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ost brilliant flights, the empyrean heights into which he soared seemed to be his natural element, as the upper air the eagle's. Among the most powerful of his jury efforts were his speeches against Bird for the murder of Cameron, and against Phelps, the notorious highway robber and murderer. Both were convicted. The former owed his conviction, as General Foote, who defended him with great zeal and ability thought, to the transcendent eloquence of Prentiss. He was justly convicted, however, as his confession, afterwards made, proved. Phelps was one of the most daring and desperate of ruffians. He confronted his prosecutor and the court, not only with composure, but with scornful and malignant defiance. When Prentiss rose to speak, and for some time afterwards, the criminal scowled upon him a look of hate and insolence. But when the orator, kindling with his subject, turned upon him and poured down a stream of burning invective, like lava, upon his head; when he depicted the
boyhood had drawn its romantic inspiration. His imagination was colored and imbued with the light of the shadowy past, and was richly stored with the unreal but life-like creations which the genius of Shakespeare and Scott had evoked from the ideal world. He had lingered spellbound, among the scenes of mediaeval chivalry. His spirit had dwelt, until almost naturalized, in the mystic dreamland they peopled—among paladins and crusaders and Knights Templar; with Monmouth and Percy—with Bois-Gilbert and Ivanhoe, and the bold McGregor——with the cavaliers of Rupert, and the iron enthusiasts of Fairfax. As Judge Bullard remarks of him, he had the talent of an Italian improvisatore, and could speak the thoughts of poetry with the inspiration of oratory, and in the tones of music. The fluency of his speech was unbroken—no syllable unpronounced—not a ripple on the smooth and brilliant tide. Probably he never hesitated for a word in his life. His diction adapted itself without effort
Harry Percy (search for this): chapter 1.2
d from the ideal world. He had lingered spellbound, among the scenes of mediaeval chivalry. His spirit had dwelt, until almost naturalized, in the mystic dreamland they peopled—among paladins and crusaders and Knights Templar; with Monmouth and Percy—with Bois-Gilbert and Ivanhoe, and the bold McGregor——with the cavaliers of Rupert, and the iron enthusiasts of Fairfax. As Judge Bullard remarks of him, he had the talent of an Italian improvisatore, and could speak the thoughts of poetry with The mightiest river Rolls mingling with his fame forever. The tidings of his death came like wailing over the State, and we all heard them as the toll of the bell for a brother's funeral. The chivalrous felt when they heard that young Harry Percy's spur was cold that the world had somehow grown commonplace, and the men of wit and genius, or those who could appreciate such qualities in others, looking over the surviving bar, exclaimed with a sigh: The blaze of wit, the flash of br
W. B. Scott (search for this): chapter 1.2
n every instance of such temerity, the opposer was made to bite the dust. The ladies surrounded the rostrum with their carriages, and added by their beauty, interest to the scene. There was no element or oratory that his genius did not supply. It was plain to see where his boyhood had drawn its romantic inspiration. His imagination was colored and imbued with the light of the shadowy past, and was richly stored with the unreal but life-like creations which the genius of Shakespeare and Scott had evoked from the ideal world. He had lingered spellbound, among the scenes of mediaeval chivalry. His spirit had dwelt, until almost naturalized, in the mystic dreamland they peopled—among paladins and crusaders and Knights Templar; with Monmouth and Percy—with Bois-Gilbert and Ivanhoe, and the bold McGregor——with the cavaliers of Rupert, and the iron enthusiasts of Fairfax. As Judge Bullard remarks of him, he had the talent of an Italian improvisatore, and could speak the thoughts of
Thomas P. Wilkinson (search for this): chapter 1.2
ches written of Prentiss, the following, from J. G. Baldwin, a contemporary of Prentiss, who afterwards removed to California and was elevated to the Supreme Court of that State, is believed to be the best: The character of the bar, in the older portions of the State, of Mississippi, was very different from that of the bar in the new districts. Especially was this the case with the counties on, and near the Mississippi river. In its front ranks stood Prentiss, Holt, Boyd, Quitman, Wilkinson, Winchester, Foote, Henderson and others. It was at the period first mentioned by me, in 1837, that Sergeant S. Prentiss was in the flower of his forensic fame. He had not, at that time, mingled largely in federal politics. He had made but few enemies, and had not staled his presence, but was in all the freshness of his unmatched faculties. At this day it is difficult for anyone to appreciate the enthusiasm which greeted this gifted man, the admiration which was felt for him, and th
