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year to support the dignity of his traditional throne ; while the numerous princes of the blood, dispersed through the dominions of their fathers, in the characters of tenants in fee-simple, opulent leaseholders, or sturdy mortgagees in possession, form a compact and powerful squirearchy, before whose influence the proud “ descendants of the stranger” are often made to bow their necks, in the
collisions of county politics. The subject of the present notice is understood to be the heir-apparent to his uncle's possessions. These he must soon enjoy, for his royal kinsman has passed his 90th year. In the mean time he rules in his own person an extensive tract among the Kerry hills ; of little value, it is said, in point of revenue, but dear to the possessor, as the residence of the idol of his heart, and in truth almost the only tenant on three-fourths of the estate
“The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty." Mr. O'Connell was originally intended for the Church, or more strictly speaking, for the Chapel. He was sent, according to the necessities of the time, to be educated at St. Omer-for in those days the wise government of Ireland would not allow the land of Protestant ascendancy to be contaminated by a public school of Catholic theology. Dr. Duigenan was compelled to permit the detested doctrines to be freely preached; but to make the professors of them good subjects, he shrewdly insisted that they should still, as of old, be forced to cross the seas, and lay in a preliminary stock of Irish loyalty at a foreign university. But the dread of indigenous theology was not peculiar to that great man. I observe that some of our statesmen of the present year have discovered that all the disasters of Ireland have been caused by an invisible establishment of Jesuits, and must continue until the omnipotence of Parliament shall expel the intruders--a felicitous insight into cause and effect, resembling that of the orthodox crew of a British packet, who having discovered, during a gale of wind, that a Methodist preacher was among the passengers, at once made up their minds that the fury of the tempest would never abate until the vessel should be exorcised by heaving the non-conformist overboard. I have not heard what occasioned Mr. O'Connell to change his destination. He probably had the good sense to feel that he had too much flesh and blood for a cloister; and the novelty of a legal career to a Catholic (for the Bar had just been opened to his persuasion) must have had its attractions. He accordingly left St. Omer with its casuistry and fasting and vesper hymns, to' less earthly temperaments; and having swallowed the regular number of legs of mutton at the Middle Temple, was duly admitted to the Irish Bar in Easter Term 1798. The event has justified his choice. With all the impediments of his religion and his politics, his progress was rapid. He is now, and has been for many years, as high in his profession as it is possible for a Catholic to ascend.
Mr. O'Connell, if not the ablest, is certainly the most singular man at the Irish Bar. He is singular, not merely in the vigour of his faculties, but in their extreme variety and apparent inconsistency; and the same may be said of his character. The elements of both are so many and diverse, that it would seem as if half a dozen varieties of the human species, and these not always on the best terms with each
other, had been capriciously huddled together into a single frame to make up his strange and complex identity; and hence it is, that, though I spoke of him heretofore as a favourable subject for a sketch, I find the task of accurate delineation to be far less easy than I anticipated. I have the man before me, and willing enough, it would appear, that his features should be commemorated; but, like the poor artist that had to deal with the frisky philosopher of Ferney, with all my efforts I cannot keep him steady to any single posture or expression. him distinctly at one moment a hard-headed working lawyer, the next a glowing politician, the next an awful theologian; his features now sunk into the deepest shade of patriotic anguish, now illuminated, no one can tell why, as for the celebration of a national triumph. A little while back I caught him in his character of a sturdy reformer, proclaiming the constitution, and denouncing the vices of courts and kings, and he promised me that he would keep to that ; but before I had time to look about me, there he was, off to the leveel be-bagged and be-sworded like any oppressor of them all, playing off his loyal looks and anti-radical bows, as if he was to be one of Mr. Blake's next Baronets, or as if he had not sufficiently proved his attachment to the throne by presenting his majesty with a crown of Irish laurel on the beach of Dunleary. Such a compound can be described only by enumerating its several ingredients; and even here I am not sure that my performance, if rigidly criticized, may not turn out, like my subject, to be occasionally at variance with itself. I shall begin with (what in other eminent lawyers is subordinate) his individual and extra-professional peculiarities; for in O'Connell these are paramount, and act a leading part in every scene, whether legal or otherwise, of his complicated avocations.
