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fashion, and lead public opinion ; and, in fact, they often perform a very brilliant part in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. I enjoy double pleasure in perusing on the spot the conversations of Mr. Bartholomew Saddletree (in the Heart of Midlothian.)
TO M. DUMONT.
SMollett, who has been named by Sir Walter Scott the Rubens of Novelists, and whose caricatures, often trite and degraded by buffoonery, are not deficient in truth, has sketched in his Humphrey Clinker a very amusing portrait of Lieutenant Lismahago. It is a model of Scotch character, which can be no longer applied to his countrymen without W. intention. But some features of the Casedonian Quixote are yet to be found in the Scotch physiognomy. All personal allusion apart, who has not laughed heartily at the lieutenant's fall from his horse, while engaged in paying his respects to the ladies? Who has not laughed at his anger, or his amours, couched in the national idiom, the full raciness of which he has carefully preserved during his American campaigns P What a dignity is there in his reply to Mr. Bramble, when the latter expresses
astonishment at his being able to undergo so many privations for three or four shillings a day; that he is a gentleman, and like a gentleman entered the service with the hopes and feelings of an honourable ambition ; that he has no reason to complain, since he can always afford a clean shirt and a chop while he lives ; and when he dies, will leave enough property to pay the expences of his funeral.
Mr. Bramble, however, soon finds a formidable champion in the warlike lieutenant. They discuss and fall into a hot dispute about the pros and cons of war, politics, belles lettres, jurisprudence, metaphysics, &c.
A chance word brings the genealogy of Mr. Bramble on the tapis. Lismahago listens to the detail of it with an almost respectful attention. Genealogy is up to the present day considered a matter of importance, even among the whigs of Edinburgh. The lieutenant then declines his nomen and prenomen, Obadiah Lismahago; writes them on a slip of paper, assists his hearers in pronouncing them correctly, emphatiq|fly declares, that more mellifluous names never existed, slides in some words about his ancestry with affected modesty, appears seduced by the compliments which Miss Tabitha applies to the Scotch nation generally, and only consents to a narrative of his adventures till he has decided on a politic reservation of part.
With what gravity he maintains that the best English is that which is spoken at Edinburgh; and that the English have done nothing but corrupt the purity of their language by their orthography and pronunciation; that oaten flour is preferable to wheat; that commerce in the long run would be the ruin of the nation; that the liberty of the press was a national calamity, &c. &c. But I must pause; for our ministers might not be inclined to find the character of Lismahago so absurd as the author intended. Sometimes, when the lieutenant could not lay his hand on any other subject of contradiction, he treated his countrymen rather cavalierly, but he would never allow a sarcasm to be levelled at them by another.
In the same manner you may hear the readers of Blackwood launching their sneers at Jeffrey and Co. You may hear the whigs accuse Sir Walter Scott of being a servile politician. You must leave the entire matter to them, for no one else has any right to criticise either Jeffrey when he exhibits bad taste, or Sir Walter quando bonus dormitat Homerus.
If there be in Edinburgh some literary and political gossip, the reason is that Edinburgh is a provincial town notwiths%nding its title of capital. Were you to convey the court there, it is probable that you would only have an additional coterie at Holyrood. If the spirit of discussion be perpetuated, it is doubtless assignable to the preponderating influence of the lawyers. Let us proceed to a survey of this powerful body. Walter Scott constitutes a part of it; and as I have already intimated, takes delight in introducing the ministers of chicanery into his novels.
A writer who has composed a treatise ex professo
on the subject of the incognito preserved by the author of Waverley, and who maintains that the poet of the Lady of the Lake and he of the Scotch novels is the same individual, partly founds his inference on the circumstance of both being lawyers. “The author of Waverley,” he says, “ describes the habits, eccentricities, and bavardage" (jargon) of the trade, with a familiarity resulting from actual observation. Witness the lawyers of Gandergleuch, in the introduction to the Heart of Midlothian, and the more finished portrait of Paulus Pleydell, in Guy Mannering.” In short, none but a lawyer could impart interest to the judicial inquiries set on foot after the disappearance of little Bertram in Guy Mannering. None but a lawyer could have imagined the crossexamination of Sharpitlaw, Ratcliffe, and Madge Wildfire. None but a lawyer could have deeided on sacrificing to the matter of fact of the profession the opportunity of being strikingly eloquent in the pleadings which he assigns to Effie's counsel. The whole trial of this unfortunate sister of the sublime Jeannie Deans is treated with a minuteness of technical details, and with a diffuseness which would spoil the effect of many a fine passage, however pathetic it might be in other respects.f One is sometimes tempted to quarrel with
* This word, begging pardon of the lawyers, is borrowed from the author referred to, who employs it as it stands, although it has its equivalent in English.
+ I recommend to the French reader the various introductions to the romances of Sir Walter Scott. Some have been suppressed by M. De
the novelist, on account of the impatience excited by the importunate remarks of the judicial amateur Saddletree. But at last we come to that tragical appeal (referring to the eloquence of maternal love) made by Master Fairbrother to the sympathizing judges, when interrupted by the piercing shriek of Erne. I have admired a similar point in one of the pleadings of Ferrere.*
The comic character of Paulus Pleydell is especially intended to familiarize us with the manners, costumes, and jargon of the old legal corps of Edinburgh. Some London critics pronounced it to be a coarse caricature ; but in Scotland it was recognised as the faithful portraiture of local traditions. In Pleydell's time, the New Town was not in being: the nobility inhabited the little hotels of Canongate, and the lawyers the vast houses in the environs of the courts, called lands, of which each family occupied a story at the most. In order not to discourage the clients, who were forced to climb such a number of stairs, or to detach themselves from the ennui occasioned by these lofty cages, the hommes d'affaires, as they were then called, gave them a meeting at taverns, where some among them, in fact, constantly stationed their office, in the midst of porter pots and bottles.
The Paulus Pleydell of Guy Mannering was a
fauconfret, in the first editions; but they are re-established in the octavo. Some of these are really charming j such as those of the PuriUmt and the Legends of Montrote. • A celebrated barrister of Bordeaux.