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[265]

Sir James Mackintosh is a little too precise, a little too much made up in his manners and conversation, but is at the same time very exact, definite, and logical in what he says, and, I am satisfied, seldom has occasion to regret a mistake or an error, where a matter of principle or reasoning is concerned, though, as he is a little given to affect universal learning, he may sometimes make a mistake in matters of fact. As a part of a considerable literary society, however, he discourses most eloquent music, and in private, where I also saw him several times, he is mild, gentle, and entertaining. But he is seen to greatest advantage, and in all his strength, only in serious discussion, to which he brings great disciplined acuteness and a fluent eloquence, which few may venture to oppose, and which still fewer can effectually resist.

Allen, who is a kind of secretary to Lord Holland, and has lived in his family many years, is a different man. He has a great deal of talent, and has written much and well, in the ‘Edinburgh Review’; he has strong feelings and great independence of character, which make him sometimes oppose and answer Lady Holland in a curious manner. He has many prejudices, most of them subdued with difficulty, by his weight of talent and his strong will, but many still remaining, and, finally, warm, sincere feelings, and an earnest desire to serve those he likes. Sir James Mackintosh said of him to me, that, considering the extent of his knowledge, he had never known anybody in whom it was so accurate and sure; and though there is something of the partiality of an old friendship in the remark, there is truth in it, as the ‘Review of Hallam's Middle Ages’ and many others will prove. Mr. Allen, however, was not a man to contribute a great deal to such general conversation as that at Lord Holland's. It was necessary to sit down alone with him in a corner, or on a sofa, and then his conversation was very various and powerful, and showed that he had thought deeply, and made up his mind decisively, upon a great many subjects.

Sydney Smith, who then happened to be in London, was in one respect the soul of the society. I never saw a man so formed to float down the stream of conversation, and, without seeming to have any direct influence upon it, to give it his own hue and charm. He is about fifty, corpulent, but not gross, with a great fund of good-nature, and would be thought by a person who saw him only once, and transiently, merely a gay, easy gentleman, careless of everything but the pleasures of conversation and society. This would be a great injustice to him, and one that offends him, I am told; for, notwithstanding


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James Mackintosh (2)
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