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THE INSOLENCE OF OFFICE.

The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes.-Shakespeare.

It is always interesting to contemplate the various subdivisions which distinguish a highly-cultivated community. Taking out of consideration those factitious distinctions which are only incidental to civilization in some of its several stages of progression, a society which has emerged from the depth of barbarism is necessarily divided into two principal classes-the possessors, whether, by inheritance or otherwise, of sufficient property to render them independent of personal labour; and, secondly, that larger portion whose destiny is apparently less happy. Of the latter, a small part are generally, in consequence of their connection with the first class, enabled, by the force of a superior education, and other advantages, to pursue the more honourable and alluring professions, while the remainder are left to grope their way through the less-inviting paths of life. Of such of these last, who are compelled to drudge in the lower duties of trade, or of manual labour, it is not my intention to speak in the course of this paper, which, although commenced with so broad a view of the great social family, has reference to a particular subject: my strictures will be chiefly applicable to a middle set-to the men whose education has been far from despicable, but who have been unable to crowd into the learned professions. These are employed in various ways, and principally as assistants to the more fortunate ranks, and they may be distinguished as being either the retainers of the public, of large trading or joint-stock companies, or of private individuals.

To this class must, I think, almost exclusively attach the stigma of the poet as practisers of the insolence of office; and with most force to such of the genus who are in possession of public employments. It is but just, however, to separate the innocent from the guilty, and, as the

only legitimate object of appeals to the press is the correction of abuses which are beyond the reach of ordinary punishment, to fix, with scrupulous precision, the blame upon the proper individuals. Among the holders of office, men of independent property frequently possess the highest seats: these are candidates for renown and the fashionable distinctions of the day, and in the elation of heart consequent upon gratified ambition, are seldom insolent in the exercise of their exalted functions. On the other hand, the lowest ranks, the individuals of which are, as usual, the most numerous, are generally plodding for their daily bread, or exerting themselves in securing an inadequate provision for their families: they are too humble to be insolent, insolence being the attendant only of mistaken and low-minded pride; and are so far from being comprehended in the number of the dispensers of official insolence, that they are themselves the chief objects of the contuinely and oppression of the guilty persons. The truly guilty are the upper, not the highest or the lowest, servants of the public;--they are to be found among the comptrollers, the commissioners, the secretaries of boards, and sometimes the superior clerks of office. Of course, there are exceptions even among these; some few (sed rare aves, &c.) owe their situations to real merit, and possess minds of too generous a character to admit the low and vulgar feelings which our censure implies. But the principal part have made their way to fifteen hundred, or two or three thousand per annum; by means, and the usual aid of opportune occurrences, in which personal worth had the least share; and the conduct of these self-important persons towards their lessfortunate fellow-labourers is, as far as they dare, (and there unhappily exist but few checks upon the play

of their natural tempers,) almost universally marked by unwarrantable haughtiness and oppression.

A peep behind the scenes, engrossed by these inflated demi-gods, would lay open to our astonished view a system of partiality and oppression, of whose existence the public is altogether ignorant. But the heroes move, unhappily, within the shaded precincts of that ambiguous circle into which the public interest does not penetrate: the mighty men have their world to themselves-important, indeed, in their own narrow minds, but little known or cared for by the rest of the creation. We are deterred, therefore, from entering into minute details of their conduct or concerns; and one or two rapidlysketched specimens of the sort of being alluded to will perhaps be sufficient for our purpose. Not to extend our view over a space unnecessarily wide, one source may serve us for each of our drafts: let us select one of the principal of the public departments, and, to avoid being too particular, which is the vice of satire, content ourselves with pointing it out to the reader acquainted with official details, as being precisely the one which is glaringly the worst-regulated of the whole.

