Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

modern envy resembles in form the brilliant, though bitter sarcasm, directed by Demosthenes against his illustrious rival, its life and lustre being lost in the literal translation. Æschines had in early days been a player, and brought with him, when he entered the popular assembly, many of the arts and accomplishments of a profession, of whose recollections he was suspected of having grown ashamed. At this chink in his adversary's intellectual armour, the wit of Demosthenes was mischievously aimed. When he could not otherwise disparage or displace the fine sentiments of his competitor, uttered as they were with faultless elocution, he exclaimed “You act," thus turning to account the double meaning of the word* used by the Greeks to designate dramatic recitation, as well as the unworthy simulation of feelings and opinions not really entertained by the speaker; but so little was the victor of The Crown disposed to undervalue the subtle and resistless power of artistic declamation, that when asked what was the chief requisite for oratorical success, his answer consisted in the reiteration of the very selfsame term, “acting,”+ which in another form he had sarcastically applied to

* YTOXPites. Step. Thes. + Tropious. The representation of a part upon the stage.

Æschines. The word is commonly mis-translated “action,” which renders the passage valueless, if not unmeaning.

The same charge was often made against the elder Pitt; and in the celebrated conflict between him and Horace Walpole, the latter did not disdain to accuse him of endeavouring to beguile his hearers by " theatrical emotion.” The imputation with its double edge seems to have touched the haughty sensibility of the “great commoner” to the quick, and drew from him the most ruthless and scathing retort which the records of Parliamentary invective, perhaps, contain. But even in his rage he critically discriminates between the justifiable use of pre-considered gesture and intonation, and the unworthy "utterance of any other sentiments than his own." To any comment on the former he avows his contemptuous disregard; while for the insinuation of the latter he declares his unmeasured indignation and resentment. Grattan, who had often in his youth heard Chatham speak, and who is believed to have in some degree modelled his own style upon that illustrious example, was constantly reproached with affecting the air and manner of the stage; but he treated at all times such comments with indifference or derision, attributing them to

ignorance or jealousy in those who made them. He used to tell an anecdote of Flood, apropos of this subject. At the conclusion of an elaborate attack upon the ministry by that formidable assailant, one of their empty and flippant retainers was put up to reply to him; and by way of disparaging the force of splendid imagery and grave invective with which the Commons had been carried away, the apologist of the Treasury Bench began by declaring that he would not try to mislead the House by the use of exalted phrases—he would not try to delude them by dramatic pauses—he would not try to influence them by theatrical intonation; and he was beginning another reiteration of what he would not try to do, when Flood scornfully ejaculated, “Try, sir-do try!” the ludicrous effect of which was irresistible. This story was told by Lord Plunket to Sheil, when talking of the men who were most distinguished in the Irish Parliament.

CHAPTER XVIII.

1837-1840.

The Queen's Accession-Commissionership of Greenwich Hospital

- Personal anecdotes-Appropriation clause abandoned Debate on the Government of Ireland—The Jamaica BillMinisterial changes-Vice-Presidency of the Board of Trade -Dinner to Mr. Byng-Government patronage-Personal characteristics-Lord Stanley's Registration Bill.

At the general election occasioned by the demise of the Crown, no important change in the balance of parties occurred. In England the Conservatives gained; but this was countervailed by their losses in Scotland and in Ireland. In the latter country, the fusion of the different sections of the Liberal party appeared to be complete. The administrative government, for the first time since the Union, was conducted upon the principles laid down by Mr. Fox, in

1797. “My wish,” said that eminent statesman, ' is, that the whole people of Ireland should have the same privileges, the same system, the same operation of government; and although it may be only a subordinate consideration, that all classes should have an equal chance of emolument-in other words, I would have the Irish government regulated by Irish notions and Irish prejudices; and I am convinced, the more Ireland is under Irish government, the more she will be bound to English interests.” To those principles Lord John Russell stated that he gave his unqualified adhesion,* and in a letter addressed by him to Lord Mulgrave, soon after the Queen's accession, he conveyed to the viceroy the strongest expressions of her Majesty's commendation, her entire approval of the principles on which the recent administration of affairs in Ireland had been carried on, and the cordial expression of her desire “ to see her Irish subjects in the full enjoyment of that civil and political equality, to which, by a recent statute, they were entitled; and that she was convinced, that when invidious distinctions were altogether obliterated, her throne would be more secure, and the people more truly united.” A new era thus seemed

* Debate on Irish Municipal Reform, 7th February, 1837.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »