Page:Lord Chatham as an Orator.djvu/35

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Lord Chatham as an Orator

He was once, they say, consulted by a friend on a delicate matter, probably not without parallel. How could his friend best discover if a lady to whom he was tentatively attached but not yet hopelessly engaged was possessed of any faults? What was the answer of the Pennsylvanian Sage, the illustrious inventor of the lightning conductor? 'Praise her,' he said, 'praise her before her female friends.'

Such was the man, or at least a part of the man, who on that 20th day of January was also present in the House of Lords. He was personally introduced, we are told, by Chatham himself, who esteemed him highly. And what was the impression left upon him?

'I was quite charmed', he says, 'with Lord Chatham's speech. He impressed me with the highest idea of him as a great and most noble statesman.' Writing afterwards to Lord Stanhope, Chatham's kinsman, he says, 'he is filled with admiration of that truly great man. He has seen in the course of his life sometimes eloquence without wisdom, and often wisdom without eloquence'—perhaps we might put it the other way—'but in the present instance he sees both united, and both, as he thinks, in the highest degree possible.'

This, you will remember, was early in 1775. For nearly two years Chatham was again a recluse, and for the same reason of health. In 1777, on May 30, he reappeared for the first time in the House of Lords, in all the sad pomp of ineradicable gout, wrapped in flannels and supported upon crutches. Again young William Pitt was present, just two days after his own eighteenth birthday, and again he sends his mother an almost rapturous report of what he had seen and heard. The subject was in substance the old one, the revolt in America, but two years had done their work. Of this the very first words of the crippled orator are a proof.