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of the day, not easy to speak with confidence or discrimination; because we must rely on the estimate formed by others, and handed down to us, with few indeed of the materials on which their judgment rested. That he despised not only all affectation and all refinements, but all the resources of the oratorical art beyond its great "origin and fountain," strong sense, clear ideas, anxious devotion to the object in view, carrying the audience along with the speaker, -may well be supposed from the manly and plain, the homely and somewhat coarse, character of his understanding. Eminently a man of business, he came down to Parliament to do the business of the country, and he did it. He excelled in lucid statement, whether of an argument or of facts; he met his antagonist fearlessly, and went through every part of the question; he was abundantly ready at reply and at retort; he constantly preserved his temper, was even well-natured and gay in the midst of all his difficulties; and possessed his constitutional good-humour, with his unvaried presence of mind, in the thickest fire of the debate, be it ever so vehement, ever so personal, as entirely as if he were in his office, or his study, or the common circle of his friends. He was, too, a lively, and not ever a tiresome, speaker; nor did any man, hardly Lord North himself, more fully enjoy the position-to any debater very enviable, to a minister the most enviable of all -that of a constant favourite with the House which it was his vocation to lead. Such is the general account left us of his speaking, and on this all witnesses are agreed.
It may be added, that his style was homely, for the most part; and his manner, though animated and lively, yet by no means affecting dignity. In figures of speech he but rarely indulged, though his language seems to have been. often distinguished by point. His personal retorts, though hardly ever offensive, were often distinguished by much force of invective and considerable felicity of sarcasm. His description of the factious and motley opposition, moved by the dark intrigues of Bolingbroke, and his portrait of that wily and subtle adversary, appears to have been a passage of great merit, as far as the conception went; for of the execution we cannot in fairness permit ourselves to judge from the only record of it which is preserved, the meagre
parliamentary remains of those days. The excellence of this celebrated speech, which eventually drove Bolingbroke abroad, is greatly enhanced by the important circumstance of its being an unpremeditated reply to a very elaborate attack upon himself, in which Sir William Windham had feigned a case applicable to Walpole's, and under that cover drawn a severe portrait of him.
Notwithstanding the general plainness and simplicity of his style, some speeches remain distinguished by a highly ornamental and even figurative manner; that, for example, in opposition to the Peerage Bill, in which he spoke of the antients having erected the temple of honour behind the temple of virtue, to show by what avenues it must be approached; whereas we were called upon to provide that its only avenue should be an obscure family pedigree, or the winding-sheet of some worthless ancestor. Some idea of his more animated and successful efforts may be formed, and it is a very high one, from the admirable exordium of his speech in reply to the long series of attacks upon him which Sandys's motion for his removal, in 1741, introduced. There remain of this speech only his own minutes, yet even from these its great merits appear clear. "Whatever is the conduct of England, I am equally arraigned. If we maintain ourselves in peace, and seek no share in foreign transactions, we are reproached with tameness and pusillanimity. If we interfere in disputes, we are called Don Quixotes and dupes to all the world. If we contract (give) guarantees, it is asked why the nation is wantonly burdened. If guarantees are declined, we are reproached with having no allies."
In general, his manner was simple, and even familiar, with a constant tendency towards gaiety. But of this his finest speech it is recorded, that the delivery was most fascinating, and of a dignity rarely surpassed. In vehemence of declamation he seldom indulged, and anything very violent was foreign to his habits at all times. Yet sometimes he deviated from this course; and once spoke under such excitement (on the motion respecting Lord Cadogan's conduct, 1717) that the blood burst from his nose, and he had to quit the House. But for this accidental relief, he probably would have afforded a singular instance of a speaker, always good-humoured and easy in his delivery
beyond almost any other, dropping down dead in his declamation, from excess of vehemence: and at this time he was between forty and fifty years of age.
FEW men whose public life was so short, have filled a greater space in the eyes of the world during his own times than Lord Bolingbroke, or left behind them a more brilliant reputation. Not more than fifteen years elapsed between his first coming into Parliament and his attainder; during not more than ten of these years was he brought forward in the course of its proceedings; and yet as a statesman and an orator his name ranks among the most famous in our history, independently of the brilliant literary reputation which places him among the first classics of what we generally, but erroneously, call our Augustan age. Much of his rhetorical fame may certainly be ascribed to the merit of his written works; but had he never composed a page, he would still have come down to our times as one of the most able and eloquent men of whom this country ever could boast. As it is upon his eloquence that his great reputation now rests, as upon that mainly was built his political influence, and as upon it alone any commendation of his political character must proceed, we shall do well to begin by examining the foundation before we look at the superstructure.