About twenty years ago, the affairs of this office were, if possible, still worse managed than they are now; persons without any capacity at all had, in the necessary operation of a corrupt system, intruded into it, insomuch that the ordinary routine of business became at length impeded. A complete change of the people was out of the question: the public is only, on extraordinary occasions, allowed to hire adult or efficient servants-they must be taken from the boarding-schools, and, after a service of ten or twelve years, chance must decide whether they are to become useful retainers, or only life-charges upon the revenues of their country. The only attainable cure for the evil, therefore, was to introduce an extra workman, sufficiently experienced in business to enable him to undertake (as he might in fact easily do) the most material duties of twenty or thirty loungers, whose inefficiency was perhaps originally attributable

to their excessive numbers. Anthropodagricus, a lawyer, was chosen, and a lucrative post created for his especial provision. It soon afterwards appeared, that it was no part of this gentleman's system to serve the public effectually, by attempting to re-model an establishment which he found in a state of peculiar derangement: he owed his place to the incapacity or laziness of the others; and to the same source he continued to look as the one most fruitful of advantage to himself. The old clerks were encouraged in their love of sinecure emoluments,-vacancies, as they occurred, were pretty generally filled by his relatives and dependents, who, as far as their patron's influence extended, engrossed all the most profitable duties, and, in time, formed a very compact phalanx of growing commissioners, &c., whose insolence towards their companions en bas can only be equalled by the rapidity of their own advancement. The influence of Anthropodagricus has lately declined somewhat, owing to his inordinate rapacity. Although in the receipt of near four thousand a-year, he some time since so far practised upon the easy tempers of his superiors, who were not sufficiently aware of his interested proceedings, as to obtain the grant of a very considerable sum of public money, upon the impudent plea of a temporary extension of business-an act which led to the most vexatious inquiries, and which the united eloquence of the cabinet failed to palliate or support. It is said, that he scarcely ever appears in the presence of the Premier without soliciting some new favour; and that the bore and inconvenience are only avoided by keeping the door as much as possible closed against him.

Plumbeus is one of the fortunate retainers of this worthy placeman. Before his patron's advancement, he acted in the capacity of his underclerk, which, in the legal line, is synonymous with footboy, &c., and since then he has been united in the holy bands of matrimony with a lady of his master's household-not a relation, nor, I believe, as some say, his cookmaid. Being gifted with a tolerable memory, and, from

corporeal constitution, considerable powers of application, he has been very serviceable in promoting the adopted system of exclusion, by el bowing out all strangers and inter lopers. He is, in short, the Cerberus to this minor hell, and denies entrance to all but the ghosts of the damned, and the privileged members of the Plutean family. He has the usual vices of upstarts-low cunning, vulgarity, rudeness, slavish pliability of principles; and having, in the regular course of such an official career, become charged with the superintendance of a considerable department, the whole of these amiable qualities are at this moment in full activity. He is prompt to a degree bordering on the miraculous, in diverting every important occurrence to his own advantage, either as the means of attracting the notice of his superiors, or of seizing, as his own peculiar property, the fruits of the industry and talents of the gentlemen who are so unfortunate as to be placed under his orders: his language, when he may safely permit it to luxuriate in the ear of vulgar familiarity, would be strictly suitable to that class of society in the Western Peninsula, who, in their own significant idiom, are said to be continually "hartos de ajos;" his address is starched, constrained, and awkward, in the presence of the higher agents of government, and rude and insolent towards those of less official rank than himself; and he is zealous to a fault, even in the eyes of his employers, in perfecting all the petty devilries of state-craft. Such is Plumbeus-broad-shouldered, ungrammatical Plumbeus-who, by virtue of the aforesaid patronage, by dint of perseverance, the silent lapse of time, and the indolence of others, whose work, provided it be sufficiently profitable, he is always willing to undertake, has contrived to elevate himself into the post of the indispensable drudge of the higher powers, who, from the frequency of the practice, have at length contracted the habit of throwing, from time to time, into his mouth, (always faithfully open,) some rich, but, peradventure, half-picked bone, as a reward for his servile and knavish exertions,