, and was richly stored with the unreal but life-like creations which the genius of Shakespeare and Scott had evoked from the ideal world. He had lingered spellbound, among the scenes of mediaeval chivalry. His spirit had dwelt, until almost naturalized, in the mystic dreamland they peopled—among paladins and crusaders and Knights Templar; with Monmouth and Percy—with Bois-Gilbert and Ivanhoe, and the bold McGregor——with the cavaliers of Rupert, and the iron enthusiasts of Fairfax. As Judge Bullard remarks of him, he had the talent of an Italian improvisatore, and could speak the thoughts of poetry with the inspiration of oratory, and in the tones of music. The fluency of his speech was unbroken—no syllable unpronounced—not a ripple on the smooth and brilliant tide. Probably he never hesitated for a word in his life. His diction adapted itself without effort to the thought; now easy and familiar, now stately and dignified, now beautiful and varied as the hues of the rainbow
en he was here in the flesh. With one or two honorable exceptions, his contemporaries are all dead. Much has been written and printed of this wonderful man. Every reminiscence, however, with which his name is connected is eagerly read, not only in Mississippi but throughout the Union. Not one Mississippian, perhaps, in 10,000 ever saw a likeness of Prentiss. The one contained in several metropolitan papers last year was a miserable caricature—no more like Prentiss than Prentiss was like Hercules. Of all the sketches written of Prentiss, the following, from J. G. Baldwin, a contemporary of Prentiss, who afterwards removed to California and was elevated to the Supreme Court of that State, is believed to be the best: The character of the bar, in the older portions of the State, of Mississippi, was very different from that of the bar in the new districts. Especially was this the case with the counties on, and near the Mississippi river. In its front ranks stood Prentiss, Ho
into fruition, insidious disease attacked him. It was long hoped that the close and fibrous system which had, seemingly, defied all the laws of nature, would prove superior to this malady. His unconquerable will bore him up long against its attacks. Indeed, it seemed that only death itself could subdue that fiery and unextinguishable energy. He made his last great effort, breathing in its feeble accents, but a more touching and affecting pathos and a more persuasive eloquence in behalf of Lopez, charged with the offence of fitting out an expedition against Cuba. So weak was he that he was compelled to deliver in a sitting posture, and was carried, after its delivery, exhausted from the bar. Not long after this time, in a state of complete prostration, he was taken in a steamboat from New Orleans to Natchez, under the care of some faithful friends. The opiates given him and the exhaustion of nature had dethroned his imperial reason, and the great advocate talked wildly of some
s two-fold: that we may be supposed to have assigned to Prentiss a higher order of abilities than he possessed; and, in the second place, that we have presented for undistinguishing admiration, a character, some of the elements of which do not deserve to be admired or imitated—and, indeed, which are of most perilous example, especially to warm-blooded youth. As to the first objection, we feel sure that we are not mistaken, and even did we distrust our own judgment, we would be confirmed by Sharkey, Boyd, Williamson, Guion, Quitman, to say nothing of the commendations of Clay, Webster and Calhoun, the immortal three, whose opinions as to Prentiss' talents would be considered extravagant if they did not carry with them the imprimatur of their own great names. But we confess to the danger implied in the second suggestion. With all our admiration for Prentiss-much as his memory is endeared to us, however, the faults of his character and the irregularities of his life may be palliated b
him more of the case than he had gathered from his own researches and reflection. Mr. Prentiss had scarcely passed a decade from his majority when he was the idol of Mississippi. While absent from the State his name was brought before the people for Congress, the State then voting by general ticket and electing two members. He was elected, the sitting members declining to present themselves before the people, upon the claim that they were elected at the special election ordered by Governor Lynch, for two years, and not for the called session merely. Mr. Prentiss, with Mr. Word, his colleague, went on to Washington to claim his seat. He was admitted to the bar of the House to defend and assert his right. He then delivered that speech which took the House and the country by storm; an effort, which, if his fame rested upon it alone, for its manliness of tone, exquisite satire, gorgeous imagery and argumentative power, would have rendered his name imperishable. The House, oppose
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