Page images

preparing for any business of importance, he is said to be remarkably abstemious. He has been accustomed from his childhood, to the best society ; his taste is cultivated, and his manners are distinguished for their true elegance and simplicity. After his resignation of the chancellorship, in 1830, Lord Lyndhurst received the appointment of chief baron of the Exchequer.


This celebrated literary and legal character, the eldest son of the late George Jeffrey, Esq., one of the deputy clerks of session, in Scotland, was born in Edinburgh, on the 23d of October, 1773. He received the rudiments of his education at the high school of his native city, where he afterwards engaged actively, it is said, in several literary societies, and was one of the most conspicuous members of that called the Speculative. In 1787, he was entered at the University of Glasgow; and, after having remained there four years, he removed to Oxford, and was admitted of Queen's College, in that university, in 1791. Having resolved on pursuing the legal profession, he went through the necessary studies, and was called to the bar in 1795. His success was long doubtful, and it is not till within these few years that he has acquired a practice co-extensive with his abilities. In acuteness, promptness, and clearness,-in the art of illustrating, stating, and arranging-in extent of legal knowledge, --in sparkling wit

, keen satire, and strong and flowing eloquence, he has few equals in the courts of Scotland.

“Ever quick," says the author of Sketches of the Scottish Bar, "but never boisterous nor pushing, Jeffrey wound his way, like an eel, from one bar to the other. If what he had to do was merely a matter of form, it was despatched in as few words as possible;

generally wound up, when circumstances admitted, with some biting jest. If a cause were to be formally argued, his bundle of papers was unloosed, his glass applied to his eye, and his discourse began, without a moment's pause. He plunged at once into the mare magnum of the question, confident that his train of argument would arrange itself in lucid order, almost without any exertion on his part." He possessed a most retentive memory, and could proceed from one subject to another, however different, at a moment's warning. As he sat down, one day, at the close of a long and argumentative speech, an attorney's clerk pulled him by the gown, and whispered in his ear, that a case in which he was retained had just been called on in the inner house. “Good God!" said Jeffrey, “I have heard nothing of the matter for weeks; and that trial has driven it entirely out of my head; what is it?" The lad, in no small trepidation, began to recount some of the leading facts, but no sooner had he mentioned the first, than Jeffrey exclaimed, “I know it!" and ran over, with the most inconceivable rapidity, all the details, and every leading case that bore upon them; and his speech on the occasion, was one of the most powerful he ever delivered. His oratory is not commanding; and it is like the frog striving itself to the size of the ox, when he attempts to be impressive; but once, indeed, says

the writer before quoted, we remember an apostrophe, startling, nay, commanding, from its native dignity and moral courage. A baronet who had brought an action, in which, to gain his point, he had shown a disregard of all moral or honourable restraints, Mr. Jeffrey made the following observations on his conduct. “My lords, there is no person who entertains a higher respect for the English aristocracy than I do; or who would feel more loth to say any thing that could hurt the feelings or injure the reputation of any one individual member of that illustrious body; but after all that we have this day heard, I feel my

self warranted in saying (here he turned round, faced the plaintiff

, who was seated immediately behind. him, and fixing upon him a cold firm look, proceeded in a low determined voice) that Sir

has clearly shown himself to be a notorious liar, and a common swindler."

It is, however, as a literary character, that Mr. Jeffrey is more generally known to the public, to whom his name is chiefly familiar as connected with the Edinburgh Review. Of this journal he was not only one of the original projectors, but, after the first year, during which it was conducted by the Rev. Sydney Smith, it came under Mr. Jeffrey's entire control, and has since been understood to be solely managed by him. As a review, the work holds one of the first places among the British periodicals; but though much talent and information are displayed in the general conduct of it, in its pages impartiality is often prevented by prejudice, and sarcasm and ridicule are found in the place of honest criticism and candid investigation. Such a mode of criticism, however, has not been without its good effects; for, to the arrogant and supercilious tone assumed by the Edinburgh Řeview towards Lord Byron's early poems, is not only attributable his lordship's “English Bards," but, probably, much of the power and energy which the subsequent productions of his irritated genius so suddenly and forcibly displayed.

In person, the subject of our memoir is of low stature, but his figure, which he tries to set off to the best advantage, is elegant and well-proportioned. His features are continually varying in expression, and are said to have baffled our best artists. The face, according to the writer before quoted, is rather elongated, the chin deficient, the mouth well formed, with a mingled expression of determination, sentiment, and arch mockery. The eye is the most peculiar feature of the countenance; it is large and sparkling, but with a want of transparency, that gives it the appearance of a heartless enigma. He has two tones in his voice; the one harsh and grating, the other rich and clear, though not powerful. His pronunciation is minced, the natural defect of youthful affectation.

Mr. Jeffrey has contributed several articles to the Review, many of which are political, and show the sentiments of their author to be those of a stanch Whig. His duel with Mr. Moore, the poet, and the lines to which it gave rise in Lord Byron's English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, are too well known to the public to require more than a mere mention of the fact. Mr. Jeffrey has been twice married: first, in 1801, to a Miss Wilson, who bore him no children; secondly, in 1814, to a daughter of Mr. Wilkes, of New York, grand-niece of the famous John Wilkes, and by whom he has issue.


This learned gentleman, whose great-grandfather, a colonel in the service of King James, was hanged on his own gate, hut saved by one of the king's troopers; and another of whose relations, during the subsequent disturbances in Ireland, was effectually hanged before the walls of his own castle, was born at his father's seat in Queen's county, Ireland, some time in the year 1767. He remained until 1776, under the roof and tuition of his grand-father, but was removed about that time to a school at Dublin, where, he says, “I was taught prosody without verse, and rhetoric without composition; and, to prevent me from being idle during the week, received castigation regularly every Monday morning." He afterwards went to the Dublin University, on leaving which, he joined a volunteer corps, and became, (he observes,) before he well knew what he was about, a military martinet, and a red-hot patriot. His martial enthusiasm, however, having abated, he declined a lieutenant's commission

in the army; and shortly after, studied for the bar, to which he was called in 1788.

About 1790, he was returned for the city of Tuam, to the Irish parliament, where he says, “I directed my earliest effort against Curran and Grattan; and, on the first day of my rising, exhibited a specimen of what I may now call true arrogance." In 1793, he had so well served government, in the house of commons, that he was presented with a sinecure office attached to the port of Dublin; and shortly afterwards, received a silk gown. In 1799, he had an interview with the then Irish secretary, Lord Castlereagh, who promised him the solicitor-generalship, but in consequence of his subsequent declaration, that he would never support the Union, the appointment was refused him.

His independent conduct on this occasion, made him very popular, and, in 1803, he stood candidate for Dublin; when, he says, “ After three months' canvass, in which I drank nearly as much porter and whisky, with the electors themselves, and as much tea and cherry brandy with their wives and daughters, as would inevitably have killed me on any other occasion, and a fifteen days' poll, I lost my election." About a year or two afterwards, he was made judge of the high court of admiralty in Ireland; and, in 1807, received the honour of knighthood. Between 1809 and 1815, he published five parts of his Historic Anecdotes and Secret Memoirs of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland; and, in the latter year, visited Paris, where he remained during the hundred days' reign of Napoleon.

In 1827, he published, in two volumes, his Personal Sketches of his own Times; a very amusing and popular work, and of which a third volume has lately appeared. In 1830, a charge of malversation was made against him; and a committee of the house of commons having reported the accusation to be well founded, an address was presented by both houses of

« PreviousContinue »