Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/43
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence
he was wholly wanting. And yet he was one of the most fascinating, and in his later days one of the most impressive, speakers to whom it was possible to listen. Whether in the House of Lords, or at a Lord Mayor's banquet, or at a public meeting, he appeared to suggest embodied wisdom; he was the philosopher meditating aloud. It seemed a mere accident that the reflection was conducted audibly and in public rather than in the recesses of the library at Hatfield. His massive head, bowed upon his chest, his precise and measured tones, his total absence of gesture, his grave but subtle irony, sustained the illusion. It was only when the epigrams flashed forth, and the extraordinary felicity of diction overcame the barriers of reserve, that the cheers rattled along the absorbed and silent benches.
No powerful speaker was ever less dependent on aids to memory or indeed on preparation. Before a great harangue he would arrange his thoughts in the solitude of his study or during a walk in the open air. But he neither made nor required notes. I was with him as one of his Private Secretaries on the occasion of his visit to Newport in November, 1885, to deliver the battle cry in the impending electoral campaign. He spoke for one-and-three-quarter hours in a vast hall without a single note but an extract from a speech by Mr. Chamberlain, written on a card in his pocket.
Evolution of his character.The evolution of the statesman is as interesting a study as that of the great painter. We can usually trace Period I, Period II, and Period III, according to the influences under which he has passed or the natural development of his own powers of character and mind. Thus we pass in the case of Mr. Gladstone from the hope of the stern and unbending Tories through intervening phases to the darling of democratic Liberalism; in the case of Disraeli from the dandified political adventurer to the awe-inspiring voice of an Empire. No such change or evolution of political opinion marked the career of Lord Salisbury. But the change of temper and tone was not less remarkable, converting the "master