Imatges de pÓgina

It is not often that men of literary merit succeed in the House, and one reason is that they are commonly too fastidious.

They who have been studying the niceties of language all their lives, dislike to rush into the bold current of extemporaneous speaking-of incurring the half-finished sentence-the confused grammar—the bald English, into which even the best of Parliamentary debaters are often driven. Another cause of their want of success is, that they are often too refined in their reasonings. An experienced orator, who desires a cheer at some particular moment, will plunge voluntarily into some popular common-place, which in his heart he despises, in order to obtain it. It is seldom that the philosophical, fastidious, contemplative man of letters descends to these arts; seldom that you hear from him about “ the corrupt Boroughmongers” on the one hand, or “the downfall of our sacred institutions” on the other. But these are minor obsta-, cles to success, which a little resolution and a little versatility easily overcome. The greatest obstacle the man of letters has to contend with, is too great a susceptibility to failure. “Is not that a great speech ?" said a member to Charles Fox, of the present Lord D-'s maiden effort—“ Yes," answered Fox ; “but before I judge of the speaker, I must see him fail.”

And literary men, above all others, are apt to become disgusted with a career which involves necessarily so many stumbles. One gives it up in despondency, another in disdain ; a third is stifled by a sneer, and a fourth is rendered for ever dumb by a complimentary exposition of a blunder. Literary men, tuo, have an arch enemy to encounter in their own reputation—a great deal is expected from them on their first debut. "Now, every one who knows any thing of public speaking, knows that, of all talents, it is the one which requires the most study and the longest practice. With exceptions so few that they may be dismissed at once, no orators permanently great, are great at the beginning. Few literary men have had any previous practice, when they enter the House; the thousand tricks and mysteries of oratory are utterly unknown to them; they make what would have been an excellent speech in an unknown member, but which, perhaps, from a mere diffidence, a mere want of address in delivery, is considered a failure for them; and that failure, perhaps, which ought to excite their energy, only induces their despair. It is a common thing to say, “ Men find their level in the House." It is an unjust observation; the mind does not always find its level—the tongue does. There is a great difference between the two.

Yet, on the whole, though any very clever man may fail repeatedly, if he have but the hardness of mind to persevere, he is sure of success at last : there is scarcely an instance to the contrary. A happy fact happily stated-a broad view-a noble sentiment-even a felicitous expression, will suddenly redeem a series of failures, and chain the House into attention; and with men of real talent and determined courage, though one opportunity may be lost, many opportunities never are. The misfortune is, that great genius and great hardness of mind are not so commonly united as they ought to be.

There is a very remarkable feature, and a very encouraging characteristic of the House of Commons-one speech will make a reputation--one failure will never lose it. It requires at least six failures

to obliterate the impression of one success. The worst speeches in taste, tact, temper, and even common sense, ever made in the House, were some of Brougham's.

Of all literary men, the one who has the most thoroughly triumphed over every obstacle is Mr. Macaulay. With his great reputation, entering the House in a signal manner, as a marked and chosen champion of a party, so much was expected from him that nothing was forgiven. His first speeches were, it is true, cheered and praised at the moment, but they were cavilled at the next day. Some called them essays, others declamations. Now they were mere words, and now' they were too elaborate in matter. It is only within the last few months, only from his speeches on Reform, that he has fairly battled his way to a reluctant admission to the high and proud eminence his brilliant geniushis profound and various knowledge-his grasp of mind-his generous and noble views_his broad, practical vigour, of common sense demanded from the first. But then, Mr. Macaulay was more than the literary man-he was a thoroughly-practised and a long-experienced orator before he entered the House.

The common characteristic—and strange as it may seem to those unacquainted with the tone of the House, the great drawback to the effect they produce-of men who both write and speak, is too good a choice of words. It gives the mob of the House the excuse, eagerly grasped at, of talking of pedantry and premeditation. So with the Lord Advocate-his first speech was thought the result of at least a month's written labour. Those intimate with that distinguished man, know that he never so laboured at any speech in his life. He could get up after dinner, and “speak off” an essay, not only with the same classical language, but in the same logical arrangement that the file and the foul copy alone give to minds of a slower order. His first failure the Lord Advocate has now redeemed: the reason is, that his first failure was an essayhis last success was a speech.

