Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/41

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Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

in a speech, made by him was in the debate on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1893, when he had finally severed himself from his former chief. Answering Mr. Gladstone's argument that the Bill was inevitable, he thus addressed the Lords (September 6th, 1893):

"Inevitable! Why I have been spending the last few weeks in a part of Scotland where we look down on the hills of Antrim. We can see the colour of their fields, and in the sunset we can see the glancing of the light upon the windows of the cabins of the people. This is the country, I thought the other day, when I looked on the scene this is the country which the greatest English statesman tells us must be governed as we govern the Antipodes. Was there ever such folly?"

Sir William HarcourtSir William Harcourt, as a speaker, was in some respects the survival of an earlier day. It may be suspected that he also took Disraeli, for whom he had a great admiration, as a model: for there was the same elaborate preparation and polished sarcasm in the efforts of both. Harcourt had many advantages as a speaker: a commanding presence, a classical style, a caustic humour, considerable erudition, and a wide knowledge of affairs. I heard him make many powerful speeches, but he was not naturally eloquent. I doubt if he ever moved an audience either to deep feeling or to tears—which might serve as a definition of oratory;[1] and he failed to convince his hearers of sincerity or conviction—an impression which was encouraged by some of the circumstances of his political career. In satire, raillery, and 'scorn, not always highly refined, he was proficient. I remember calling upon him once in his rooms at Cambridge, where he was Professor of International Law, in 1879. He handed me a copy of a speech in this vein which he had just delivered at Southport in Lancashire—a place I was later to represent in Parliament with the remark: " That speech will make me Home Secretary in the next Administration " and so it did. Though he was very effective in improvised retort,—more so I think than when prepared—he became in

  1. It may be recalled that Alcibiades said of Socrates that Pericles and the other great Attic orators were not to be compared with him, because "the voice of Socrates made his heart leap within him as that of a Corybantian reveller, and his eyes rain tears." Plato, Sympos. 215.