And here the defect, so often to be deplored in contemplating the history of modern oratory, attains its very height. Meagre as are the materials by which we can aim at forming to ourselves some idea of the eloquence of most men who flourished before our own day; scanty as are the remains even of the speakers who figured during the Seven Years' War, and the earlier part of the American contest; when we go back to the administration of Walpole, we find those vestiges to be yet more thinly scattered over the pages of our history; and in Queen Anne's time, during which alone Bolingbroke spoke, there are absolutely none. It is correct to affirm that of this great orator-one of the
very greatest, according to all contemporary history, that ever exercised the art,-and these accounts are powerfully supported by his writings-not a spoken sentence remains, any more than of the speeches of Demades,* one of the most eloquent of the Greeks, any more than of Cicero's translation from Demosthenes, or the lost works of Livy and of Tacitus. The contemplation of this chasm it was that made Mr. Pitt, when musing upon its brink, and calling to mind all that might be fancied of the orator from the author, and all that traditional testimony had handed down to us, sigh after a "speech of Bolingbroke,"—desiderating it far more than the restoration of all that has perished of the treasures of the ancient world.
But, although we may well join in these unavailing regrets, attempt vainly to supply the want by our conjectures, and confess our ignorance of the peculiar character of his oratory, the fact of its mighty power is involved in no doubt at all. The concurring testimony of all parties leaves this a matter absolutely certain. The friends and supporters of Walpole, to whom his whole life was hostile, all his acts, his speeches, and his writings, are here agreed with the friends, the associates of Bolingbroke; and no diversity of shade marks the pictures which have come down to us from the hand of the antagonist and of the panegyrist. His most intimate companion, Dean Swift, may be suspected of partiality when he represents him as "having in his hands half the business of the nation, and the applause of the whole;" but when he tells us that "understanding men of both parties asserted he had never been equalled in speaking," and that he had "an invincible eloquence, with a most agreeable elocution," we can find no fault with the exaggeration, for this account falls short of what others have told. In truth, his impression upon the men of his own age may well be conceived to have been prodigious, when we reflect that hardly any English orator can now be cited as having flourished before his time. This circumstance might even detract from the weight of contemporary testimony in his favour, if we had not more specific reasons
*The fragment given in some codices as his appears of more than doubtful authenticity. The finest portion is taken from a very-well known passage in Demosthenes.
for believing implicitly in it than the mere concurrence of general reputation.
He had received at Eton a complete classical education ; rather, let us say, had laid there the foundation of one, which, like all others who have shone as scholars, he afterwards completed. But his attention was more bestowed upon the remains of Rome than of Athens; he was extensively and thoroughly acquainted with Latin writers, as indeed his frequent quotation of passages little known may show. With Greck literature he seems not to have been familiar; nor can the reader of his own works fail to perceive, that his style is not so redolent of the flowers which grew in the more rigorous climate of the Attic school. With the authors of the age immediately preceding his own-the true Augustan age of English letters—he was well acquainted; and, although his style is quite his own, none being more original, it is impossible to doubt that he had much studied and much admired (as who can stint himself in admiring ?) the matchless prose of Drydenrich, various, natural, animated, pointed, lending itself to the logical and the narrative, as well as the pathetic and the picturesque, never baulking, never cloying, never wearying. To the literature of ancient and modern times he added a consummate knowledge of their history, and indeed appears of this to have made his principal study; for of natural science he was no professor, and his metaphysical writings have gained but little fame. Yet, that he was a profound moralist, had thoroughly studied the sources of human action, was well acquainted with the nature and habits of the mind, and had an understanding adapted by its natural acuteness to take part in the most subtle discussions, as well as habituated to them by study, it would be absurd to doubt, merely because his metaphysical speculations have been unsuccessful, as it would be the height of unworthy prejudice to deny it, merely because his opinions are tinged with scepticism, and because an unhappy veil of infidelity darkened his life, while it shrouded his posthumous works. They who look down upon even the purely ethical and purely metaphysical writings of Bolingbroke would do well to show us any statesman or any orator, except perhaps Cicero, who in any age has