Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/35

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Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

his perorations; and from my place in the Gallery of the House, in April, 1886, I could distinctly see the MS., in his own handwriting, of the entire concluding sentences of his speech in introducing the first Home Rule Bill.

His gestures.I recall some other personal characteristics of this great orator. In earlier days he was described as standing while speaking, with his hands clasped behind his back. I never saw him in this position. His gestures in speech were astonishing in their variety and freedom. He would lean on the table with his right elbow, and point his finger in scorn at the object of his invective or attack. He would smite his right hand on the open palm of his left hand with resounding blows. He would bang the table and the box on it with his clenched fist. On one occasion I saw his hand descend heavily upon the gilded mace. He had a habit of swinging right round and appealing to his supporters, while all that we who were opposite could see was his bald cranium and streaming white hair. Another extraordinary and probably unconscious trick, while he was unfolding an argument, was that of scratching the top of his scalp with the extended thumb of his right hand. On the other hand, the enormous collars with which Punch insisted on investing him were nothing more than the conventional dress of the mid-Victorian epoch. On great occasions he always appeared with a flower in his button-hole; and if a long speech were in prospect we all of us knew the little pomatum-bottle with its mixture of beaten egg and sherry, which was half hidden behind the brass-bound box.[1] Such are a few fugitive recollections of the greatest man who sat in the House of Commons in my time, and of the foremost orator of the last half-century.

B. Disraeli.His great rival Disraeli I saw in both Houses of Parliament. Though he was a master of picturesque and incisive phraseology, though many passages in his long-sustained vendetta with Peel in the years 1845-6, which can be read in the

  1. He explained its virtues to Lord Morley in these terms: "It stimulates, it lubricates."