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ART. I.- Diaries and Correspondence of JAMES HARRIS, First
Earl of Malmesbury. Edited by his Grandson, the third Earl.
4 vols. 8vo. London: Richard Bentley. 1845. • THESE are the generations of the sons of Noah, and unto them were sons born after the flood.' Thus does the sacred historian refer to that grand disruption of the ancient world, by which the whole fabric of society was destroyed. The elements of human life required to be reconstituted: old associations were obliterated; old institutions forgotten. How idle had been the record of those gorgeous palaces, the abode of primeval giants, which were now tenanted by the monsters of the deep! Such is the criticism which, at first sight, strikes us, when we open four bulky volumes of the gossip and intrigue, the licentiousness and treachery, of those continental courts, which were just about to be overwhelmed by the deluge of the French Revolution. The cabals of freethinking courtiers; the deeper designs of Catharine or Frederic; the adroitness of Sir James Harris's counterplots at Berlin or the Hague; his occasional success; his usual discomfiture,—what is all this to us, who walk forth on the surface of a new world, and are rather interested with its life and freshness, than with the history of those metamorphic rocks, which constitute its interior soil ?
And yet for all this, the volumes before us have their interest. Let us be recalled by some historical Buckland to an inquiry into those effete causes which were the agents in such great catastrophies; and we cannot deny the importance of moral geology; we cannot but find it of benefit to revert to the facts which lie before us, in the order of God's providence, rather than, like the Dean of York, to derive our conclusions from unsupported hypothesis. In the letters and journals of our author, we are perpetually reminded of those glaring vices by which the great ones of the earth have, at certain periods, provoked God's punishment. We see the floodtide of republican fury let loose as clearly to overthrow and abolish the guilty triflers of the con
tinent, as we can read the causes of the Deluge in the violence and license, which, in the days of Noah, overspread the earth. This lesson is taught the more remarkably, because Lord Malmesbury walked blindfold amidst all the warnings which surrounded him. No man has more completely illustrateda rule, which it was reserved for the flippant folly of a certain shallow traveller to avow-- from all display of sound learning, and religious knowledge, and from all good moral reflections, the volume is thoroughly free.
But we must proceed to a short account of our journalist. James Harris, the son of a well-known writer on philology, was born at Salisbury, April 21st, A. D. 1746. His father had dedicated his Hermes' to Lord Hardwicke, as a lover of that 'polite literature, which, in the most important scenes of business, you have still found time to cultivate.' He does not appear to have infused the same taste into the mind of his son. Not only are his letters absolutely destitute of any scintillations of genius, but there is nothing of that richness and elegance by which the most commonplace productions of a superior mind are usually adorned._Inest sua gratia parris. A few ordinary Latin phrases —a few French proverbs—these are all the signs of literature which replaced the learned notes of the Philosophical Disquisitions.' In particular are we struck by the absence of any acquaintance with that copious and original language, within hearing of which Lord Malmesbury passed half his life. Except in an accidental notice, that Pitt and Lord Mulgrave came to him one Sunday to interpret a Dutch newspaper, in which was announced the capitulation of Ulm (the public offices being closed on that day), we see no reference to any knowledge of the Teutonic languages. His phrase, that he translated it as well as he could,' (vol. iv. p. 340,) shows no great acquaintance even with Dutch : of German he appears to have been profoundly ignorant. His excuse is to be found in the prejudice which suggested to Goëthe's father his strange unfairness to all native talent, and to which Schiller makes so beautiful an allusion:
Kein Augustisch Alter blühte,
Ging sie schutzloss, ungeerht. It is somewhat strange, however, that the philosopher of Salisbury should not have given a more literary direction to the active mind of his son: indeed, we are surprised to find, among the mistakes which are not infrequent in the editorial part of these volumes, [by the present Earl], that the name of so distinguished a scholar as Bishop Lowth, in the preface to whose English Grammar the ‘Hermes' is eulogized, should be sufficiently unknown to be altered into South, (Introductory Memoir, p. vi.) With the exception of various errors of a similar kind, we must give the noble editor credit for good sense and good feeling, and his publication is one among the many proofs, which our literature affords, that the present state of our schools and Universities, makes it impossible to pass through them with as little profit as James Harris experienced, according to his own account, in a two years' residence at Merton. The real education, however, of the man of business began when he left Oxford, at the beginning of Long Vacation, A. D. 1765, and took up his residence at Leyden. His first official employment was at Madrid, in 1767; next year he was made minister at Berlin. In 1777, he was sent to Russia; and at subsequent periods he was employed in Holland, Germany, and France. In all these positions he acquitted himself as a man of probity and talent; and if he was almost always unsuccessful, it was only because his lot was cast upon a time when the tide of affairs was unpropitious. To his. employers he very properly gave satisfaction; he received a pension; was made Knight of the Bath, while in Russia, A. D. 1780, and created Lord Malmesbury after the most successful of all his attempts, in 1788. He was made an Earl in 1800.
