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SATURDAY, JANUARY 3, 1874.
The Life of the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval,
came vacant; it was offered to Perceval, and was
MR. SPENCER WALPOLE, the biographer of
the money difficulty by offering him the Chan
Spencer Perceval was a younger son of the Earl of Egmont, and had to make his own fortune. He was born in 1762. After Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, he went to the bar. In 1790 he married a lady of some fortune, and in the same year he was made, by the interest of his relative Lord Northampton, Deputy-Recorder of Northampton. Other small appointments followed. Romilly well described him on his joining the Midland Circuit. After mentioning another recruit, Ayscough, as one who "had read a great deal,' and was "cheerful, warm, friendly, and a great acquisition to the society of the circuit," Romilly adds:
"So, too, was Perceval; with much less, and indeed very little, reading, of a conversation barren of instruction, and with strong invincible prejudices on many subjects, yet by his excellent temper, his engaging manner, and his sprightly conversation, he was the delight of all who knew him."
had the aid of high connexions, and a bright,
This is the right key to Perceval's political career and character. He was clever, but not profound. He had all suitable ability for a successful Parliamentary life, and for this he
from the drafts of his speeches, which were carefully prepared, the immense quantity of Perceval's oratory in Parliament while he fought under the leadership of others.
Perceval was Prime Minister from October, 1809, till the shot of an assassin laid him low in the lobby of the House of Commons on May 11th, 1812. He had great difficulty in completing his administration; overtures for junction were unsuccessfully made to Lord Grey and Lord Grenville; he failed also in procuring Lord Sidmouth's assistance; Vansittart, one of Lord Sidmouth's friends, refused the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, and he then turned to two young men of promise, Lord Palmerston and Robert Milnes, the father of Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton. The Chancellorship of the Exchequer was refused by both, but Palmerston accepted the office of Secretary at War, without a seat in the Cabinet, for which he distrusted his capacity. After some other refusals, Perceval reluctantly determined to retain the Chancellorship of the Exchequer in his own hands, together with the office of First Lord of the Treasury. Speaking of Perceval's want of assistance for debate in the House of Commons, Mr. Walpole says:
"Two younger men were indeed capable, if they had been willing, of rendering more effectual
assistance. But the qualities which ultimately made Sir Robert Peel the greatest minister of the nineteenth century, were only partially developed stitutional diffidence condemned Lord Palmerston in 1810, when he made his maiden speech. Con
to habitual silence."
Parliament, with a great reputation from
Early in the session of 1810, Perceval showed the disinterestedness of his character by resisting a great temptation to enrich himself or a son by a sinecure Tellership of the Exchequer, which became suddenly vacant.
"The place was worth 2,700l. a year; it involved
no duties; it was in the gift of the Minister; it
could be held either by the Minister himself or Pitt, twenty-six years before, had been subjected any member of his family. Singularly enough, to a similar temptation."
refer the reader to Mr. Walpole's account of the admiration universally excited by Perceval's manly, courageous, and successful conduct through the House of Commons of the Regency Bill of 1811, and of the eulogiums from all quarters evoked by his melancholy death. His politics were cramped and narrow; he had no political prevision; but a more honest, virtuous or amiable man never appeared in English public life.
Mr. Walpole has done well to engraft an extensive historical narrative on the biography; but his history is sometimes obscured by illjudged omissions. He abstains from all explanation of the cause of Pitt's ceasing to be Prime Minister in 1801, when Addington took his place. He tells fully and well the Canning machinations against Lord Castlereagh in 1809, but omits to tell of the Castlereagh and Canning duel. We have complimented Mr. Walpole on his industry and fairness; but the book is not remarkable for ability, and we cannot call it a classical biography. Mr. Walpole is remiss in keeping up dates as he goes on. He is somewhat too didactic and dogmatical on constitutional questions. When Whitbread, in 1805, moved resolutions censuring Lord Mel-To ville, Pitt met them by moving the previous question, and the numbers being equal on a division, the Speaker, Abbott, gave his casting vote against the Government, for Whitbread's motion. Mr. Walpole goes out of his way to remark:
lation and the language of the last Parlia
"No historian, as far as I am aware, has ever criticized this vote of the Speaker; but it seems clear that it was wrong. It is the Speaker's duty, in the case of a tie, to give a vote which shall allow the question to be raised again. The Speaker, therefore, on this ground, should have voted for the previous question" (vol. i. p. 160).
NEW TALES FROM THE NORSE.
