Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/24

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16
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

No one can refute him or say him nay. The speech is delivered in the electric atmosphere of great and crowded halls, where the contagion of a multitude, expectant and sympathetic, acts like wine both upon speaker and audience. The latter is commonly neither profound in its knowledge nor fastidious in its taste. A broad humour, a little chaff, some claptrap, a spice of invective, and a resounding peroration are passports to the heart of the crowd. So it has been with the mobs and the mob orators of all countries and all times.

How different is the atmosphere of a Chamber where rules of debate and a measure of decorum have to be observed, where the audience, so far from clamouring for the speaker, is often surfeited with speeches and requires to be coaxed back to the meal, where an appeal has to be made to the understanding rather than to the emotions, where an emptying House may chill the courage of the boldest orator, and where the entire effect of his eloquence may be wiped out by a brilliant reply. Obviously we are speaking of two entirely different modes of expression, which call for separate gifts. The one represents a more cultured and exacting, the other an easier and broader, style.

Speakers who excel in
both styles.
It is not denied that sometimes the gifts of the platform and the Parliamentary orator are combined in the same person in an extraordinary degree, and, in a few rare cases, that the performer so gifted has been able to maintain as high a standard at the mass meeting as in the House. Daniel O'Connell appears to me to have been the greatest mob orator that we have ever had in this country, and he also excelled in Parliament. Mirabeau, in France, possessed very similar gifts. Lamartine, at the Hotel de Ville, in Paris, in 1848, produced an instantaneous effect that few orators have surpassed. Mr. Gladstone was scarcely, if at all, inferior to O'Connell; Mr. Bright was a third. But in the two latter cases what appealed to the crowd would seem to have been not so much the rolling sentences, or the majestic mien of the orator, as the spectacle of righteous fervour, invoking the moral sense of the com-