I could say a great deal about Shiel. He has it in his power to be a magnificent orator—to be more, a most effective member; but he must sternly dismiss his present style; there is not one occasion in fifty in which it suits the House of Commons. Declamation succeeds—declamation of the stern order, the vehement order, the passionate order-but never the florid order. The man who could compose the speech, spoken or not spoken at Penenden Heath, has in him the real and solid elements of greatness. Let him only do justice to himself?

Of all species of oratory, the oratory of conciliation is the most successful in the long run. In the excitement of party, the violent speaker may be enthusiastically welcomed for the moment: but every cheer he receives is often seal on the fate of his permanent reputation. The epithet “ statesman-like” is generally applied to the moderate tone. The House never long forgets that it is an assembly of men accustomed to good-breeding; and courtesy wins its way to favour in that public circle no less than it would do in a private. Had Brougham been the leader of the House of Commons, instead of Lord Althorpe, the Reform Bill would have been at least six weeks longer in the Committee. To be sure, every night there would have been much finer speaking: there would have been “bitter words, Master Shallow ;" much excellent invective

and crushing irony; and the Reformers would have gone to bed in higher spirits; and the newspapers next day would have been full of eulogy on “Mr. Brougham's most cutting attack.” But when the Bill again went into the Committee, the Anti-Reformers would have flocked down with new amendments, new retorts, new speeches, new delays. They could easily have been stung into the most vexatious opposition by a great orator. They were literally shamed into discretion by a mild and good-tempered man of sense. This is what out of the House can scarcely be understood, but it is very easy of comprehension to any experienced member in it. This spirit of conciliation, this rhetoric of temper, was eminently possessed by Lord Castlereagh. It was by this, despite his bad reasoning and bad grammár, that he governed his assembly, and was confessedly one of the adroitest and most admirable leaders that the House ever knew. This, the talent of leading, is one in which the Country can never sympathise with the House. The outward and visible signs of sense, knowledge, and eloquence are what the Country can alone judge its representatives by. The fine, subtle, almost imperceptible arts of guiding the House and harmonizing a party, are only for the House and for a party to appreciate. This is one main reason why the House and the Country are so often at variance respecting the degree of consideration to be paid to individual members. Few great orators make great leaders. The art of eloquence, so invaluable in attack, is often dangerous in defence. In opposition, the art is to expose your antagonist : in office, the danger is lest you should expose yourself.

The life of the regular House of Commons man is not a bed of roses. It is scarcely possible, at the first sight, to conceive any existence more wearisome. At half past three he goes down to prayers ; he takes his seat among cold, desolate benches ; petitions come on; long unseasonable speeches ensue; then, perhaps, the question is hunted down into the corner of a detail, where it is worried, mouthed, mumbled for three or four hours, and finally escapes, at last, to be hunted again at the next convenient opportunity. At seven, perhaps, our assiduous senator escapes up-stairs to a plate of cold meat and a glass of brandy and water : and in half an hour afterwards, he is fairly re-seated till two, nay three, o'clock in the morning. And perhaps this laborious gentleman never speaks himself; has no particular interest in the subjects discussed; has no ambition to gratify; no purpose to answer. Perhaps for him all the pleasures and luxuries of life await; cheerful society, music, books, wine, love, all that riches can purchase and youth enjoy. What induces the choice he has preferred ? Heaven only knows! And yet the more wearisome a pursuit at the beginning, the more seductive it often becomes at the end. Business grows upon men more than pleasure: only, indeed, to men who do not enter into it themselves, the daily work of the House of Commons is scarcely business : _" totius negotii caput ac fontem ignorant." But it


be observed, that of all pursuits, those which lead to public speaking generally engross and tyrannize over the mind the most. At the Universities, the members of a speaking club rarely think of any thing else but the club. On the stage how invariably actors herd together; how invariably their conversation turns on the art and its professors. So in regard to the House. A party of members, met at dinner, fly at once to “ that interesting debate”—“ Mr. Stanley,” “ Sir Charles Wetherell,” “the sugar refineries,” and the indomitable “ Bill.” This it is that makes the society of members dull to the gay world, and insipid to women in particular. Few ladies, however ambitious in general, long preserve much sympathy with the Parliamentary ambition of their husbands. And here is a marked ifference between the French and the English woman. The rewards which social distinction bestows in France are much more gratifying than those which it can grant in England: yet in France, women value public reputation and political honours much higher than the honours of the salon ; and it would be well for England if here it were the same.*

