Modern Oratory— its greatest triumphs won by sudden bursts.The most memorable triumphs of modern oratory are connected with the tradition of thrills, of electrical shocks, given to the hearers at the moment by bursts which were extemporary, not necessarily as regards the thought, but necessarily as regards the form. It was for such bursts that the eloquence of the elder Pitt was famous; that of Mirabeau, and of Patrick Henry, owed its highest renown to the same cause. Sheil's retort, in the debate on the Irish Municipal Bill in 1837, to Lord Lyndhurst's description of the Irish (in a phrase borrowed from O'Connell), as ‘aliens in blood, language and religion’, was of this kind1. Erskine, in his defence of Lord George Gordon, produced an astonishing effect by a protestation,—which would have been violent if it had not been solemn,—of personal belief in his client's innocence; a daring transgression of the advocate's province which was paralleled, with some momentary success, in a celebrated criminal case about twenty years ago. Now these sudden bursts, and the shock or the transport which they may cause, were forbidden to ancient oratory by the principal law of its being. In nothing is the contrast more striking than in this— that the greatest oratorical reputations of the ancient world were chiefly made, and those of the modern world have sometimes been endangered, by prepared works of art. Perikles and Hypereides were renowned for no efforts of their eloquence more than for their funeral orations. Fox's carefully composed speech in honour of the Duke of Bedford, Chatham's elaborate eulogy of Wolfe, were accounted among the least happy of their respective performances. There is, however, at least one instrument of
Use of quotation.
Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper.