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were bound to do. They have been benefited ; they have, in their different degrees, profited by that bounty wbich he could no longer withhold. He forgot, in bis life, the exercise of that generosity by wbich his memory might now be held regarded and embalmed in the hearts of a disinterested affection. Such consolation, however, as these purchased praises could impart to his spirit, I would not, by any impiety, tear from him. Cold in death is this head, not colder than that heart while living, through which no thrill of nature did ever vibrate. This bas thrown the errors of my youth, and of an impulse too obedient to that affection which I still cherish, into poverty and sorrow, heightened beyond hope by the loss of him who is now in heaven, and still more by the tender pledges he has left after him on earth. But I shall not add to these reflections the bitter remorse of inflicting even a merited calumny; and because my blood coursed through his veins, I shall not have his memory scored or tortured by the expression of my disappointment, or of the desolation which sweeps through my heart. It, therefore, best becomes me to say, his faith and honor, in the other relations of life, were just and exact; and that these may have imposed a severity on his principles and manners. The tears which now swell my eyes are those I cannot check; but they rise like bubbles on a mountain-stream-they burst never more to appear.”]
One conjecture more shall be hazarded, and so pleasing a one, that few can wish it to be unfounded. It was probably from this early intercourse with the peasantry of his country, and from the consequent conviction of their unmerited degradation, that sprang that unaffected soul-felt sympathy for their condition, so conspicuous in Mr. Curran's political career. Upon this subject, it was evident that his heart was deeply involved. From them, notwithstanding much temptation and many dangers, his affections never wavered for an instant. From the first dawn of political obligation upon his mind to his latest hour (an interval of more than half a century), he never thought or spoke of them but with tenderness, and pity. At the bar, in the senate, * on the bench,
* Upon one occasion, alluding in parliament to the general apathy of the ministry to the condition of the great body of the Irish people, he observed: "I am sorry to see that the rays of the honourable member's panegyric were not vertical; like the beams of the morning, they courted the mountain-tops, and left the valleys unilluminated—they fell only upon the great, while the miserable poor were left in the shade."— Debates in Irish House of Commons, 1787.-C.
amidst his family and friends, or in the society of the most illustrious personages of the empire, the sufferings of the Irish peasant were remembered, and their cause pleaded with an energy and reality that proved how well he knew, and how deeply he felt for, that class whose calamities he deplored." At any time of my life," said he, “I might, to a certain degree, as well as others, have tied up my countrymen in bundles, and sold them at the filthy market of corruption, and have raised myself to wealth and station, and remorse—to the envy of the foolish, and the contempt of the wise ; but I thought it more becoming to remain below among them, to mourn over and console them; or, where my duty called upon me, to reprimand and rebuke them, when they were acting against themselves."
In some of the published accounts of Mr. Curran's life, it has been stated that, when at the Temple, and afterwards while struggling into notice at the bar, he derived part of his subsistence from contributions to literary works; but for this there is no foundation. During the first year of his residence in London, his means were supplied partly by his relatives in Ireland, and partly by some of his more affluent companions, who considered his talents a sufficient security for their advances. In the second year, he married a daughter of the Dr. Creagh already mentioned; her portion was not considerable, but it was so carefully managed, and his success at the bar was so rapid, that he was ever after a stranger to pecuniary difficulties.
It may, too, be here observed that, had he been originally more favoured by fortune, his prospect of distinguished success in his profession might not have been so great. There is, perhaps, fully :?s much truth as humour in the assertion of an English judge, that a barrister's first requisite for attaining eminence is not to be worth a shilling."* The attractions of the bar, when viewed from
The learned judge alluded to, upon being asked “What conduced most to a barris. ter's success?" is suid 10 have replied, " that barristers succeeded by many methods ; Komne by great talents, sonic hy high connectiors, some by a miracle, but the majority by commencing willout a shilling."-C.
