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In the one case, thesrepresentative of His Majesty voluntarily put himself on the same stinted allowance, and most cheerfully shared the same fate with the meanest of the crew.—In the other, the representative of his Most Christian Majesty was the first to take care of himself—but we will not pursue the parallel.
Art. IX. Mandevi/le: a Tale of the seventeenth Century in England. By William Godwin. 3 vols. Edinburgh. 1817pp- 989
HHHIS is, in our opinion, a very dull novel and a very clever book. Mandeville is one of those unhappy beings whose minds are so irritable and liable to disorder, as neveT to be clearly and securely rational, nor, except in occasional paroxysms, wholly and decidedly mad. We who enjoy, or flatter ourselves with thinking that we enjoy, our sober senses, cannot, of course, pretend to describe the internal operations of minds of this class, nor to explain by what strange perversion of intellect they see in all mankind a conspiracy against them, and by what stranger ingenuity they account for and justify to their own glimmering reason the follies and crimes of their insanity. But the character is unfortunately but too frequent in this country, to leave an accurate observer in utter ignorance of what passes in the minds of these unhappy persons. We certainly have seen them in different stages of the malady, and from the best judgment which we are enabled to form of a subject, which we hope we understand but superficially, we should say that Mr. Godwin's delineation is admirable—faithful in its conception, forcible in its expression; and, in a word, the most lively and tangible image which we have ever seen of the waywardness of a selfish temper and the wanderings of a depraved understanding.
Our readers will easily believe, that we do not mean to trespass on their patience with any detail of the history, or any quotation of the prodigal rhapsodies of such a character. We could not do full justice to either, without following the minute and evanescent links by which the real events connect themselves with the infirmity of Mandeville; besides, the history of this gloomy spirit is, from the very ability and intimacy, if we may use the expression, with which it is drawn, not only unamusing but painful. Mandeville is the relater of his own story, and he indulges to its fullest extent the privilege of wearying his auditors with a detail of his own thoughts, hopes, fears, vanities, injuries and crimes: those who wish to know what it would be to live with such a being may consult Mr. Godwin; but those who have not that melancholy curiosity will abstain from his course of morbid anatomy.
It appears to us somewhat singular, that this gloomy style should
Irave such charms for Mr. Godwin, that it should be, in fact, the one in which he seems to feel himself most truly in his element; but so it is; all the heroes of all his novels are infected with this malady. 'Falkland,'' St. Leon,' and ' Mandeville' are members of the same family, and their portraits are painted with the same melancholy force and disgusting accuracy; but Falkland is accompanied by rational beings, and it is a rational being who describes the scenes in which Falkland plays a part.—Here then is sbme relief to the mind; aud the contrast between the innocence of some of the personages, the deep villany of others, and the insane and therefore almost pardonable atrocities of the hero, form altogether in ' Caleb Williams,' one of the most interesting stories amongst our British novelists. But when Mr. Godwin makes the Bedlamite not only the hero but the relater of the tale, it is evident that all contrast is lost, all interest vanishes, the characters are all seen by the same discoloured eye, and all described by the same rambling tongue; ' they come like shadows, so depart,' and nobody feels about them any thing but that they are the inventions and colourings of a madman's brain.
We are therefore obliged to pronounce this work intolerably tedious and disgusting, though its author has proved himself intimately skilled iu the perversity of the human mind, and in all the blackest and most horrible passions of the human heart.
Art. X. An Argument for construing largely the Right of an Appellee of Murder, to insist on Trial by Battle; and also for abolishing Appeals. By E. A. Kendall, Esq. F. A. S. Second Edition, revised and enlarged. London. Ibl8. 8vo. pp.'307.
|N the last occasion when that extraordinary mode of trial called Wager of Battel was allowed in Westminster Hall, Sir Henry Spelman informs us that the circumstance created no small degree of perturbation among the gentlemen of the long robe. The battel was instituted, he says, ' non sine magna jurisconsultorum perturbatione.'* In that case, however, the question related only to a civil right; the parties interested were not to fight in person, but by their champions; and, the dispute having been in fact compromised before the day of battle, the cham pious met only as a matter of form. A more remarkable occasion seems now to present itself, when a person solemnly accused of an atrocious murder has challenged his accuser to ' prove the charge with his body,' and when the challenge, if allowed and accepted, can scarcely fail to terminate in the death or serious injury of one or both parties. Should the duel take place, it will be indeed a sin
Gloss. 103. & vid. 5 Blackst. Com. 22.
Vol. xvm. No. Xxxt. M gular gular sight to behold the present learned and venerable judges of the court of King's Bench, clothed in their full costume, sitting all day long in the open air in Tothill Fields, as the umpires of a match at single-stick. Nor will a less surprizing spectacle be furnished by the learned persons who are to appear as the counsel of the combatants, and who, as soon as the ring informed, will have to accompany their clients within the lists, and to stand, like so many seconds and bottle-holders, beside a pair of barelegged, bare-armed, and bare-headed cudgel lists.
The subject, ludicrous as it seems, is one of considerable seriousness and importance. That a person, tried on an indictment for murder, and acquitted by a jury, should undergo a second trial for the same charge at the instance of the relations of the deceased, is itself an occurrence of a most striking nature. Such is the simple effect of the appeal of murder now pending, even supposing the plea of wager of battel to be disallowed, and the party accused to be tried in the ordinary manner. But when on the singularity of an appeal of murder is grafted the additional singularity of a judicial combat, the case is more than striking—it is really deplorable. The reflexion that, in the nineteenth century, a human life may be sacrificed to a practice which might have been conceived too absurd, impious, and cruel to have outlived the dark ages, cannot be entertained without pain. Nor can it fail of producing an anxious wish that the speedy interference of the legislature may abolish this barbarous absurdity, and purify the criminal law of England from a blot which time and civilization have strangely failed to wear away.
