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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 389 Smith, the late Professor Thomas Brown, Francis Horner, and Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, he was one of the original projectors of the Edinburgh Reeriew, begun in 1802, and was for many years the editor, as well as a chief contributor, to that celebrated work. While thus wielding the editorial wand of criticism with a felicity and power that astonished and subdued, Mr. Jeffrey daily rose in eminence at the bar. Brief poured in on brief; and amid so much business, of a description requiring the exercise of all the faculties, it was matter of astonishment how he found convenience for the prosecution of his literary pursuits. The following lively skktch of the Scottish advocate, in the hey-day of his career, is from Peter’s Letters to htk Kinsfolk :- ‘I When not pleading in one or other of the Coiirts, or before the Ordinary, he may commonly be seen standing in some corner, entertaining or entertained by such wit aa suits the-atmosphere of the place ; but it is seldom that his occupations permit him to remain long in any such position. Ever and anon his lively conversation is interrupted by some undertaker-faced solicitor, or perhaps by some hot, bustling exquisite clerk, who comes to announce the opening of some new debate, at which the presence of Mr. Jeffrey is necessary ; and away he darts like lightning to the indicated region, clearing his way through the surronnding crowd with irresistible alacrity -the more clumsy, or more grave doer, that had set him in motion, vainly puffing and elbowing to keep close in his wake A few seconds have scarcely elapsed, till you hear the sharp, shrill, but deep-toned trumpet of his voice, lifting itself in some far-off corner, high over the discordant Babe1 that intervenes-period following period in one unbroken chain of sound, aa if ita links had no beginning, and were to have no end. t t t t c “ It is impossible to conceive the existence of a more fertile, teeming intellect. The flood of his illustration seems to be at all times rising up to the very brim ; yet he commands and restrains with equal strength and skill ; or if it does boil over for a moment, it spreads such a richness around, that it is impossible to find fault with its extravagance. Surely never waa such a luxuriant ‘ copia fundi’ united with so much terseness of thought and brilliancy of imagination, and managed with so much unconscious, almost instinctive ease. If he be not the most delightful, he is by far the moat wonderful of speakers.” In 1821 Mr. Jeffrey was elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, an honour the more gratifying that it was obtained in opposition to powerful political interest. In 1829 he was unanimously chosen Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, on which occasion, we understand, he gave up all charge of the Edinburgh Reukw. In December 1830 Mr. Jeffrey was appointed Lord Advocate for Scotland, and returned to Parliament, in January following, for the Forfar district of burghs. In the course of his canvass he was well received, especially by the inhabitants of Dundee, four hundred of whom sat down to a public dinner given to the Lord Advocate and his friends, Sir James Gibson-Craig, Mr. Murray of Henderland, etc. ; but at Forfar, where his opponent, Captain Ogilvy of Arley, was a favourite, he was so roughly handled by the mob as to have been in danger of his life. At the general election in 1831 he stood candidate for the city of Edinburgh, in opposition to Robert Adam Dundas, Esq. Great excitement prevailed on this occasion. Besides memorials from most of the Trades’ Incorporations, a petition to which were appended seventeen thousand signatures, was presented to the Town Council in favour of Mr. Jeffrey; and
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390 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. so nearly balanced were the parties that the latter lost the election by only three votes, there being seventeen for the one, and-fourteen for the other. The result was by no means satisfactory to the immense crowds who thronged the streets. The carriage of the Lord Advocate, from which the horses were unyoked, was drawn by the populace to his own house, with every demonstration of respect; but it required a strong military force to prevent the most serious consequences to his opponents. Disappointed in the metropolis, Mr. Jeffrey was again elected by his former constituents. In 1833, the right of electing having been transferred from the Town Council to the citizens of Edinburgh, by the passing of the Reform Bill, he had the satisfactibn, along with Nr. Abercromby (subsequently speaker of the House of Commons), of being triumphantly returned for his native city. From the known talents and popularity of the Lord Advocate, great expectations were entertained of his appearance in the House of Commons ; but in this the public felt somewhat disappointed. He spoke seldom, and save on one or two occasions, apparently without any effort to distinguish hiIpself He was constant in his attendance, however : and had the honour, in his official capacity, of framing and carrying through two important measures, the Parliamentary and Burgh Reform Eills for Scotland. It is rare that men of purely legal or literary reputation gain by entering the arena of active political life. Erskine and Home Tooke are signal instances. In the case of Jeffrey, besides advanced years, various causes may have contributed to render him careless of Parliamentary popularity. He was no doubt identified as a leading advocate of Reform, and the Edinburgh Review had long been considered the organ of the Whigs ; but there was a third party to be satisfied, with whose ultra views he had probably little sympathy, and still less inclination to become their champion. In the estimation of this class of politicians, the Lord Advocate failed to realise the expectations that had been formed of him ; and some of the journals of the period indulged with considerable freedom of remark on his political sins, at least those of omission, for they were after all, on their own showing, chiefly of a negative description. The short Parliamentary career of Mr. Jeffrey terminated on his elevation to the Scottish behch in 1834. On quitting his political position, even the ultra portion of the press .was constrained to acknowledge that he returned “to his native city with perfectly clean hands, for his upright and honourable nature scorned jobbing on his own account ;” yet a more direct and truly gratifying approval of his public conduct awaited him. Before leaving London, he had the singular honour of being invited to a public dinner, given him by a majority of the members for Scotland. But it is not in reference to politics alone, however great may have been the influence of his political writings, that the character of Lord Jeffrey is to be estimated. Even apart from the eminence he attained as a barrister, his connection with the Edinburgh Review, and the literature of the last forty years, must carry his name down to posterity in honourable association with the most distinguished of his time. As a Reviezcer he maintained the reputa
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