Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/154

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


524: SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.

neglected by both. Such a contest, however so splendid a specimen of the lite- rary duello, on so magnificent an arena, may not again occur for a considerable length of time. Tlie defence of Peltier is also a masterly performance ; but the dissertation in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and his life of Sir Thomas More, in Dr Lardner's Cyclopaedia, are perhaps the most finished of the acknowledged productions of Sir James Mackintosh. The two volumes of his abridged History of England, serve rather to show the views he took of certain points of English history, and the philosophy he was able to bring to the task, with his habitual carelessness in minor details, than his talent at composing a connected, conse- cutive work. These two little volumes, 1 however, contain some striking passages and disquisitions. But in the opinion of Mr Campbell, who knew Sir James Mackintosh intimately, they were merely the expansion of the prefatory matter which he intended for a great historical work on the affairs of England since the Revolution, and which he had contemplated for several years, and in part written, but was too much impeded in his progress, both by his parliamentary duties and the infirm state of his health, to bring to a conclusion. His labours were, nevertheless, given to the world in 1834, in the form of a disquisition on the causes of the Revolution of 1688, exemplifying in its style an excellent dogma of the author, that history ought to be written with feeling, but without passion. He also contributed to the Edinburgh Review in its earlier days. An edition of his works, in three volumes, (with the exception of the History of England,) was published in 1846, containing his ethical and historical dissertations, a num- ber of essays on political and literary topics, reviews, and other contributions to periodical publications, and speeches on a variety of subjects delivered at the bar and in parliament.

After what has been said of Sir James Mackintosh's public life and character, it is almost unnecessary to add, that in priTate life, he displayed all the domestic virtues, and all the better qualities of human nature. He was mild, benevolent, generous, humane, and unaffected. Ready at all times to succour the unfortun- ate and the distressed, he bestowed on all who sought it, that assistance which their circumstances required; whether it was his time, his purse, or his advice ; and to all three, if desired, the applicant was welcome. The most pleasing characteristic of Hume that almost infantine simplicity which his friends re- marked in his intercourse with them mingled also in the character of Mack- intosh, contrasting finely with its nobler parts. His conversational powers were of the very first order, and never failed to delight all who had the good fortune to enjoy his society. His person was well formed, and above the mid- dle stature. His countenance was intelligent, and exhibited a pleasing com- pound of grave and gay expression, indicative of a readiness to sympathize with either of these feelings, as chance might direct their appeals to him.

Sir James was in an indifferent state of health for some time previous to his death, but that melancholy event was finally brought on by an accident While at dinner, about the beginning of March, 1832, a portion of the breast of a fowl, with a fragment of bone in it, which he had attempted to swallow, stuck in his throat, and, though afterwards extracted without producing any imme- diate serious consequences, the accident completely unsettled his general health. His debility from that hour daily increased, till the 30th of May, when he died in the sixty-sixth year of his age, at his house in Langham Place, having anti- cipated and met the hour of his dissolution with a firmness and resignation worthy of his past life. He was buried at Hampstead.

Sir James Mackintosh was twice married; first in 1789, to Miss Catherine

1 The greater part of a third volume was written by Sir James: he breaks ofl'at the era of the Bartholomew massacre.