Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/10

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2
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

of the art — if art I may still presume to call it — has been produced; to consider its titles to honour, and to contrast it with the Parliamentary eloquence of earlier times.

Meaning
of title.
In the title of my address I have designedly used the word Eloquence in preference to Oratory, for two reasons. First, because the phrase Oratory seems to connote a very high and superlative degree of excellence, to which speakers under modern conditions only rarely attain — so that, if my theme were confined to modern Orators, I should very soon be at the end of my rope; secondly, because, while Eloquence, irrespective of age or clime, is a part of the continuous though rare endowment of man, Oratory in the classical sense of the term, as an art taught, studied, and pursued, has practically ceased to exist, and has almost become the traditional subject of a gibe or a sneer.

Classical conception of Rhetoric.Far, indeed, have we gone from the days, when — as the classical studies, in which this University still retains, and I hope may long preserve, its old pre-eminence, have taught us — Oratory, or Rhetoric as it was called by the ancients, was regarded as the first of the arts, equal, if not superior, to poetry and painting, to sculpture and the drama; an art that in the Commonwealths of Greece and Rome was the supreme accomplishment of the educated man. As Disraeli put it, in "The Young Duke," "oratory was their most efficient mode of communicating thought; it was their substitute for printing."[1]

It would be wide of my present purpose to pursue the development of this art as it was expounded in the master-treatise of Aristotle; as it was practised by the great Athenian orators; and as it passed from the Academies of Greece to those of Rome. Happily your own great scholar, Richard Jebb, a speaker himself of exquisite refinement and unusual command of form, has relieved us of the task in the introductory chapter of his famous work on the Attic Orators. In passing, however, let me take note of the fact, to which I

  1. Part v. cap vi.