I think, Sir, or rather I feel, that you will forgive this digression. Whatever brings together the noblest impulses of two great imperial nations over a seeming gulf of two thousand years, and again—may a Cambridge man presume to say it?—whatever brings back even for a moment the name and thoughts of a great Oxford teacher to whom all that is noblest in Education is eternally indebted, can never perhaps, in his own beloved Oxford, be thought wholly irrelevant.
Mr. Vice-Chancellor, I am but too conscious that my performance of the task which you so generously confided to me has been far below what your kindness deserved.
I have tried to place before you a majestic Figure of the Past, not as a whole, not as a man and a statesman, but in part only, as an Orator, as one who, by the mighty gift of speech, had power, as few have had in any age or country, to sway the hearts and stir the pulses of a nation, and in no slight degree to turn the currents of history and mould the destinies of mankind. This limited task I could only hope to perform by repeated extracts from his own speeches and from the judgements passed upon him by the men of his time and by later writers—biographers, historians, essayists, and critics.
I have made no pretence of originality or research. Perhaps, indeed, there is now but little new to be said of Chatham by any man, certainly not by me, after the witness of Walpole, Wraxall, Charles Butler, Grafton, Burke, and others at the time, and, since then, the searching, penetrating analyses of men like Grattan, Brougham, Macaulay, Lord Stanhope, Lecky, Frederic Harrison, Lord Rosebery, Sir George Trevelyan, Dr. Holland Rose, Mr. Winstanley.