a distance, will dazzle and seduce for a while. To a young and generous spirit, it seems, no doubt, a proud thing to mix in a scene where merit and talent alone are honoured, where he can emulate the example, and perhaps reach the distinctions of our Hales, and Holts, and Mansfields. But all this fancied loveliness of the prospect vanishes, the moment you approach and attempt to ascend. As a calling, the bar is perhaps the most difficult, and, after the first glow of enthusiasm has gone by, the most repelling. To say nothing of the violence of the competition, which alone renders it the most hazardous of professions, the intellectual labour, and the unintellectual drudgery that it involves, are such as few have the capacity, or, without the strongest incitements, the patience to endure. To an active and philosophic mind, the mere art of reasoning, the simple perception of relations, whatever the subject matter may be, is an exercise in which a mind so constituted may delight; but, to such a one, the study of the law has but little to offer. If the body of English law be a scientific system, it is a long time a secret to the student: it has few immutable truths, few master-maxims, few regular series of necessary and nicely adapted inferences. In vain will the student look for a few general principles, to whose friendly guidance he may trust, to conduct him unerringly to his object: to him, it is all perplexity, caprice, and contradiction*—arbitrary and mysterious rules, of which to trace and comprehend the reasons is the work of years-forced constructions, to which no equity of intention can reconcile-logical evasions, from which the mind's pride indignantly revolts
of all these, the young lawyer meets abundance in his books; and to encounter and tolerate them, he must have
* This was, at least, what Mr. Curran found it. In his poem on “Friendship," already mentioned, he says:
“Oft, when condemn'd 'midst Gothic tomes to pour,
And, dubious, con th' embarras'd sentence o'er,
some stronger inducement than a mere literal ambition of learning or of fame. We consequently find that there is no other profession supplying so many members who never advance a single step; no other which so many abandon, disgusted and disheartened by the sacrifices that it exacts.
To these fearful pursuits, Mr. Curran brought every requisite of mind and character, and education, besides the above and grand requisite of want of fortune. Instead of being surprised at his eminent success, the wonder would have been if such a man had failed. Having acquirements and hopes, and a station, above his circumstances, to hold his ground, he could not allow his powers to slumber for a moment. His poverty, his pride, a secret consciousness of his value, and innate superstitious dread of obscurity, " that last infirmity of noble minds,” kept him forever in motion, and impatient to realize his own expectations, and the predictions of those friends by whom his efforts were applauded and assisted.
It appears, in a passage of one of his letters from the Temple, that he had, for a while, an idea of trying his fortune at the American bar. “Mrs. W.," says he, "concluded her letter with mentioning her purpose of revisiting America, and repeating her former advice to me on that subject. As for my part, I am totally undetermined. I may well say, with Sir Roger de Coverly, that much
may be said on both sides.' The scheme might be attended with advantage; yet I fear my mother, especially, would not be easily reconciled to such a step.” But he soon abandoned the idea; for, in a letter dated a few weeks after, he says: “As to the American project, I presume it is unnecessary to tell you that the motives are now no more, and that the design has expired of consequence. I have been urged to be called to that bar, and my chief inducement was my friendship for Mrs. W., to whom I might be useful in that way; but there is so little likelihood of her going, that I shall scarcely have an opportunity of sacrificing that motive to my attachment for Ireland.”
MR. CURRAN was called in Michaelmas term, 1775, to the Irish
who has attended to the course of forensic proceedings in the two countries can have failed to have observed, that while in England they are (with a very few exceptions) carried on with cold and rigorous formality, in Ireland they have not unfrequently been marked by the utmost vivacity and eloquence. The English barrister, even in cases of the deepest interest, where powerful emotions are to be excited, seldom ventures to exercise his imagination, if, indeed, long habits of restraint have left him the capacity to do so: yet in the Irish courts, not only are such subjects discussed in a style of the most impassioned oratory, but many examples might be produced, where questions more strictly technical, and apparently the most inappropriate themes of eloquence, have still been made the occasion of
fervid appeals to the feelings or the fancy. This latitude of ornament and digression, once so usual at the Irish bar, has been never known, and would never have been tolerated in Westminster Hall. It