« EelmineJätka »
Sir N. W. Wraxall, a parliamentary contemporary, thus writes of Burke: – « Nature had bestowed on him a boundless imagination, aided by a memory of equal strength and tenacity. His fancy was so vivid that it seemed to light up by its own powers, and to burn without consuming the aliment on which it fed; sometimes bearing him away into ideal scenes created by his own exuberant mind, but from which he, sooner or later, returned to the subject of debate; descending from his most aërial flights by a gentle and imperceptible gradation, till he again touched the ground. Learning waited on him like a handmaid, presenting to his choice all that antiquity has culled or invented, most elucidatory of the topic under discussion. He always seemed to be oppressed under the load and variety of his intellectual treasures. Every power of oratory was wielded by him in turn; for he could be, during the same evening, often within the space of a few minutes, pathetic and humorous; acrimonious and conciliating; now giving loose to his indignation or severity; and then, almost in the same breath, calling to his assistance wit and ridicule. It would be endless to cite instances of this versatility of disposition and of the rapidity of his transi. tions,
(From grave to gay, from lively to severe,
that I have, myself, witnessed. »
«The political knowledge of Mr. Burke might be considered almost as an encyclopædia; every man who approached him received instruction from his stores. He irradiated every sphere in which he moved. What he was in public, he was in private; like the star which now precedes and now follows the sun, he was equally brilliant whether he
(Flamed in the forehead of the morning sky,'
or led on with a milder lustre the modest hosts of evening.”
“Let me," says Dr. Parr, «speak what my mind prompts of the eloquence of Burke; of Burke, by whose sweetness Athens herself would have been soothed; with whose amplitude and exuberance she would have been enraptured, and on whose lips that prolific mother of genius and science would have adored, confessed, the Goddess of Persuasion.” « Who is there," adds the same learned critic, «among men of eloquence or learning more profoundly versed in every branch of science ? Who is there that has cultivated philosophy, the parent of all that is illustrious in literature or exploit, with more felicitous success ? Who is there that can transfer so happily the result of laborious and intricate research to the most familiar and popular topics? Who is there that possesses so extensive, yet so accurate an acquaintance with every transaction recent or remote ? Who is there that can deviate from his subject for the purposes of delight with such engaging ease, and insensibly conduct his readers from the severity of reasoning to the festivity of wit? Who is there that can melt them, if the occasion requires, with such resistless power to grief or pity? Who is there that combines the charm of inimitable grace and urbanity with such magnificent and boundless expansion ? »
In what high terms of praise and admiration do his contemporaries speak of him as an orator! On viewing Ballitore, the scene of his early acquisitions in knowledge, one writes: « The admiration, nay, astonishment, with which I so often listened to Mr. Burke gave an interest to every spot connected with his memory, and forcibly brought to my recollection the profundity and extent of his knowledge, while the energy, warmth, and beauty of his imagery captured the heart and made the judg. ment tributary to his will. As an orator he surpassed all his contemporarie“, and was perhaps never exceeded.»
“As an orator," adds another, « notwithstanding some defects, he stands almost unrivaled. No man was better calculated to arouse the dormant passions, to call forth the glowing affections of the human heart, and to harrow up, the inmost recesses of the soul. Venality and meanness stood appalled in his presence; he who was dead to the feelings of his own conscience was still alive to his animated reproaches; and corruption for a while became alarmed at the terrors of his countenance.)
One of his biographers states, that in the more mechanical part of oratorydelivery – his manner was usually bold, less graceful than powerful, his enunciation vehement, and unchecked by any embarrassment, his periods flowing and harmonious, his language always forcible, sometimes choice, but when strongly excited by the subject, acrimonious or sarcastic, his epithets numerous, and occasionally strong or coarse, his invective furious, and sometimes overpowering.
As an interesting sketch of Mr. Burke's manner and power in debate, drawn by an eye-witness, we introduce the graphic description of the Duke de Levis of France. The occasion, it is stated, was on the French Revolution:
« The man whom I had the greatest desire to hear was the celebrated Mr. Burke, author of the essay "On the Sublime and Beautiful, and often himself sublime. At length he rose, but in beholding him I could scarcely recover from my surprise, I had so frequently heard his eloquence compared to that of Demosthenes and Cicero, that my imagination, associating him with those great names, had represented him to me in a noble and imposing garb. I certainly did not expect to find him in the British Parliament dressed in the ancient toga; nor was I prepared to see him in a tight brown coat, which seemed to impede every movement, and, above all, the little bobwig with curls.
