Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/40

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32
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

By the side of this may be placed the passage, tremendous in its dramatic simplicity, in one of John Bright's Crimean War speeches, in December, 1854, in which—referring to a fellow M.P., an officer, whom he had met at Hyde Park Corner and who had remarked that it was no light matter for a man with a wife and five little children to be ordered off to the war—he suddenly added: " The stormy Euxine is his grave, his wife is a widow, his children fatherless."

Duke of
Argyll
I recall another contemporary and colleague of Mr. Gladstone who also deserved the name of orator. This was the Duke of Argyll, father of the present holder of the title. Mr. Gladstone once told me that the finest speaker he had ever heard in the House of Lords was Lord Ellenborough, that ill-balanced and tempestuous person, who was both Governor-General of India and President of the Board of Control. But at other times he appears to have said the same thing of the Duke of Argyll. Lord Ellenborough was before my day, but I frequently heard the Duke. He spoke with perfect ease, with grace of gesture, with felicity of diction, and with intellectual power. Though short of stature, he had an almost leonine appearance: and his hair stood up from his lofty forehead like the plume in a Highlander's bonnet. A somewhat haughty manner, combined with this appearance, and a rather didactic tone, caused Bishop Wilberforce to christen him Cocculus Indicus.[1] But though his oratorical talents were obscured by an omniscience that is the greatest disability from which a public man can suffer, and were for the most part confined for their exercise to the Upper Chamber, there can be no doubt that the Duke possessed many of the attributes of the real orator. His methods, as his son has informed me, were these: he always carefully put down the heads of his speech in due order in columns on a sheet of notepaper—but nothing more. He never wrote out passages, nor did he quote or declaim them after delivery. His voice was one of singular beauty. There is a general consensus that the finest speech, or at least the finest passage

  1. He was Secretary of State for India.