Political Essays (1819)/Dottrel-catching
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING CHRONICLE.
Jan. 27, 1814.
The method of taking this bird is somewhat singular, and is described in an old book in the following terms:
"The Dottrel is a foolish bird of the crane species, very tall, awkward, and conceited. The Dottrel-catcher, when he has got near enough, turns his head round sideways, and makes a leg towards him: the bird, seeing this, returns the civility, and makes the same sidelong movement. These advances are repeated with mutual satisfaction, till the man approaches near enough, and then the bird is taken."
A poet-laureat or a treasury sophist is often taken much in the same way. Your Opposionist, Sir, was ever a true gull. From the general want of sympathy, he sets more store by it than it is worth; and for the smallest concession, is prevailed upon to give up every principle, and to surrender himself, bound hand and foot, the slave of a party, who get all they want of him, and then—"Spunge, you are dry again!"
A striking illustration of the common treatment of political drudges has lately occurred in the instance of a celebrated writer, whose lucubrations are withheld from the public, because he has declared against the project of restoring the Bourbons. As the court and city politicians have spoken out on this subject, permit me, Sir, to say a word in behalf of the country. I have no dislike whatever, private or public, to the Bourbons, except as they may be made the pretext for mischievous and impracticable schemes. At the same time I have not the slightest enthusiasm in their favour. I would not sacrifice the life or limb of a single individual to restore them. I have very nearly the same feelings towards them which Swift has expressed in his account of the ancient and venerable race of the Struldbruggs. It is true, they might in some respects present a direct contrast to Bonaparte. A tortoise placed on the throne of France would do the same thing. The literary sycophants of the day, Sir, are greatly enamoured (from some cause or other) with hereditary imbecility and native want of talent. They are angry, not without reason, that a Corsican upstart has made the princes of Europe look like wax-work figures, and given a shock to the still life of kings. They wish to punish this unpardonable presumption, by establishing an artificial balance of weakness throughout Europe, and by reducing humanity to the level of thrones. We may perhaps in time improve this principle of ricketty admiration to Eastern perfection, where every changeling is held sacred, and that which is the disgrace of human intellect is hailed as the image of the Divinity!
It is said that in France the old royalists and the revolutionary republicans are agreed in the same point. Bonaparte is the point of union between these opposite extremes, the common object of their hate and fear. I can conceive this very possible from what I have observed among ourselves. He has certainly done a great deal to mortify the pride of birth in the one, and the vanity of personal talents in the others. This is a very sufficient ground of private pique and resentment, but not of national calamity or eternal war.I am, Sir, your humble servant,