Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/46

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38
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

he led the House of Commons for a few weeks with unquestionable brilliance, and some of his speeches showed a rapidly-growing sense of responsibility and great constructive power. His manner, like his speeches, revelled in contrast, alternating from extreme insolence to sweet reasonableness and an engaging courtesy. Like Disraeli, on whom he clearly modelled himself, he oscillated between the adventurer and the statesman. He spoke with a voice resonant, but not musical, from copious notes, and often committed large portions of his speech to memory. He gesticulated much with his hands; the fierce twirling of his moustache and his protruding eye were favourite themes with the political caricaturist. Seated behind him in the House when he delivered the speech in which he explained his fatal resignation, in the winter of 1886, I could observe the extreme nervousness betrayed by his restless movements and twitching fingers.

As a mob-oratorIt was as a mob-orator that Randolph Churchill excelled; no speaker of our day was for a few years such a popular hero. The effrontery with which he assailed accepted idols, his mastery of a rather coarse but pungent humour, his racy sallies, his use of large-sounding phrases in the Disraelian manner, and the belief that he was the prophet of a new political creed, which was permanently to attach the democracy to the Tory Party, combined to make him the darling of the crowd. I remember asking one of his Birmingham supporters the reason of his amazing popularity. "We like our liquors neat," was the reply, "and Randolph gives 'em us d——d neat." The speech at Blackpool in January, 1884, which contained the picture of Mr. Gladstone as the feller of trees, culminating in the immortal sentence "The forest laments that Mr. Gladstone may perspire," and followed by the not too happy political apologue about Chips, is perhaps the best specimen of his platform manner. It is interesting to know that the majority of these speeches were written out in advance, quickly learned (for Randolph Churchill included among his gifts a marvellous memory), and even sent before delivery to the