Page images

plished as an antiquarian than as a literary critic, Mr. Collier has adopted in his new edition of Shakespeare many changes which in our opinion are decided corruptions of the text. Even in more dubious cases there is a certain wise conservatism in literature against which a small number of trivial emendations where no clear title can be shown, will contend in vain. For it is true,' says Bacon, that what is settled by custom, though it be not good, yet at least it is fit; and those things which have long gone together, are, as it were, confederate within themselves.' Therefore the benefit of every doubt is due, we conceive, to the established reading.

Mr. Dyce has succeeded in a department where so many have failed. He unites, indeed, the necessary qualifications in a singular degree. He is an admirable classical scholar, is deeply read in Elizabethan literature, has a fine ear for metre, and a strong sense of poetic beauty. His industry is on a par with his accomplishments. Any one may settle a text of Shakespeare as good, or better, than is to be found in the majority of editions, with the same rapidity that he reads. But to settle a 'text which will bear the investigation of poetic students, not only requires a rare familiarity with the language and customs of Shakespeare's day, but an amount of thought which few could continue through a single play. The taste, knowledge, and reflection which are embodied in these volumes can only be appreciated by persons who have trod the same paths, and who know that almost every page raises questions which require not only hours of present meditation but years of past reading to solve. No prejudices have interfered with the free exercise of Mr. Dyce's powers. He is not the partisan of quartos or folius, of printed readings or conjectural emendations. He is the partisan of sense and of poetry. The inclination of his mind is doubtless against innovation, and we believe that he might with advantage have revised some passages with a bolder hand; but over-caution, as we have already intimated, is preferable to rashness in the instances where there is much to be said on both sides. . This at least is beyond doubt, that we have never possessed so admirable a text of Shakespeare before ; and we would suggest to the thousands of people who are always inquiring for something interesting to read, that they should read again the works of the monarch of literature, and read him in the edition of Mr. Dyce. • Notes,' says Dr. Jobnson, are often necessary, but they are

, necessary evils. Let him that is unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read every play from the first scene to the last with utter negligence of all his commentators. When his

fancy addition



fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop at correction or explanation. Let him read on through brightness and obscurity; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased, let him attempt exactness, and read the commentators.'


[ocr errors]

ART. III.- Report from the Select Committee on Consular Service

and Appointments, together with the Proceedings of the Committee and Minutes of Evidence. London, 1858. T the Liverpool meeting of the professors of Social Science,'

Sir James Stephens introduced to our language the happy phrase of 'statistical chloroform.? We are sometimes compelled, in the course of our duty as general purveyors of literature, to administer to our readers the analogous preparation of condensed Blue-book. On the present occasion, however, it is our own fault if the article we present is either distasteful or narcotic, for the ingredients of the volume before us are certainly neither dull nor unpalatable. Its contents, indeed, mainly consist of dialogues on commercial and political geography between a Committee of the House of Commons and gentlemen from all parts of the world, who either have been or are actually engaged in the consular service, and who, after a monotonous repetition of a certain formula as to the total inadequacy of their present salaries, discourse pleasantly enough on the peculiarities and requirements of their respective positions and on their views of the nature and duties of the Consular Office.

The long and careful examination of Mr. Hammond, and other very competent gentlemen in the same department commences, and the statement of some witnesses respecting alleged abuses and proposed improvements in the present system terminates an inquiry which, from accidental circumstances, has been invested with a somewhat factitious interest and regarded with much personal anxiety from all portions of the globe. For many years the Foreign Office had been literally beset with complaints and remonstrances from the consular body, which could not be altogether set aside as unreasonable or unjust, but which it was most difficult to satisfy or to silence. The current of public opinion of late had run strongly in the direction of a stricter economy in the payment of foreign agents, and a Committee on Official Salaries had already recommended considerable reductions in that quarter. To propose, therefore, any alteration which involved a considerable


addition to this expenditure would have required no small courage on the part of the executive, and it is not surprising that the proposal of an independent and active member of Parliament to inquire thoroughly into the subject should have been promptly accepted. There was now a ready response to all applications for relief:

You must wait for the Parliamentary Committee; your case is excellent, it only requires to be stated; when fortified by the report of a Committee, we can effectually assist you ; in the mean time you must suffer or resign. The obstacles which were thrown in the way of this consummation by the preparation of documents, the summoning of witnesses, and a dissolution of Parliament, were sufficiently provoking to the expectants, and have imposed upon the Committee no easy task in their endeavour to realise hopes so long delayed, with a due consideration to public economy.

