the slightest mention of his military exploits !

* See his illustration of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

No exile ever deplored his lot more feelingly than Sir James Mackintosh. In a letter I received from him, after breathing some complaints of his banishment, he says, “ Turn to Cicero's Epistles. See how elaborately, and with what common-place to pics, he consoles his friends, Trebatius, Sestius, Turranius, in their exiles. To another he says, pro amore nostro, rogo atque oro, te colligas, virumque præbeas. Yet, when it came to his own turn, see how effeminately he laments the loss of Rome, and the intercourses in which he lived there with the wise and accomplished ornaments of the state ! My friends dole out the same consolations to me. Were they here, they would feel the insufficiency of all such topics to administer genuine consolation."

He was rendered for some time uncomfortable through his having given offence to the mercantile part of the Bombay community, by what they thought too rigid an interpretation of the orders in council then in force, having condemned a ship and cargo with costs; and their opinion of that adjudication was expressed without much delicacy or reserve. He was subject also to certain Parson Adams-like habits of forgetfulness of common VOL. I.

K

things and lesser proprieties ;—and this brought down upon him no slight share of taunt and ridicule. It happened, on his arrival at Bombay, that there was no house ready for his reception, and it would be a fortnight before a residence in the Fort could be prepared for him. Mr. Jonathan Duncan, the governor of the presidency, therefore, with great kindness, offered his garden-house, called Sans Pareil, for the temporary accommodation of Sir James and his family. But months and months elapsed, till a twelvemonth had actually revolved ; Mackintosh and his wife, during all this time, found themselves so comfortable in their quarters, that they forgot completely the limited tenure on which they held them, appearing by a singular illusion not to have the slightest suspicion of Mr. Duncan's proprietorship, notwithstanding some pretty intelligible hints on the subject from that gentleman, but communicated with his usual delicacy and politeness. At last, politeness and delicacy were out of the question, and the poor governor was driven to the necessity of taking forcible possession of his own property. This was partly indolence, partly absence of mind, on the part of Sir James. He was constitutionally averse to every sort of exertion, and especially that of quitting any place where he found himself com

fortable. Before he went out to India, he made a trip into Scotland with his lady; and having taken up his abode for the night at an inn in Perthshire, not far from the beautiful park of the late Lord Melville, then Mr. Dundas, sent a request to Lady Jane Dundas (Mr. Dundas being absent) for permission to see the house and grounds, which was most civilly granted. Mr. Dundas being expected in the evening, her ladyship politely pressed them to stay to dinner, and to pass the night, their accommodations at the inn not being of the first description. Mr. Dundas returned the same day, and, though their politics were as adverse as possible, was so charmed with the variety of Mackintosh's conversation, that he requested his guests to prolong their visit for two or three days. So liberal, however, was the interpretation they put upon the invitation, that the two or three days were protracted into as many months, during which every species of hint was most ineffectually given, till their hosts told them, with many polite apologies, that they expected visitors and a numerous retinue, and could therefore no longer accommodate Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh.

These eccentricities were specks upon a most brilliant and estimable character, and they are such as have frequently been seen in the man of genius and letters. Nature is too thrifty in her gifts to heap all kinds of excellences in one shining mass, but, like a skilful artist, sobers her colours with shades and tints that soften without blackening the effect. Of these eccentricities, volumes might be collected ;-but they are painful matters of remembrance to those who loved the kindness of his heart, and revered the depth of his knowledge. It is not, perhaps, generally known, that his forte was metaphysics. In societies, where he could be understood, he diffused himself over those perplexed subjects of inquiry, with an earnestness of expression and a warmth of eloquence, that shewed the delight he took in them. Such was his perspicuity and powers of illustration, that they no longer seemed perplexed, but flowed from his lips as luminous and beautiful truths. In the very teeth of Locke and Condillac, he deduced the great maxims of moral philosophy from the moral sense inseparably connected with the structure of mind, and our natural perceptions of good and ill. Never were metaphysical hypotheses more clearly illustrated by the laws of our moral nature, than in the treatise which he published in the supplementary volume of the Encyclopædia Britannica. It will remain an enduring monument of perspicuity of argument and elegant discourse. Upon these sub

« FöregåendeFortsätt »