Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/31
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence
Possible revival of eloquence in a democracy.
eloquence in other and more popular shapes adjusted to the requirements of the times. Just as the oratory of the Georgian era was attuned to an aristocratic age, and that of the mid-Victorian epoch to middle-class ascendancy, so does it seem to me likely that the democracy will produce an eloquence, perhaps even an oratory, of its own. Should a man arise from the ranks of the people, as did Abraham Lincoln from the backwoods of America, a man gifted with real oratorical power and with commanding genius, I can see no reason why he should not renew in England the glories of a Chatham or a Grattan. His triumphs might be less in the Senate than in the arena: his style might not be that of the classics of the past. But he might by reason of his gifts climb to the topmost place where he would sway the destinies of the State and affect the fortunes of an Empire. Symptoms of such a power and style are sometimes visible in the declamations of Mr. Lloyd George.Mr. Lloyd George, who, to a student of history, is a curious compound of the brothers Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, with a strong flavour of the Athenian demagogue thrown in, and when emotionally aroused, either by the misdeeds of his opponents or the sufferings of the poor, has a great command of dramatic or melodramatic effect. But this style of speech requires to be purified of much dross before it can be certified as fine gold. In the House of Commons some of the Labour Members are eloquent speakers, notably Mr. Philip Snowden and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald.
Individual orators or speakers.From these general considerations I will pass on to consider the individual speakers of renown who Individual have been produced under the conditions speakers, which I have described, and of whose oratorical abilities I will attempt to give some estimate.
W. E. Gladstone.By far the greatest orator whom I personally heard in the House of Commons—indeed almost the only orator—was Mr. Gladstone. I sat in Parliament with him for eight years. I had the honour of preceding him, and the still greater honour