The question as to the propriety of abolishing appeals of murder (and, if the appeal of murder were abolished, the wager of battle must fall with it) has already occupied, on repeated occasions, the notice of parliament; or, at least, that of the House of Commons. On those occasions, however, it came before the House, blended with matter of a political nature, and failed to receive the calm and comprehensive examination due to it, and that final disposal which it imperiously requires. The strange circumstauces of the appeal now pending will, as we cannot but believe, once more draw the attention of the legislature to the subject; and it is fervently to be hoped, that any measures which shall be adopted with respect to it, may be founded in the fullest inquiry and consideration. It is with the desire of contributing our quota of suggestions to the discussion, that we have undertaken the present Article. We are not, indeed, able to present our ideas in the most advantageous form of which, imperfect as they are, they may be susceptible. Much more time would be requisite for that purpose
than we can now command; and, on the other hand, the probability that the question will be agitated, before another opportunity is afforded us of stating our sentiments on it to the public, forbids delay.
The same circumstance will, we trust, be considered as au adequate apology for the superficial view which alone we can supply of the publication that gives this Article its title. The first edition of it, which appeared in November, 1817, we did not happen to see. The second, which seems to have received such additions and improvements as nearly to entitle it to the character of a new work, has emerged from the press while we write ;* and we can review it on no other condition than that of submitting to the reader the impression produced by a rapid perusal. This, under ordinary circumstances, would hardly be proper; but the author is laudably anxious that his endeavours may produce an influence on public opinion, previously to the consideration of the question he discusses, by the Houses of Parliament; and, in seizing the very first opportunity of introducing his 'argument' to the notice of the general reader, we trust we may be forgiven for shewing ourselves anxious to do justice rather to his object than to his work.
We might be more reluctant to deliver any opinion respecting the publication of Mr. Kendall, had not our short acquaintance with it impressed us, on the whole, very favourably. It seems an acute, vigorous, and spirited production; replete with matter of curious research; and every where bespeaking a fearless independence of mind. In its leading conclusions, also, we should be disposed to acquiesce; though not without a fair allowance for occasional dissent; nor without some little reservation for doubts, which might, perhaps, be ripened into dissent by a more leisurely perusal. The haste with which the work was originally composed (and thus far, at least, we have a fellow-feeling with the author) is apparent even in its improved state. With no want of the external marks of method, it is considerably immethodical; and its voluminous notes, not satisfied with their proper province of supporting the march of the text by a numerous flying-artillery of antiquarian black-letter, are apt very ungraciously to intrude on the conduct of the main battle. The author disclaims, and in fact was not obliged to study, professional accuracy in treating of legal subjects; nor are we aware that he has fallen into any material errors in this department; yet there are one or two casualties which may as well be repaired on any favourable occasion that offers. Thus, he asserts (and this even to the injury of his argument, p. 119-) that, —_ "- -' —i~
* It oame to eur hands on the 2titu Jan. 1818.
in our modern courts of equity, a single oath to a fact, on the side of the plaintiff', is conclusive; whereas the notorious rule of those courts is, that a plaintiff can never have a decree on the evidence of a single oath, if that oath is contradicted by the oath of the defendant; and, consequently, if the single oath of either party is to be considered as conclusive, it is that of the defendant.
A more serious complaint might be made of the work, on the score of its evincing a sharpness of manner, bordering on resentfulness. The author seems impressed with the notion that a stupid and irrational prejudice in favour of appeals of murder prevails among the members of the community in general; and this prejudice he basset himself to encounter with a warmth and exciteability not unlike its own. Secvos compescuit ignibus ignes. But he should remember that irritation and intemperance are never to be destroyed by their own weapons; they have no real opposite but extreme calmness; and, considering his indubitable superiority in information and argument, he might the less have been expected to feel the contagion of that unsuitable vehemence to which he is opposed. - Before we glance at any of the topics which this subject presents, it may not be improper to recall to the remembrance of the reader some of the leading features of the very singular case from which the whole discussion took its rise. Mary Ashford, a beautiful young woman, the daughter of a peasant at Erdington in Warwick, having been found dead, and to all appearance murdered with circumstances of great atrocity, Abraham Thornton, a bricklayer, then residing in the neighbourhood, and the last person seen in her company, Mas indicted for the murder, and on this indictment was tried at Warwick in the summer of last year, when, after a trial of twelve hours and a half, the jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty.—William Ashford, the eldest brother and heir of the deceased, has since appealed Thornton of the murder of his sister. To this charge, Thornton has pleaded Not Guilty, and that he is ready to defend the same by his body, and has thrown down his glove in open court as a gage of battle. Then Ashford has counter-pleaded, alleging that there are circumstances which induce the most violent presumption of Thornton's guilt, in which case the law is that the person appealed agaiust is not to be permitted to wage battle, but must be tried by his country. To this counter-plea, again, Thornton has replied, stating all the facts in bis favour (which were proved at the trial); then setting out the indictment and acquittal, and concluding with an averment that these matters furnish stronger presumptions of his innocence than the facts stated on the other side afford of his guilt. Thus far the proceeding has now advanced; though it will have travelled a further stage before these observations become