His frame is tall, expanded, and muscular; precisely such as befits a man of the people--for the physical classes ever look with double confidence and affection upon a leader who represents in his own person the qualities upon which they rely. In his face he has been equally fortunate; it is extremely comely. The features are at once soft and manly; the florid glow of health and a sanguine temperament is diffused over the whole countenance, which is national in the outline, and beaming with national emotion. The expression is open and confiding, and inviting confidence ; there is not a trace of malignity or wile—if there
were, the bright and sweet blue eyes, the most kindly and honestlooking that can be conceived, would repel the imputation. These popular gifts of nature O'Connell has not neglected to set off by his external carriage and deportment-or, perhaps, I should rather say, that the same hand which has moulded the exterior has supersaturated the inner man with a fund of restless propensity, which it is quite beyond his power, as it is certainly, beside his inclination, to controul. A large portion of this is necessarily expended upon his legal avocations ; but the labours of the most laborious of professions cannot tame him into repose : after deducting the daily drains of the study and the Courts, there remains an ample residuum of animal spirits and ardour for-occupation, which go to form a distinct, and I might say, a predominant character—the political chieftain. The existence of this overweening vivacity is conspicuous in O'Connell's manners and movements, and being a popular, and more particularly a national quality, greatly recommends him to the Irish people--" Mobilitate viget" –
Body and soul are in a state of permanent insurrection. See him in the streets, and you perceive at once that he is a man who has sworn that his country's wrongs shall be avenged. A Dublin jury (if judiciously selected) would find his very gait and gestures to be high treason by construction, so explicitly do they enforce the national sentiment, of“ Ireland her own, or the world in a blaze.” As he marches to Court, he shoulders his umbrella as if it were a pike. He flings out one factious foot before the other, as if he had already burst his bonds, and was kicking the Protestant ascendancy before him; while ever and anon a democratic, broad-shouldered roll of the upper man is manifestly an indignant effort to shuffle off“ the oppression of seven hun
This intensely national sensibility is the prevailing peculiarity in O'Connell's character; for it is not only when abroad and in the popular gaze that Irish affairs seem to press upon his heart: the same Erin-go-bragh feeling follows him into the most technical details of his forensic occupations. Give him the most dry and abstract position of law to support the most remote that imagination can conceive from the violation of the Articles of Limerick, or the Rape of the Irish Parliament, and ten to one but he will contrive to interweave a patriotic episode upon those examples of British domination. The people are never absent from his thoughts. He tosses up a bill of exceptions to a judge's charge in the name of Ireland, and pockets a special retainer with the air of a man that dotes upon his country. There is, perhaps, some share of exaggeration in all this; but much less, I do believe, than is generally suspected, and I apprehend that he would scarcely pass for a patriot without it; for, in fact, he has been so successful, and looks so contented, and his elastic, unbroken spirits are so disposed to bound and frisk for very joy—in a word, he has naturally so bad a face for a grievance, that his political sincerity might appear equivocal, were there not some clouds of patriotic grief or indignation to temper the sunshine that is for ever bursting through them.
As a professional man, O'Connell is, perhaps, for general business, the most competent advocate at the Irish Bar. Every requisite for a barrister of all-work is combined in him ; some in perfection-all in sufficiency. He is not understood to be a deep scientific lawyer. He is, what is far better for himself and his clients, an admirably practical one.
He is a thorough adept in all the complicated and fantastic forms with which Justice, like a Chinese monarch, insists that her votaries shall approach her. A suitor advancing towards her throne, cannot go through the evolutions of the indispensable Ko-tou under a more skilful master of the ceremonies. In this department of his profession, the knowledge of the practice of the Courts, and in a perfect familiarity with the general principles of law that are applicable to questions discussed in open Court, O'Connell is on a level with the most experienced of his competitors; and with few exceptions, perhaps with the single one of Mr. Plunkett, he surpasses them all in the vehement and pertinacious talent with which he contends to the last for victory, or, where victory is impossible, for an honourable retreat. If his mind had been duly disciplined, he would have been a first-rate reasoner and a most formidable sophist. He has all the requisites from nature-singular clearness, promptitude, and acuteness.
