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No. LXVI. will be published in May.
D. Willison, printer, Edinburgh.
MA Y, 1$20.
Art: 1. The Life of the Right Honourable Jolin Philpot
Curran, late Master of the Rolls in Ireland. By his Son; WILLIAM HENRY Curran, Barrister-at-Law. 8vo. 2 vols. pp. 970. London, 1819.
This is really a very good book; and not less instructive in
its moral, and general scope, than curious and interesting in its détails. It is a mixture of Biography and Historý.. and avoids the besetting sins of both species of composition -neither exalting the hero of the biography into an idol, nor deforming the history of a most agitated period with any spirit of violence or exaggeration. It is written, on the contrary, as it appears to us, with singular impartiality and temper-and the style is not less remarkable than the sentiments: For though it is generally elegant and spirited, it is without any of those pecuá liarities which the age, the parentage, and the country of the author, would lead us to expect :- And we may say, indeed, of the whole work, looking both to the matter and the manner, that it has no defects from which it could be gathered that it was written either by a Young man-or an Irishman-or by the Son of the person whose history it professės to record--though it has altractions which probably could not have existed under any other conditions. The distracting periods of Irish story are still almost too recent to be fairly delineated-and no Irishman, old enough to have taken a part in the transactions of 1780 or 1798, could well be trusted as their historian-while no one but à native, and of the blood of some of the chief actors, could be sufficiently acquainted with their motives and characters, to communicate that life and interest to the details which shine out in so many passages of the volumes before us. The incidental light which they throw upon the national character and state of society in Ireland, and the continual illustrations
VOL. XXXI. NO. 66.
they afford of their diversity from our own, is perhaps of more value than the particular facts from which it results; and stamp upon the work the same peculiar attraction which we formerly ascribed to Mr Hardy's life of Lord Charlemont.
To qualify this extraordinary praise, we must add, that the limits of the private and the public story are not very well observed, nor the scale of the work very correctly regulated as to either; so that we have alternately too much and too little of both :--that the style is rather wordy and diffuse, and the extracts and citations too copious; so that, on the whole, the book, like some others, would be improved by being reduced to little more than half its present size-a circumstance which makes it only the more necessary that we should endeavour to make a manageable abstract of it, for the use of less patient readers.
Mr Curran's parentage and early life are now of no great consequence. He was born, however, of respectable parents, and received a careful and regular education. He was a little wild at college ; but left it with the character of an excellent scholar, and was universally popular among his associates, not less for his amiable temper than his inexhaustible vivacity. He wrote baddish verses at this time, and exercised himself in theological discourses: for his first destination was for the Church, and he afterwards took to the Law, very much to his mother's disappointment and mortification-who was never reconciled to the change and used, even in the meridian of his fame, to lament what a mighty preacher had been lost to the world, and to exclaim, that, but for his versatility, she might have died the mother of a Bishop! It was better as it was. Unquestionably he might have been a very great preacher ; but we doubt whether he would have been a good parish priest, or even an exemplary bishop.
Irish lawyers are obliged to keep their terms in London; and, for the poorer part of them, it seems to be but a dull and melancholy noviciate. Some of his early letters, with which we are here presented, give rather an amiable and interesting picture of young Curran's feelings in this situation, separated at once from all his youthful friends and admirers, and left without money or recommendation in the busy crowds of a colder and more venal people. During the three years he passed in the metropolis, he seems to have entered into no society, and never to have come in contact with a single distinguished individual. He saw Garrick on the stage, and Lord Mansfield on the bench; and this exhausts his list of illustrious men in London. His only associates seem to have been a few of his countrymen, as poor and forlorn as himself. Yet the life