Tales from the Fjeld. A Second Series of
all who are in quest of a book as a new year's present for young people of any age, let us recommend these Tales from the Fjeld.' Everyone knows, or at least ought to know, the Popular Tales from the Norse,' which MM. Asbjörnsen and Moe collected, and to which Dr. Dasent some years ago gave so wide a circulation in England and in America by his translation, and the excellent introduction by which it was preceded. That work has long been out of print, but we are glad to learn from Dr. Dasent that a third edition will shortly be published. Meantime, let us welcome its worthy successor, this new series of Norse tales, full of the life and spirit, the imagination and the poetry, which made the first series so attractive to old and young alike.
The Speaker's duty can only be described by saying that he should give the vote which he thinks right. It is difficult to see how voting for the previous question would have led to For, although this book will serve as an resuscitation of the motion. If there were any admirable present for children, its interest is convention as to the Speaker's course, it might, by no means confined to them. Since MM. perhaps, be said that he should show inde- Asbjörnsen and Moe commenced their task of pendence of the Government. But anyhow collecting from the mouths of Norwegian we know not where Mr. Walpole has found peasants the tales in which successive generaauthority for his exposition of the Speaker's tions of their forefathers had delighted, a vast duty. Again, Mr. Walpole precipitately lays impulse has been given to the study of folkdown the law on a point which must engage lore in all its branches, and especially to that the attention of Parliament as soon as it of popular tales. The volumes which have assembles. He thinks he has found an un- been published on the subject are so numerous mistakable precedent for Mr. Gladstone's that they form no inconsiderable library in assumption of the office of Chancellor of the themselves, not to mention the host of articles Exchequer in addition to that of First Lord of in scientific and other journals in which the the Treasury, without the necessity of present- questions to which it has given rise have been ing himself to his constituents for re-election. treated by scholars in many lands, more When Perceval became First Lord of the especially in Germany. But few of the collecTreasury in 1809, he already held the office of tions have naturalized themselves in England, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and after many and only the German stories due to the ineffectual attempts to induce others to accept Brothers Grimm can compete in popularity it, he continued to hold it with that of First among us with the Norse tales, for which we Commissioner of the Treasury. The Speaker were indebted in the first place to MM. Asb(Abbott), the Lord Chancellor (Eldon), and the jörnsen and Moe, and in the second to Dr. Attorney and Solicitor General all advised Dasent. The present series is contributed that Perceval had not vacated his seat by entirely by M. Ásbjörnsen, for M. Moe, occubecoming First Lord of the Treasury. Mr. pied by his duties as a parish priest, has of Walpole concludes that "the acceptance of late years left the pleasant task of gleaning in the Chancellorship of the Exchequer by Mr. the harvest - field of popular wisdom and Gladstone would no more vacate his seat fancy to be carried on by his friend than Perceval's was vacated by the acceptance and former colleague, whose official duties of the First Lordship of the Treasury" (vol. ii. | lead him year after year into all manner of p. 55). Apart from the effects of recent legis-out-of-the-way places, along the shores of
lonely fjords, across fjelds where a human
Through all difficulties of this nature, Dr. Dasent appears to have successfully made his way. His translation is as accurate as it is spirited, preserving the essential characteristics of the original, and rendering it into vigorous English. Two faults, it is true, the one of commission, the other of omission,—we have to lay to his charge. It is said that good wine needs no bush, and analogy would lead us to conclude that good tales require no "setting." Dr. Dasent appears to have arrived at the same conclusion after he had finished about a third of the present volume. He began, he tells us, by setting the tales "in a frame formed by the imaginary adventures of English sportsmen on the Fjeld or Fells in Norway." But after a while he " grew weary of the setting and framework," and "resolved to let the Tales speak for themselves and stand alone." We are sorry that this resolution was not formed at an earlier period, for the "setting and framework" are uncalled for, and out of keeping with what they enclose. Our other complaint is, that Dr. Dasent, while he has often altered the titles of the original stories, and has completely changed the order in which they occur, gives no numerical references or other indications by which they may be identified with his versions. The absence of some such assistance has been the cause of our wasting many a minute, spent in an attempt to find in the pages of Asbjörnsen's new series of 'Folke-Eventyr' Dr. Dasent's stories of 'The Haunted Mill' and 'The Honest Penny.' The second of these tales really belongs to the first series, to which it was contributed by M. Moe, forming No. 59 in the fifth and last edition. But having noticed these slight drawbacks, we are glad to resume the more agreeable office of commending to our readers