Terræfilius is a person of a somewhat different stamp. In 1799 he entered the office in the humble capacity of an extra clerk, with a salary of five shillings per diem; at present he enjoys one of its superior posts; and he but recently relin linquished his seat in the Senate, which he held for ten years. Unquestionably, the advantage of possessing talents of a very respectable order has contributed to his elevation; but he is mainly indebted to circumstances which were wholly fortuitous; and the chief defects of his character and conduct are attributable to his neglect, while estimating the extent of his acquisitions, of separating the chance-gifts of fortune from the dearer fruits of personal exertion-a mental process, no doubt calculated to act as a salutary check upon his superb spirit, and inspire into his breast some respect for his less-fortunate fellow-labourers. The "insolence of office" peculiar to this exalted personage is so much the more grating, as it is more than usually refined. It is of that species which delights less in kicks than in jumps; it prompts him to stride "proudly unobservant" over the palpable head of a passing acquaintance, with the glorious feelings of a being raised by innate merit and extraordinary accidents above the common lot of humanity. At one time numbered with the lowest, he now disdains to appear cognizant even of the existence of an order of men so widely removed from his present official rank: in spite of the evidence afforded by the experience of his own case, he affects to consider it impossible that any individual among them should possess respectable talents; he leaves them, therefore, with undisguised contempt, unpitied and unredressed, to the mercy, or rather the oppression, of parvenus of even less feeling than himself.

A grand era is rapidly approaching, when the petty grievance here adverted to will be swept away, together with others of greater moral importance. Tyranny is too tenacious of its prey to be wholly dislodged before the lapse of large period of time: it lurks in a thousand obscure corners, long after its over

throw upon the more prominent ground on which it first attracted the attention and indignation of mankind. But it will finally be effectually suppressed; for after its discomfiture on the great public stage, every succeeding defeat within its weaker entrenchments must hasten, with tenfold force, the great catastrophe. The insolence of office must be acknowledged to be something more than an injury which affects only the feelings of the mind: it is a component part of a general system of positive wrong and oppression,of a deprivation of right, as it affects both the happiness and fortunes of the injured party. It is never dispensed but by the vile and unfeeling, it is never inflicted but upon the helpless victims of misdirected power. It is, therefore, of that class of evils which it is an especial effect of an advanced stage of civilization to overthrow.

Having predicted the eventual decline of a species of wrong so hard to be assailed, because so generally overlooked, we are, in conclusion, to advert to the means by which that effect is to be accomplished. The Press will take the lead in this as in other salutary improvements; but its full attainment must be preceded by a complete reformation of the mode of conducting the public business. After all the multifarious discussions upon the subject of official abuses, it is astonishing how little has in reality been hitherto done towards this end: mismanagement of the grossest kind still prevails throughout the various departments; and there has not even an approximation been made towards an enlightened system of official economy and regulation. Commissioners, comp

trollers, secretaries, the middle men between the great lords of office and the inferior workmen,-are still in possession of inordinate, but concealed, unobserved power: their respective departments are kept in expensive disorder, in subservience to their interested purposes; unnecessary business is designedly in constant course of accumulation; and as an inevitable consequence of a practice having its foundation in fraud and deceit, pride, partiality, and cupidity are engendered and encouraged, making altogether that complicated description of grievance denominated the "insolence of office." Where an abuse so deteriorative of public economy still subsists, after all the bustle and parade it has from time to time created, sufficient proof is shewn of the peculiar inadequacy of the means by which it has hitherto been attempted to be destroyed. The fact is, Parliamentary inquiries, upon matters of this nature, conducted, as they too frequently are, under the controul of a machinery impervious to the public eye, are altogether fruitless of good effects, and only serve to perpetuate the old system of deception and mismanagement. But it is impossible long to delude an enlightened age by expedients as shallow as they are iniquitous: a better day must at length arrive,-one less notorious for what in vulgar parlance is called political humbug, more sincerely favourable to improvement; and perhaps no surer incans can be devised of hastening its introduction, than frequent and scasonable appeals to the Press, which are never entirely destitute of utility, even when they appear in the slight form of desultory Essays, of which the present is a feeble and unworthy example.

YPSILON.

WORKS PREPARING FOR PUBLICATION.