When occasion requires, he evinces a metaphysical subtlety of perception
which nothing can elude. The most slippery distinction that glides across him, he can grasp and hold “pressis manibus," until he pleases to set it free. But his argumentative powers lose much of their effect from want of arrangement. His thoughts have too much of the impatience of conscious strength to submit to an orderly disposition. Instead of moving to the conflict in compact array, they rush forward like a tumultuary Insurgent mass, jostling and overturning one another in the confusion of the charge; and though finally beating down all opposition by sheer strength and numbers, still reminding us of the far greater things they might have achieved bad they been better drilled. But O'Connell has by temperament a disdain of every thing that is methodical and sedate. You can see this running through his whole deportment in Court. I never knew a learned personage who resorted so little to the ordinary tricks of his vocation. As he sits waiting till his turn comes to “blaze away,” he appears totally exempt from the usual throes and heavings of animo-gestation. There is no hermetically-sealing of the lips, as if nothing less could restrain the fermentation within ; there are no trances of abstraction, as if the thoughts had left their home on a distant voyage of discovery ; no haughty swellings of the mind into alto-relievos on the learned brow ;-there is nothing of this about O'Connell. . On the contrary, his countenance and manners impress you with the notion, that he looks forward to the coming effort as to a pastime in which he takes delight. Instead of assuming the “Sir Oracle," he is all gaiety and good-humour, and seldom fails to disturb the gravity of the proceedings by a series of disorderly jokes, for which he is duly rebuked by his antagonists with a solemnity of indignation that provokes a repetition of the offence; but his insubordinate levity is, for the most part, so redeemed by his imperturbable good-temper, that even the judges, when compelled to interfere and pronounce him out of order, are generally shaking their sides as heartily as the most enraptured of his admirers in the galleries. In the midst, however, of this seeming carelessness, his mind is in reality attending with the keenest vigilance to the subject-matter of discussion; and the contrast is often quite amusing. While his eyes are wantoning round the Court in search of an object to be knocked down by a blow of his boisterous playfulness, or, in a more serious mood, while he is sketching on the margin of his brief the outline of an impossible republic, or running through a rough calculation of the number of Irishmen capable of bearing pikes according to the latest returns of the population, if the minutest irregularity or misstatement is attempted on the other side, up he is sure to start with all imaginable alertness, and, reassuming the advocate, puts forward his objection with a degree of vigour and perspicuity which manifests that his attention had not wandered for an instant from the business before him.
Mr. O'Connell is in particular request in jury-cases. There he is in his element. Next to the “ harp of his country," an Irish jury is the instrument on which he delights to play; and no one better understands its qualities and compass. I have already glanced at his versatility. It is here that it is displayed. His powers as a Nisi-prius advocate consist not so much in the perfection of any of the qualities necessary to the art of persuasion, as in the number of them that he has at command, and the skill with which he selects and adapts them to the exi
gency of each particular case. He has a thorough knowledge of human nature, as it prevails in the class of men whom he has to mould to his purposes. I know of no one that exbibits a more quick and accurate perception of the essential peculiarities of the Irish character. It is not merely with reference to their passions that he understands them, though here he is pre-eminently adroit. He can cajole a dozen of miserable corporation-backs into the persuasion that the honour of their country is concentred in their persons. His mere acting on such occasions is admirable: no matter how base and stupid, and how poisoned by political antipathy to himself he may believe them to be, he affects the most complimentary ignorance of their real characters. He hides his scorn and contempt under a look of unbounded reliance. He addresses them with all the deference due to upright and high-minded jurors. He talks to them of “the eyes of all Europe," and the present gratitude of Ireland, and the residuary blessings of posterity, with the most perfidious command of countenance. In short, by dint of unmerited commendations, he belabours them into the belief that, after all, they have some reputation to sustain, and sets them chuckling with anticipated exultation at the honours with which a verdict according to the evidence is to consecrate their names. But, in addition to the art of heating the passions of his hearers to the malleable point, O'Connell manifests powers of observation of another, and, for general purposes, a more valuable kind. He knows that strange modification of humanity, the Irish mind, not only in its moral but in its metaphysieal peculiarities. Throw him upon any particular class of men, and you would imagine that he must have lived among them all his life, so intuitively does he accommodate his style of argument to their particular modes of thinking and reasoning. He knows the exact quantity of strict logic which they will bear or can comprehend. Hence, (where it serves his purpose) instead of attempting to drag them along with him, whether they will or no, by a chain of unbroken demonstration, he has the address to make them imagine that their movements are directed solely by themselves. He pays their capacities the compliment of not making things too clear. Familiar with the habitual tendencies of their minds, he contents himself with throwing off rather materials for reasoning than elaborate reasonings--mere fragments, or seeds of thought, which, from his knowledge of the soil in which they drop, he confidently predicts will shoot up and expand into precisely the conclusions that he wants. This method has the disadvantage, as far as personally regards the speaker, of giving the character of more than his usual looseness and irregularity to O'Connell's jury-speeches ; but his client, for whom alone he labours, is a gainer by it--directly in the way I have been stating, and indirectly for this reason, that it keeps the jury in the dark as to the points of the case in which he feels he is weak. By abstaining from a show of rigorous demonstration, where all the argument is evidently upon his side, he excites no suspicion by keeping at an equal distance from topics which he could not venture to approach. This, of course, is not to be taken as O'Connell's invariable manner, for he has no invariable manner, but as a specimen of that dexterous accommodation of particular means to a particular end, from which his general powers as a Nisi-prius advocate may be inferred. And so too of the tone in which he labours to extort a verdict ;