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bled a finely-toned instrument, which a rude or clumsy touch flung into disorder: it was the harp which played to the zephyr, and whose wildest were its sweetest notes!

To make a comparison with the ancients,to presume to say that modern wit or oratory equalled or surpassed that of Athens or of Rome, would be beyond the purpose of this narrative. To assert that all which Congreve wrote,-which Sheridan spoke or wrote,-all which Mr. Curran or Voltaire had ever given to the public, all with which they enriched, cherished, and delighted private social intercourse ;—that all these outstripped all the excellences of the Attic and Roman public and private, would be to presume upon a decision, which no one, as I can learn, has ever taken the trouble of bringing solemnly into the field for discussion.

The plays of Terence and Plautus, and of many others among the Romans; and of the celebrated ancient comedy among the Greeks, should with this view be ransacked and culled with great labour, taste, and judgement. It may possibly be, that among the Greeks and Romans may be found those who have surpassed the moderns in pure comedy and in oratory. A Barthelemy's genius could presume to determine that question, but the solution appears to be physically unat

tainable for want of juxta-position. From not possessing that standard, unconquerable difficulties for ever must impede the enquiry. Beside the unprofitableness of the investigation, the immensity of the research, the variety of idiom, and the topical application of points and turns never to be recovered, and perhaps never to be duly appreciated, fling the hope into despair. Without presuming on any such fearful parallel, take a view of the frequent smart sayings, of the wit and epigram of two of their illustrious men, as retained by Plutarch," how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable" are they? How short of the salt and poignancy, and of the grace, of some of those here recorded. And thus it may have been with Shakespear, had not the gigantic and stupendous powers of his genius given a stamp and circulation to the language of his own time, and transfused it into vernacular use. It is by this magic, the humour of Falstaff is now familiar and understood, while the language of Chaucer, of Cowley, and of Spenser, is fallen nearly into disuse.

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In the extracts here given, it would be unjust to propose them as exact criterions. In the works of the ancients, the best illustrations will be found more profusely scattered; and many are interspersed in Anacharse, in La Harpe, and in the good writers, eritics, and historians of our

own country. And lest weariness may attend the repetition even of wit, ancient or modern; and lest this should swell into the size of a lumpish elegant extract, or assume the shape of an indifferent joke book, I shall be as sparing of these excerpta, as the object of their introduction may properly admit*.

The humour of Horace is always agreeable, but Mr. Curran has much more wit, and as a satirist is equally pleasant. As severe as Juvenal, he is at once the comic and the tragic satirist ; and when he comes to lash vice, his sentiments are manly and elevated. In cross-examining an old Clergyman whose evasions of truth were disgraceful to him, he closed with this question, "Doctor, when you last put your spectacles in the Bible, give me leave to ask you, did you close it on that passage which says • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour?”

In Ireland they have a good-natured, familiar, open manner of friendly intercourse, which enters frequently into the most serious and solemn affairs. A gentleman of the age of thirty, about four feet high, and quite a boy in appearance, for want of accommodation in a very crowded court, in the county of Kerry, got into the jury

* See extracts from Plutarch in note B.

box. He was very much beloved, and being too low to peep over the box, perched himself on the brawny shoulders of one of the jurors. In the progress of the trial it was observed, that there were thirteen persons in the box. This created some confusion, and it was objected, that it would be a ground to set aside the verdict. Mr. Curran said that, considering the difficulty of the question, the jurors were right in putting as many heads together as they could; but be that as it may, the verdict would not be endangered, for it would be secured by the maxim of the law, which says, "de minimis non curat lex."

Of some learned serjeant, who in giving a con fused, elaborate, and tedious explanation of some point of law, he observed, that whenever that grave counsellor endeavoured to unfold a principle of law, he put him in mind of a fool whom he once saw struggling for a whole day to open an oyster with a rolling pin.

He said of a busy, bustling, garrulous lawyer, that he always thought him like a counsellor in a play, where all was stage-trick, bustle, or sceneshifting.

The conversation turning one day on the character of Oliver Cromwell, as generally given by Hume, who observes, that Cromwell was a man

who, though he had the clearest conceptions of his subject, yet when he came to unfold it in public, he became embarrassed, and the light deserted his mind, some persons controverted Hume's position, holding its opposite, and contending, that whenever the mind had conceived clear ideas, it never could fail in giving clear expression to them, and that the embarrassment in words arose out of the confusion in ideas. Curran, being of the latter opinion, related in illustration of this, an anecdote of the late Judge Kelly, a gentleman of the old school, and who was as remarkable for his good humour and good manners, as he was for an uncommon degree of natural sagacity.


An action in ejectment had been brought, to recover, on the title, the estate of a Mr. Burke, in the county of Galway, which he and his ancestors had long enjoyed; the plaintiff was a stranger; the jury was composed of persons of the best rank and fortune in the county. Mr. Burke had no legal defence, every thing was against him. His son, Mr. Urick Burke, was a lawyer, and a gentleman of uncommon pleasantry; apprised of his father's danger, he successfully resorted to his wit to secure the old estate. He addressed the jury at great length, and concluded by observing; “Gentlemen, my father and family were long known to you; you and your fathers were always

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