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in February, 1743, and was succeeded by Hawkesworth, who carried on the process for near twenty years. Whatever the debates may have gained by this method in importance, they lost in accuracy. The memoranda were merely used as heads upon which to enlarge, and we must look in the printed reports for the characteristics of Guthrie, Johnson, and Hawkesworth, and not of Pulteney, Pitt, and Chesterfield.
The reason why Cave employed authors to compose debates instead of short-hand writers to report them, was the refusal of the legislature to permit the public to be a party to its proceedings. No notes could be taken openly, and Cave was quickly warned by the Speaker of the House of Commons to desist from printing the discussions at all. He evaded the injunction by inserting them under fictitious names, and by various devices contrived to furnish his readers with a key. The interest which was felt in this portion of his magazine showed that the curiosity of the country was awakened. The debaters on their part were many of them eager for a larger audience, and speeches were often conveyed underhand to Cave by the authors themselves. The growing desire of those without to hear, and of those within to be heard, at last threw open the doors of both houses; the style of reporting became more and more exact, and though it was long in attaining to the habitual completeness which prevails at present, many of the greater efforts of the principal speakers were recorded towards the close of the last century with perfect precision. The orators of the unreported parliaments were at very
little disadvantage. The reputation of a debater is made much more by his hearers than by his readers. The politician who spells the newspaper over his breakfast reaches the conclusion of passages which drew forth “loud cheers' without experiencing the slightest emotion, and sarcasms which elicited loud laughter' without being lured into the faintest smile. There are instances at this moment, as there always have been instances, of persons who are held in considerable estimation in both Houses, who have scarce any name with the country, and those who only know the efforts even of the most celebrated speakers through the medium of the printing-press are apt to wonder at their fame. If this is the case among contemporaries to whom the topics are matter of absorbing interest, how much more must the orator lose with posterity when his subjects are obsolete, and appear as cold and repelling as the ashes of a fire which has burnt out
, Notwithstanding that Pitt desired to have a speech of Lord Bolingbroke in preference to the most precious lost works of the ancients, we venture to think that after it had been glanced at
from curiosity, it would be flung aside from disappointment. Lord Chesterfield, who had been among his auditors, applauds the 'force and charm of his eloquence,' and says that, 'like Belial in Milton, “ he made the worse appear the better cause,
"' but then the same authority bestows still stronger praise upon his writings, where we can form an estimate of the degree of justice in the panegyric. He considers that Cicero alone could compete with him in composition ; and he asserts of the Letters on Patriotism' that they are adorned with all the beauties of oratory, and that until he read them he did not know the extent and powers of the English language.' Burke, in the preface to his earliest work, the • Vindication of Natural Society, in which he imitated the style of Lord Bolingbroke, and ironically maintained his principles for the purpose of exposing them, is little less complimentary, and allows that his books were justly admired for the rich variety of their imagery and the rapid torrent of an impetuous and overbearing eloquence.'* It may be doubted whether Burke would have repeated this eulogy in maturer years, when he called him'a presumptuous and superficial writer,' and said • that his works had not left any permanent impression on his mind.' Nothing at any rate can be less rapid and impetuous than the manner of Lord Bolingbroke, which is in a singular degree slow and fatiguing, nor does any one revert to him now as a model of eloquence' from which to learn the extent of the English tongue. He tediously unfolds his thinly scattered ideas in a long array of sounding sentences, and, though the diction is pure and harmonious, it is neither pointed nor brilliant. His treatises have been consigned to a practical oblivion, because they are found to be nearly unreadable, and what Lord Chesterfield considered the most splendid eloquence,' appears in our age to be very little better than empty rhetoric. Since his speeches greatly resembled the productions of his pen, and were not considered to be the least superior by an admirable judge who was familiar with both, we may conclude that their preservation would have contributed little to our pleasure, and added nothing to the reputation of Boling broke. Whatever were his merits, he is an example on the side of Lord Stanhope's doctrine, for he told Lord Chesterfield that the whole secret of his style was the constant attention he paid to it in his youth. Declamation less polished than
* Lord Chatham was another great admirer of Lord Bolingbroke, and said that his. Remarks on the History of England' should almost be got by heart for the inimitable beauty of the style.' Lord Grenville, in commenting upon this opinion, states the common judgment of our day, when he asserts that the style of the ‘ Remarks' is declamatory, diffusive, and involved, and deficient both in legance and precision.'
his, language less copious, and metaphors less appropriate, when set forth by a fine figure, voice, and elocution, would be highly imposing in delivery, and would call forth rapturous cheers.
But his was the eloquence which is born of the occasion, and dies with the occasion, and this is the ordinary rule. There is not one of the great debaters who reached their zenith in the last century, with the exception of Burke, whose grandest displays appear to the reader of our day to warrant their renown. The politician may revert to the harangues of Pitt, Sheridan, and Fox. The speeches of Burke alone have become incorporated with the literature of our country. There is a system of compensation in fame as in greater things. If the oratory of each generation is neglected by succeeding times, there is no species of intellectual excellence which produces such an immediate return. While the speaker is in the very act of forming his sentences his triumph is reflected from the countenances of the auditors, and is sounded from their lips. He proceeds, animated at every step by the full chorus of applause, which only comes to other men in feeble echoes long delayed, and which are more often lost before they can reach the ear of him who is the subject of the praise.
