Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/25

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Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

munity to storm some citadel of ancestral privilege or to redress an unexpiated wrong.

Extempore speaking.Another difference between the modern fashion and that of our forefathers, and still more that of the ancient world, is the estimation in which extempore, as distinct from prepared, oratory is now held. I doubt if in reality the modern speaker prepares less, in fact the conditions of modern oratory, with the sleuth-hounds of the Press hanging upon the track of the speaker, and the electric telegraph waiting to convey his smallest lapse from sense or discretion to the world, almost compel him, if he is a leader, to prepare more; at least they compel him to be more careful about the ipsissima verba of his utterances. But the difference lies in this, that whereas the classic orator gloried in his preparation, and would have thought it a slur upon his art in any way to abate it, the modern speaker, with a false sense of shame, adopts every manner of artifice for hiding his studies, and seeks to convey the illusion of extemporaneous effort even where his subterfuge is belied by the obvious evidence of facts. We are familiar with the speaker who compresses his MS. or his notes into a small space in the palm of his hand, or as Mr. Bright was said to have done, even conceals them in his hat. We have all of us witnessed the ignominious breakdown of the speaker who has learned off his effort by heart, but whose memory fails him at the pinch. I have even heard a speaker commence a quotation which he said had occurred to him while on his feet, and only complete it with the aid of a slip of paper confusedly extracted from his pocket. In so far as these are the devices of unskilled practitioners they hardly call for attention here. But they are of importance in so far as they represent a mental attitude towards speaking which undoubtedly differs from that of former times. Mr. Balfour, for instance, represents the modern standpoint when he once said in an address:

"No impromptu speech can have the finish, polish, or conscious arrangement which is the result of study. But the man who writes his speech, and then learns it, and then declaims it—so that every man knows he has written it that man will never succeed as a speaker."