His title, indeed, was the reward of services, which he himself professes to have been rather those of a political emissary, than of an Ambassador. In the year 1785, the States of Holland were convulsed by a revolutionary movement, to which the great struggle with our American colonies had been the precursor. Influenced by the spirit which had led Franklin and Washington to free themselves from the rule of George the Third, three leading men in the European confederacy, the Pensionaries of Amsterdam, Dort, and Harlem, resolved to free their country from the ascendancy of the Stadtholder. With this domestic convulsion would have been connected apparently a wider plea for adding Bavaria to the Austrian dominions, compensating the Elector by giving him a kingdom, somewhat analogous to that at present ruled by Leopold, excepting that the participation of France would be secured by the cession of Namur and Luxembourg The personal qualities of the Prince of Orange gave an opening for their attempt. He was irresolute, timid, and
1 Tomline's Life of Pitt, c. vi. Tomline gives no disputes in Holland.
account of the internal
inactive. But the Princess of Orange, niece to the great Frederic, whose dying hand still grasped the sceptre of the House of Brandenburg, had something of her uncle's spirit. At this moment it was that Sir James Harris was appointed Ambassador at the Hague. With that inborn hatred to France, which belonged to his age and country, he entered at once into their internal intrigues, which were to prevent the Court of Versailles from playing the same game which it had successfully prosecuted in the western hemisphere. This was the only diplomatic transaction of his life, except the comparatively unimportant affair of the Falkland Islands, in which Lord Malmesbury had the least
And though it was an affair of no great moment at the time, and was completely effaced from public attention by the stirring incidents which shortly succeeded; yet, as almost the only thing which he conducted successfully, and as a good sample of adroitness and enterprise, we would recommend it to those who love to be conversant with the secret history of such adventures.
According to his own estimate, Lord Malmesbury seems to have run some little personal risk in his undertaking. The easy task of tilting against a polite adversary with protocols, in which the only danger was, whether he should give a title somewhat higher than he received, (as in the case of his subsequent conferences with Delacroix at Paris,) was exchanged for more serious labours. • Make the best of me,' he writes to Lord Carmarthen, as I have no personal fears, and should have no care about my own head being broken'-[what would the author of · Hermes' have said at Priscian's head being thus broken?]— if the same stroke did not affect that of his Majesty's minister.'Vol. ii. p. 94.
• If I mean to do anything of notoriety, I must wield the spit as well as the
Dutch hearts lie to the leeward of their stomachs; and if I now, at this moment, make any impression on them, it is from the beef and pudding they see in the back« house.'-Vol. ii. p. 98.
We might quote many extracts of a similar kind: every day's feelings and expectations are detailed with prolixity: the Ambassador appears to have thought all hopeless, when suddenly the Prussian monarch, Frederic William, nephew and successor to Frederic the Great, decided the question by sending an army to his sister's assistance. In this whole transaction we cannot but suppose that the efforts of Lord Malmesbury at the Hague contributed a good deal to strengthen and encourage the party of the Stadtholder, and that his caution and dexterity in addressing himself to the King of Prussia was a main cause of the conduct of that monarch. His intercourse with the King took place