The causes of the prodigious success of oratory spoken over oratory read are easy to be distinguished. When the contending forces are drawn out face to face in hostile array there is the excitement of a battle, and every blow which tells against the enemy is received with the same sort of exultation that soldiers feel when a well-aimed shot rips up the ranks of the adversary, or blows up the magazine. The effect under these circumstances of a damaging reply arises as much from the state of mind of the auditors, as from the vigour of the retort. It is because the powder lights upon a heated surface that an explosion is produced, though, unless the powder was itself inflammable, the result could not ensue, and therefore the dust which is thrown by minor speakers falls feeble and harmless. The mere presence of numbers aids the impression even where the assembly is not split into parties, and no especial interest has been roused in advance on the question discussed. The speech which would be listened to calmly by half a dozen people will stir a multitude, and an observation will raise a laugh in public, which would not pass for a joke in private. But perhaps the most influential element of all is the delight which is derived from the real or apparently spontaneous production of appropriate thoughts in well-chosen language,-in the exhibition of the feat of pouring out off-hand elaborate composition, and a connected series of apt ideas. The art is so
remote from the common practice of mankind, that however often repeated it always excites the pleasure which arises from the manifestation of unusual power. Every great orator writes passages which he commits to memory, but it is a part of his science to blend the extemporaneous and the prepared portions into an indistinguishable whole, and were he by his clumsiness to betray the joins he would destroy the charm. The readers of a debate are no longer under the spell of this seeming facility. The language does not flow living to them from the lips of the speaker, and they judge it exactly as they would estimate the same quantity of printed matter by whatever means produced, In many cases in addition the figure, the voice, the manner of the man contribute largely to give force and animation to his words. . The famous saying of Demosthenes that action, which includes delivery, was the first, second, and third great requisite of an orator is repeated and confirmed by Cicero, who calls it the principal accomplishment in speaking. He affirms that the highest excellence is nothing without it, and that with it mediocrity can often surpass the most gifted. In modern times preeminent powers have enabled a few to dispense with it
. The assertion that it sets off feeble matter is as true as ever. age there are speakers who owe nearly the whole of their success to their delivery.
Another predominant cause of the different impression which a speech produces in the closet from what it does when heard is to be found in the nature of the oratorical style. When Dr. Johnson furnished Boswell with materials for an address to a Committee of the House of Commons on an election petition he added, “This you must enlarge on. You must not argue there, as if you were arguing in the schools. You must say
the same thing over and over again, in different words.
it but once, they miss it in a moment of inattention. The masters of eloquence have enforced the rule. Fox advised Sir Samuel Romilly, when about to sum up the evidence in Lord Melville's trial, ‘not to be afraid of repeating observations which were material, since it were better that some of the audience should observe it than that any should not understand.' Though he himself was censured for the practice, he declared it to be his conviction, from long experience, that the system was right. Pitt urged a similar defence for the amplification which was thought by some to be a defect in his style. Every person, he said, 'who addressed a public assembly, and was anxious to make an impression upon particular points, must either be copious upon those points or repeat them, and that he preferred copiousness to repetition.' Lord Brougham gives his testimony
If you say
on the same side. The orator, he remarks, often feels that he could add strength to his composition by compression, but his hearers would then be unable to keep pace with him, and he is compelled to sacrifice conciseness to clearness. The Greeks appeared to hun every species of prolixity, which Lord Brougham justly considers to be an indication that they condensed their harangues when they committed them to writing. Burke shared the conviction that not even an Athenian audience could have followed the orations of Demosthenes, if he had uttered them in the concentrated form in which they have come down to us, and Cicero objects to the Greeks that they sometimes carried brevity to the point of obscurity. The expansion which is a merit at the moment of delivery is turned to a defect when a speech is printed. What before was impressive seems now to be verbose, and the effect is diminished in much the same proportion that it was originally increased. It was for some such reason that Fox asserted that if a speech read well it was not a good speech.
Though the force and splendour of oratory is only limited by the powers of the human mind, and though some of its displays rival anything which exists under any other form, less intrinsic excellence is required upon the whole to secure fame than in the productions of the pen. The balance is made up by the difficulty of pouring forth composition off-hand, which shall at least impose or sparkle at the moment. This facility is therefore the first requisite of the speaker, and in whatever qualities he is deficient, a want of readiness must not be one of them. Essays written and learnt by heart, however brilliant, have never of themselves procured much reputation for any debater in modern times. Until he has proved that he is equal to extempore efforts he is rather sneered at than applauded. The first Mr. Pitt, the earliest, since the time of Queen Anne, of the great orators of whom we have specimens sufficient to enable us to judge of his style, had been at small pains to qualify himself for his part in other particulars, but a perennial flow of parliamentary eloquence can no more exist without prompt language than without a tongue, and he had taken especial care to furnish his memory with a copious vocabulary. Lord Chesterfield asserts that he had very little political knowledge, that his matter was generally flimsy, and his arguments often weak. This is confirmed by Dr. King, who states that he was devoid of learning, unless it was a slight acquaintance with the Latin classics, and his sister, Mrs. Anne Pitt, used to declare sarcastically-for being of the same haughty temperament they agreed, as Horace Walpole says, like two drops of fire—that the only book he had read was