In the meantime he moved into the middle of the House, contrary to the usual practice, for the members speak standing and uncovered, not leaving their places. But Mr. Burke, with the most natural air imaginable, with seeming humility, and with folded arms, began his speech in so low a tone of voice that I could scarcely hear him. Soon after, however, becoming animated by degrees, he described religion attacked, the bonds of subordination broken, civil society threatened to its foundations; and in order to show that England could depend only upon herself, he pictured in glowing colors the political state of Europe; the spirit of ambition and folly wbich pervaded the greater part of her governments ; the culpable apathy of some, the weakness of all. When in the course of this grand sketch he mentioned Spain, that immense monarchy, which appeared to have fallen into a total lethargy, (What can we expect,' said he, (from her ? — mighty indeed, but unwieldy; vast in bulk, but inert in spirit, a whale stranded upon the seashore of Europe.' The whole House was silent; all eyes were upon him, and this silence was interrupted only by the loud cries of, Hear! bear! a kind of accompaniment which the friends of the speaking member adopt in order to direct attention to the most brilliant passages of his speech. But these cheerings were superfluous on the present occasion; every mind was fixed; the sentiments he expressed spread themselves with rapidity ; everyone shared his emotion, whether he represented the ministers of religion proscribed, inhumanly persecuted and banished, imploring the Almighty in a foreign land to forgive their ungrateful country; or when he depicted in the most affecting manner the misfortunes of the royal family, and the humiliation of the daughter of the Cæsars. Every eye was bathed in tears at the recital of these sad calamities supported with such heroic fortitude, Mr. Burke, then, by an easy transition, passed on to the exposition of those absurd attempts of inexperienced men to establish a chimerical liberty; nor did he spare the petulant vanity of upstarts in their pretended love for equality. The truth of these striking and animated pictures made the whole House pass in an instant from the tenderest emotions of feeling to bursts of laughter; never was the electric power of eloquence more imperiously felt; this extraordinary man seemed to raise and quell the passions of his auditors with as much ease, and as rapidly, as a skillful musician passes into the various modulations of his harpsichord. I have witnessed many, too many, political assemblages and strik. ing scenes where eloquence performed a noble part, but the whole of them appear insipid when compared with this amazing effort.”
From "Eminent Orators and Statesmon.”
ERSKINE AS A FORENSIC ORATOR
MONG forensic orators of ancient or modern times, Lord Erskine stands in
the foremost rank. In some respects — in the grandeur of his diction; in
the mellifluence of his voice; in the fascination of his manner, and in the splendor of his eloquence he surpasses all lawyers in modern times, and may be considered the ablest and most accomplished advocate that ever graced the bar.
By universal consent, Lord Erskine stands at the head of our forensic eloquence. In whatever light we view him in the forum, he appears to be the same exalted character, commanding our respect by the dignity of his appearance, ex. citing our admiration by the gracefulness of his action, the propriety of his enunciation, the beauty of his language, the sweetness of his tones, and fascinating as by the light of his eye and the magic of his sublime, overpowering declamation.
The oratory of Lord Erskine was admirably adapted to impress and sway a court or jury. It exercised an unrivaled power over them. By its secret, fascinating influence, success, in almost all important cases, was inevitable. Lord Erskine's great power lay in addressing a court or jury. Whenever he rose to speak, he poured forth such a rapid stream of unbroken eloquence that both court and jury were carried away in astonishment. It has been curiously remarked of him, as of Scarlett, that he had invented a machine by the secret use of which, in court, he could make the head of a judge nod assent to his propositions; whereas his rivals, who tried to pirate it, always made the same head move from side to side.) All this was the effect of genuine, soul-stirring eloquence.
« The oratory of Erskine owed much of its impressiveness to his admirable delivery. He was of the medium height, with a slender, but finely turned figure, animated and graceful in gesture, with a voice somewhat shrill but beautifully modulated, a countenance beaming with emotion, and an eye of piercing keenness and power.» His eye, like that of Chatham's, was his most wonderful feature; and to its keen lightning bis eloquence was indebted for much of its splendor and power. Carrying conviction and insuring victory, it impressed the court and jury with awe, and held them in breathless attention. “Juries,” in the words of Lord Brougham, Whave declared that they felt it impossible to remove their looks from him when he had riveted, and, as it were, fascinated them by his first glance; and it used to be a common remark of men who observed his motions that they resembled those of a blood horse; as light, as agile, as much betokening strength and speed, as free from all gross superfluity or incumbrance.
«Then hear his voice of surpassing sweetness, clear, flexible, strong, exquisitely fitted to strains of serious earnestness, deficient in compass, indeed, and much less fitted to express indignation or even scorn than pathos, but wholly free from either barshness or monotony. All these, however, and even his chaste, dignified, and appropriate action, were very small parts of this wonderful advocate's excellence. He had a thorough knowledge of men; of their passions and their feelings; he knew every avenue to the heart, and could at will make all its chords vibrate to his touch.
