Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/42
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence
later years so much a slave to his MS., that he lost all appearance of spontaneity. His speech would lie on the box in front of him, page piled on page, and when he visited the country for platform orations, a special desk was sent down in advance to accommodate his voluminous MS. His literary knowledge gave a fine flavour to his speeches, and he made by far the best adaptation of a quotation that I heard in the House of Commons. This was on an occasion when a splendid and courtly country gentleman of the old school Sir R. Knightley had been making a speech, in which he touched on his own long and distinguished ancestry. In replying, Harcourt parodied the well-known verse of Addison about the moon:—
"And (K)nightly to the listening earth
On the other hand he was exceedingly angry on another occasion when some rival wit applied to him Pope's famous line about the Monument of London, which
"Like a tall bully rears its head and lies."
The speaker halted when he came to the last word of the quotation, which was drowned amid the uproarious cheers of the House.
Marquis of Salisbury.I pass from these historic figures of bygone Liberalism to consider some of the foremost men on the opposite side. Lord Salisbury was at all times in his remarkable career a speaker of outstanding importance; outstanding because of his powerful and penetrating intellect, his mordant humour, and his literary skill. That a man could possess and exercise so unusual a literary gift without incurring the faintest suspicion of being a rhetorician is a proof of his supreme indifference to the orator's arts. For these he had neither the equipment nor the inclination. He cared nothing for the platform; he made no conscious effort to attract or to conciliate his hearers; he was invariably thinking of his subject rather than of them. In most of the attributes that we have hitherto associated with the orator