Other causes of dissatisfaction had also presented themselves. It was maintained that the British Consul was, by the constitution of the service, placed at a disadvantage in comparison with his colleagues, especially the French. The severe line of demarcation which separated him from the diplomatic branch and the absence of any regular career in his own, together with the privation of all honorary distinction after a life spent in the faithful discharge of important functions or after extraordinary exertions in a great national enterprise, not unnaturally produced in many minds a sense of undue inferiority and unmerited neglect. The Frenchman and the Austrian, with whom the British consul was on terms of apparent equality, were probably decorated with one or more orders-had an honourable and fixed rank on all occasions of public ceremonial—and might aspire, if capable of higher things and favoured by circumstance, to such positions as are now occupied by M. Brennier, M. Benedetti, and Baron Hubner. Hence the question would frequently arise as to what was the peculiarity in the consular service of this country that should render it unfit for the official gradations and diplomatic interchange which elsewhere foster a spirit of emulation and enhance the dignity of the profession.

On the part of the public, and especially of the shippinginterest, the licence of consuls to trade and their remuneration by means of fees had been much criticised and frequently condemned both as invalidating the general efficiency of the officer and as affording occasion for scandal and abuse. It was asserted that merchants could place no confidence in a rival trader, and that such an agent could not properly vindicate the rights of his fellow-countrymen against a foreign government in whose commerce he was personally interested. Cases also were adduced in which the probity and honour of some consuls were compromised, and


which required, for the advantage of all parties, to be challenged and sifted by a competent tribunal.

These three objects were assuredly sufficient to engage the industry and discretion of a Parliamentary Committee, and we have no fault to find with the bulk of the volume they have produced. We could wish, indeed, that the evidence had been more systematically arranged, and that the witnesses, in some instances, had been of higher authority. In so important a matter as the constitution of the whole consular service, involving a considerable addition to the burthens of the State, why was not the Committee assisted in their decision by the opinion and judgment of the living statesmen who have held the seals of the Foreign Office ? Lord Palmerston was a member of the Committee; but he

appears from the minutes to have been prevented from affording it the advantage of his knowledge and experience either as a witness or as an examiner. This is the more to be regretted, as it was during Lord Palmerston's administration of the Foreign Office that the partial reversal of Mr. Canning's prohibition of the consuls to engage in trade took place under the economical pressure of the moment, and it would be important to know whether his Lordship had been guided by motives of temporary expediency or of general principle. The necessity also of limiting the testimonies of present employés to those who happened to be in England at the time, or within such a call of the telegraph as would not subject the country to an unreasonable expense, gave to the examination a random and vagrant character that could only have been avoided by some systematic arrangement, while the change of government in the early part of the session considerably delayed the nomination of the Committee, and compelled them to choose between an incomplete and fragmentary inquiry or the postponement of all improvement to another year--the Foreign Office apparently refusing to initiate any alteration or remedy any grievances at its own risk.

A Report cannot with propriety extend beyond the scope and purport of the information derived from the witnesses: and it would be unjust to find fault with a chairman or a committee for the omission of topics which are really essential to any consecutive argument on the subject, but upon which they could only have stated conclusions drawn from other sources than the evidence before them. Thus they might be well informed as to the causes which have given various aspects to the Consular office at different periods, in different countries, and under different governments, and yet have abstained from allusions which would find their place in a French or German state-paper, but would look pedantic and theoretical when issuing from the palace of




[ocr errors]

Westminster. And yet it is from the word Consul' in the sense which it assumed in the later classical times, and which was transferred to the administration of the governments of the middle ages, that may be deduced the history of all privileges, functions, and relations which appertain to the consular office down to the present day.

It is uncertain when this high title descended to the designation of ordinary magisterial authority; but we find in Pliny a certain Lucius Fulvius mentioned as • Consul Tusculanorum,' and a personage in Ausonius thus expresses the difference of his interest in Rome and in Bordeaux :

Diligo Burdigalam-Romam colo-civis in hac sum, Consul in ambabus.'*

The custom must have been frequent in Spain, for Gruter furnishes two inscriptions—the one (429.9) referring to a consul of Barcelona, and the other (351.5) of Ecaija (Colonia Astigitana): The Consulares aquarum also represented the Commissioners of modern times. As soon as the commercial intercommunication of the countries of the south of Europe became general, and considerable settlements of the natives of one state established themselves in the maritime dominions of another, it became necessary to determine who should administer the police of the seas in relation to each port and also exercise a proper jurisdiction over these colonies of traders. Governments were naturally unwilling to entrust the lives and properties of their subjects to the tender mercies of the legislation of foreign powers at a time when an alien was regarded as little better than an enemy, and the advantage of some system by which the parent country should continue to exercise a just authority over the portions of its own people accidentally located in strange lands appears to have been readily acknowledged. The person on whom this exceptional magistrature was conferred became the Consul of the community among whom he resided, exercising a sanctioned imperium in imperio in all the transactions of his countrymen among one another, and interfering in their relations towards the native authorities as far as law and custom permitted, or rather as far as his own government could persuade or intimidate the other into conceding. In communications with the Mohammedan world, where the religious character of the legislation essentially prevented an equitable jurisdiction over a Christian society, this interference was formally recognised in the Capitulations, but in the ordinary intercourse between European powers the mode and amount of this privilege


* Urb. 14. 39.


« PreviousContinue »