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33
Lord Chatham as an Orator

Critics may, I think, venture to doubt the sobriety and the good taste of this celebrated outburst. For myself, I have not the heart to criticize. I seem to hear the old man's closing words, so nearly his very last:

'My Lords, I am old and weak'—only five days before he had completed his sixty-ninth year—'but my feelings and my in dignation were too strong to have said less. I could not have slept this night in my bed, or have reposed my head on my pillow, without giving this vent to my eternal abhorrence of such preposterous and enormous principles.'

Lord Brougham tells us, I do not know on what authority, what seems to be in itself unlikely, that Chatham himself revised this speech. Young William Pitt does not appear to have been present. The only contemporary comment that has come under my notice is what Lord Stanhope, in his History of England, quotes from the Memoirs of the Duke of Grafton, Chatham's former colleague, once greatly alienated from him but now again reconciled:

'It would be useless', writes the Duke, 'to attempt to describe to you the brilliancy of Lord Chatham's powers as an orator on this memorable occasion, for no relation can give more than a faint idea of what he really displayed. In this debate he exceeded all that I had ever admired in his speaking. Nothing could be more eloquent and striking than the argument and language of his first speech. But in his reply to Lord Suffolk's inhuman position he started up with a degree of indignation that added to the force of the sudden and unexampled burst of eloquence which must have affected any audience, and which appeared to me to surpass all that we have ever heard of the celebrated oratory of Greece or Rome.'