LONDON.

Speedily will be published, an Account of the Royal Hospital and Collegiate Church of St. Katharine, near the Tower of London, by J. B. Nichols, F.S.A. F.L.S.

The Second Part of the Modern History of Wiltshire, containing the Hundred of Heytesbury, by Sir R. C. Hoare, Bart. is printing.

The Czar, an historical tragedy, by J. Cradock, Esq. M.A. F.S.A. formerly of Gumley, in Leicestershire, will appear in a few days.

A Selection of the most remarkable Trials and Criminal Causes is printing, in five volumes. It will include all famous - cases, from that of Lord Cobham, in the reign of Henry the Fifth, to that of John Thurtell; and those connected with foreign as well as English jurisprudence.

Shortly will be published, a Grammar of the Coptic or Ancient Egyptian Language, by the Rev H. Tattam, A.M. F.R.S.L. chaplain to the English Church at Amsterdam.

A Suppleinent to the London Catalogue of Books, published since October 1822 to the present time, will appear about August.

The Rev. T. Arnold, M.A. late fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, has been for many years employed in writing a History of Rome, from the earliest Times to the Death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The first volume, from the Rise of the Roman State to the formation of the second Triunvirate, A.U.C. 710, B.C. 44, will soon be published.

The Butterfly-Collector's Vade Mecum, or a Synoptical Table of English Butterflies, illustrated with coloured plates, in a pocket volume, is in the press.

Shortly will be published, in two volumes, uniforin with the French Classics, and with an authentic portrait of M. Jouy, engraved by E. Scriven, Le Petit Hermite, ou Tableau des Mours Parisiennes, extracted from "L'Hermite de la Chaussé d'Antin," "Le Franc-parleur," "L'Hermite de la Guïane," and "L'Hermite en Prison," with explanatory notes, and an essay on the life and writings of M. Jouy, by L. T. Ventouillac, editor of the "Choix de Classiques Français."

A Diagram illustrative of the Formation of the Human Character, suggested by Mr Owen's development of a new view of society, will speedily be published.

VOL. XV.

Dr Forbes, of Chichester, will shortly publish his Translation of Avenbrugger, and a series of original cases and dissec. tions, illustrating the utility of the Stethoscope and Percussion.

M. Laennec is preparing for publication, a new edition of his celebrated Treatise on Mediate Auscultation, with considerable alterations and improvements. In consequence, Dr Forbes has postponed the second edition of his translation.

Speedily will be published, an Enquiry into the Duties and Perplexities of Medical Men as Witnesses in Courts of Justice, with cautions and directions for their guidance, by J. G. Smith, M.D.

The Scotsman's Library, announced in a former Number, will be ready in August.

The Mechanic's Oracle, or Artizan's complete Laboratory and Workshop, is in the press.

The Hermit in Italy, or Observations on the Manners and Customs of the Italians at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century, will soon appear.

A Chronological History of the West Indies is announced, by Capt. Thomas Southey, commander, Royal Navy, in three volumes, octavo.

A Compendium of Medical Theory and Practice, founded on Dr Cullen's Nosology, which will be given as a Text-book, and a translation annexed, is in preparation, by D. Uwins, M.D.

Tales of a Traveller, by the Author of the "Sketch Book,' " and "Knickerbocker's New York," will appear in a few days.

A Tale of Paraguay, by R. Southey, LL.D. &c. is announced.

Speedily will be published, Memoirs of the Rose, comprising botanical, poetical, and miscellaneous recollections of that celebrated flower; in a series of letters to a lady.

Patmos, and other poems, are in the press, by James Edmeston, author of "Sacred Lyrics."

Specimens (selected and translated) of the Lyric Poetry of the Minessingers, of the reign of Frederick Barbarossa and the succeeding emperors of the Suabian dynasty, with historical, critical, and biographical remarks, are in the press.

Elements of Algebra, compiled from Garnier's French translation of Leonard Euler, and arranged so as to form a complete System of Elementary Instruction in the First Part of Algebra, by C. Taylor,

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