“To these qualities he joined that fire, that spirit, that courage, which gave vigor and direction to the whole, and bore down all resistance. »
Of the nature and effects of that glowing eloquence which Lord Erskine so often displayed before an astonished court, we can form no adequate conceptions. The charms, beauty, and force of his oratory, like those of the great Athenian orator, lay in his admirable delivery. This was the great secret of his success; and it is the foundation of all good speaking. In order to form a proper conception of the splendor and power of Erskine's eloquence, we should have seen that noble form, that animated countenance, those graceful and vehement gestures; we should have listened to that musical tone, that harmonious sound, that deep thrilling pathos, and that lofty, soul-stirring strain. In a word, we should have caught the sudden glance of that piercing eye, and heard the low tones and swelling notes of that clear, melodious voice. These were the charms, the indescribable charms, which were thrown around the oratory of Lord Erskine. They centered in delivery.-
(( There's a charm in deliv'ry, a magical art,
That thrills, like a kiss, from the lip to the heart;
The fancy of Lord Erskine was exceedingly brilliant, and sometimes <eminently sportive. » The language in which he clothed his thoughts was beautiful and impressive. Nothing can exceed the grandeur of his diction or the elegance of his rhythmus.
From “Eminent Orators and Statesmen."
T WILL be remembered that Mr. Grattan endeavored to form his manner of speak
ing after the style of Lord Chatham. In many respects his eloquence resembled
that of the great English statesman. Like him, he excelled in the highest characteristics of oratory; in vehemence of action; condensation of style; rapidity of thought; closeness of argumentation; striking figures; grand metaphors; beautiful rhythmus; luminous statements; vivid descriptions; touching pathos; lofty declamation; bitter sarcasm, and fierce invective. His language, like that of Chatham, is remarkable for its terseness, expressiveness, and energy. His periods are made up of short clauses which flash upon the mind with uncommon vividness. Passing over the minutiæ of his discourse, he seized the principal points in debate and presented them in the strongest light. The intensity of feeling by which his mental operations were governed gave rise to this characteristic of eloquence, which distinguishes the most powerful orators. Aiming directly at his object, he generally struck the decisive blow in a few words.
« Deep emotion strikes directly at its object. It struggles to get free from all Secondary ideas - all mere accessories. Hence the simplicity, and even bareness of thought, which we usually find in the great passages of Chatham and Demosthenes. The whole turns often on a single phrase, a word, an allusion. They put forward a few great objects, sharply defined, and standing boldly out in the glowing atmosphere of emotion. They pour their burning thoughts instantaneously upon the mind, as a person might catch the rays of the sun in a concave mirror, and turn them on their object with a sudden and consuming power.”
The eloquence of Mr. Grattan may be compared to a deep and rapid stream, now sweeping in smoothness and beauty through (verdant vales and flowery meads,” and now dashing abruptly over some lofty precipice, delighting and astonishing the beholder by its majestic fall and tremendous roar.
«Among the orators, as among the statesmen of his age, Mr. Grattan occupies a place in the foremost rank; and it was the age of the Pitts, the Foxes, and the Sheridans. His eloquence was of a very high order, all but of the very highest, and it was eminently original. In the constant stream of a diction, replete with epigram and point; a stream on which floated gracefully, because naturally, flowers of various hues, was poured forth the closest reasoning, the most luminous statement, the most persuasive display of all the motives that could influence, and of all the details that could enlighten his audience. Often a different strain was heard, and it was declamatory and vehement; or pity was to be moved, and its pathos was as touching as it was simple; or, above all, an adversary sunk in baseness, or covered with crimes, was to be punished or to be destroyed, and a storm of the most terrible invective raged, with all the blights of sarcasm, and the thunders of abuse."
In a splendid critique on the genius of Grattan, Prof. Goodrich observes: «The speeches of Mr. Grattan afford unequivocal proof, not only of a powerful intellect, but of high and original genius. There was nothing commonplace in his thoughts, his images, or his sentiments. Everything came fresh from his mind, with the vividness of a new creation. His most striking characteristic was condensation and rapidity of thought. "Semper instans sibi, pressing continually upon himself, he never dwelt upon an idea, however important; he rarely presented it under more than one aspect; he hardly ever stopped to fill out the intermediate steps of his argument. His forte was reasoning, but it was “logic on fire); and he seemed ever to delight in flashing his ideas on the mind with a sudden, startling abrupt
Hence, a distinguished writer has spoken of his eloquence as a combination of cloud, whirlwind, and flame,'. a striking representation of the occasional obscurity and the rapid force and brilliancy of his style.
From “Eminent Orators and Statesmen.”
WIT IN ORATORY ILLUSTRATED BY SHERIDAN AND CANNING
HE forte of Sheridan lay in the powerful effusions of brilliant wit, mingled
with humor and fun. With this he would often convulse his hearers with
laughter. «Good sense and wit were the great weapons of his oratory; shrewdness in detecting the weak points of an adversary, and infinite powers of raillery in exposing them.) Ready wit is of the greatest advantage to a political orator. It not only enables him to give vivacity to his discourse, but renders him formidable to his opponent. With the keen edge of wit, Sheridan wounded his antagonists the deepest. It was a weapon that he often hurled at Pitt and Dundas with complete success.
Mr. Sheridan possessed a remarkable versatility of talents,- extensive knowledge of the human heart; great powers of fancy; exuberant stores of wit; a