Talking of France, perhaps there is no instance in which the different character of the two nations is more manifest than in the National Assemblies. The French people, only lately aroused to deep thought, love to indulge in broad, grand, general truths. The attention of the English, turned by their National Debt and their enormous taxation to matters of practical business, is but coldly inclined to the nobler and larger truths, and fastens at once upon the minutiæ of arithmetic and the petty utilities of detail. Madame de Stael observes rather profoundly, (we think in L'Allemagne,) that one cause of the excesses in the French Revolution, was the admission of strangers into the Deliberative Assembly. At first the orators, for the sake of effect, sacrificed truths to words. Whatever was most violent soon grew most showy, and then the orators sacrificed men instead of truths. In England, this terrible effect of vanity could never occur. Through their representatives, the reporters, the whole people of England are looking on the debates in the House of Commons; and not one man in ten, when he speaks, ever thinks about the reporters at all. It is curious to note how seldom the eye of the orator turns to the galleries; and Colonel Sibthorpe and Mr. Hunt seem the only persons keenly alive to the desire that full justice the next morning may be done to their eloquence and wisdom at night.

It was a deep and true remark said to have been made by one of the most distinguished of living orators, that “ The House of Commons, so faulty a representation of the opinions, would never have endured so long, if it had not represented so faithfully the character of the English people !" And this has, at certain periods of history, made it what Lord John Russell has called it in his last work, (erroneously, without doubt, if he intended it generally to apply,) viz. “ an admirable assembly." Happy will be that day when both the opinions and character are reflected in the national councils ! Perhaps, when that time shall arrive, and when the difficulties of our financial system shall no longer encumber and fritter down the genius of a profound and wise people, the more magnificent and enlarged of human truths may obtain that due and warm reception denied them at present. Statesmen may arise, who will at first meet with the impatience, but will finally chain the hearts, of their audience. The science of legis

* See what our able correspondent II. says more at large on this head in his article



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lation may succeed to the arts of debate ; and what is now clever may then be wise !

And what effect will Reform-Reform delayed only to be more certain than ever-produce on the temper of the House of Commons ?. What will be the manners of the Parliament of 1835? Its main features, in this respect, will always continue the same; always, at least, while the country itself continues great and flourishing. As was remarked by Mr. Edward Bulwer,* in answer to the cant assertion that the people will choose their representatives from the lower orders— « The Roman people,' said Machiavel, obtained the right to choose Plebeians and they chose Patricians;' and this," added Mr. Bulwer, “must always be the case so long as mankind feel a respect for those greatly above them, but a jealousy for those only a little elevated beyond themselves !" The assembly will always always, even if the monarchy of England were changed to a Republic,)—always, so long as the commerce of England overflows the world, and its arts, its sciences, its wealth endure, be an assembly of men of education and birth. It will be characterised by the same courtesy of demeanour, the same correctness of taste, the same aristocratic manners, but not the same, aristocratic principles. The people will choose their representatives from the higher or wealthier order ; but they will make those representatives express popular opinions. They will demand that their oracles should be heard ; but in order to give them the greater solemnity and the more effectual voice, they will suffer those oracles, as at Dodona, to be uttered from the loftiest trees !

Z. Z. Library of the House of Commons, 1831.


What hath all this pomp and pride — these Bishopricks and Archbishopricks to do with the religion of Christ—with any religion whatsoever? What man of ordinary sense or ordinary meekness will not confess that in him who affects to approach God the nearest, (and in established churches the higher the grade on earth, the nearer the supposed approach to Heaven – The Saint in crape is twice a Saint in lawn') the first requisite virtue is humility. So sensible is even the Musselman of this truth that he never ventures to approach his God in sumptuous apparel. The pomps and vanities of the world are scarcely to be assumed to its Creator. Nor is THERE ANY HAUGHTINESS SO REVOLTING AS THAT HAUGHTINESS OF PRIESTCRAFT WHICH DARES TO PLAY THE ARISTOCRAT TO THE OMNIPOTENT !


Our correspondent must pardon us for omitting what he has in another part of this paper been pleased to say about the gentleman quoted. We have reasons for omitting our correspondent's favourable predictions ; but we are sure that, in the due quarter, his admonitions will be gratefully remembered.--Ed.

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