Critical and Historical Essays — Volume 1 eBook

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lighter than that of any native dynasty, if to that gang of public robbers, which formerly spread terror through the whole plain of Bengal, has succeeded a body of functionaries not more highly distinguished by ability and diligence than by integrity, disinterestedness, and public spirit, if we now see such men as Munro, Elphinstone, and Metcalfe, after leading victorious armies, after making and deposing kings, return, proud of their honourable poverty, from a land which once held out to every greedy factor the hope of boundless wealth, the praise is in no small measure due to Clive.  His name stands high on the roll of conquerors.  But it is found in a better list, in the list of those who have done and suffered much for the happiness of mankind.  To the warrior, history will assign a place in the same rank with Lucullus and Trajan.  Nor will she deny to the reformer a share of that veneration with which France cherishes the memory of Turgot, and with which the latest generations of Hindoos will contemplate the statue of Lord William Bentinck.

WARREN HASTINGS

(October 1841)

Memoirs of the Life of Warren Hastings, first Governor-General of Bengal.  Compiled from Original Papers, by the Rev. G.R.  Gleig M.A. 3 vols. 8vo.  London:  1841.

We are inclined to think that we shall best meet the wishes of our readers, if, instead of minutely examining this book, we attempt to give, in a way necessarily hasty and imperfect, our own view of the life and character of Mr. Hastings.  Our feeling towards him is not exactly that of the House of Commons which impeached him in 1787; neither is it that of the House of Commons which uncovered and stood up to receive him in 1813.  He had great qualities, and he rendered great services to the State.  But to represent him as a man of stainless virtue is to make him ridiculous; and from regard for his memory, if from no other feeling, his friends would have done well to lend no countenance to such adulation.  We believe that, if he were now living, he would have sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind to wish to be shown as he was.  He must have known that there were dark spots on his fame.  He might also have felt with pride that the splendour of his fame would bear many spots.  He would have wished posterity to have a likeness of him, though an unfavourable likeness, rather than a daub at once insipid and unnatural, resembling neither him nor anybody else.  “Paint me as I am,” said Oliver Cromwell, while sitting to young Lely.  “If you leave out the scars and wrinkles, I will not pay you a shilling.”  Even in such a trifle, the great Protector showed both his good sense and his magnanimity.  He did not wish all that was characteristic in his countenance to be lost, in the vain attempt to give him the regular features and smooth blooming cheeks of the curl-pated minions of James the First.  He was content that his face should go forth marked with all the blemishes which had been put on it by time, by war, by sleepless nights, by anxiety, perhaps by remorse; but with valour, policy, authority, and public care written in all its princely lines.  If men truly great knew their own interest, it is thus that they would wish their minds to be portrayed.

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