Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/11

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6
Lord Chatham as an Orator

The mention of that once powerful name reminds me of a letter which he wrote in March, 1826, to Zachary Macaulay, the father of the future Historian. Brougham had heard of the fame of young Tom Macaulay at our Cambridge Union Society, and wrote to his friend a long and eager letter of which, thirty years afterwards, I was allowed to make a copy. In it he insists on the vast importance of cultivated oratory, if a young man wishes to have 'almost absolute power in a free country of doing good to mankind'. He lays the greatest stress on studying two very different authors, Demosthenes and Dante, as models of chaste style; and, like Cicero in the De Oratore,[1] he urges that perfection can only come by much writing. He goes on to cite one curious fact from his own experience which may flutter the dovecotes of our own Union Societies in these days of Modern Sides and suspended animation of Greek. 'I assure you,' he says, 'that both in Courts of Law and in Parliament, and even to mobs, I never made half so much play as when I was almost translating from the Greek.'


II

But to come now to closer quarters, let me try, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, to restore, however faintly, and mainly by the help of others, some few at least of the oratorical lineaments of a splendid Englishman, who has lain in his grave in our ancient Abbey for more than a hundred and thirty years; the man whom Burke[2] described, though hardly in a flattering passage, as 'a great and celebrated name; a name that keeps the name of this country

  1. 'Stilus optimus et praestantissimus dicendi effector ac magister.' De Or. i. 33.
  2. Speech on American Taxation, April 19, 1774.