Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/34

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Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

argument; fewer still understood the Latin. But there was a silence as in a church, and a feeling as though the air was fanned by invisible wings. In the Home Rule Debate of 1886, I recall especially the speech in which Mr. Gladstone concluded the debate on introducing the Bill, and which contained the celebrated phrase about "a double dose of original sin," and the speech which immediately preceded the defeat of the Government on the second reading, culminating in a marvellous peroration.

That Mr. Gladstone was a supreme orator there can, I think, be no doubt. There was no resource of oratory intellectual, emotional or external, that was not at his command. But that he was an orator to be heard, rather than to be read, is a commonplace. If we take up now the two volumes of the Midlothian Speeches in 1879 an d 1880, we feel, in Tom Moore's words—

"like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed."

So difficult is it to believe that these interminable and involved harangues were the spell that stirred the heart of an entire nation, upset a powerful minister, and carried the speaker to the pinnacle of power.

And yet that Mr. Gladstone was no less great as a platform orator than he was in the House of Commons is evident from this as from innumerable other experiences. But his triumph on the platform, which appears to have become greater as he advanced in years, was the triumph of a moral force quite as much as of an eloquent tongue.

His methods.It seems to be supposed, from Mr. Gladstone's incomparable fertility of utterance and readiness in reply, that he never prepared his speeches in advance. This is a mistake. Like all great orators, he made careful preparation when this was due to the occasion.[1] He wrote down and he even learned off

  1. The notes of many scores of his speeches are preserved at Hawarden.