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verest papers in The New Whig Guide: The Trial of Henry Brougham, for calling Mr. Ponsonby an Old Woman.' In the verses on The Choice of Leader,' we find :
"What boots our debate ?"-thus the rebels began;
No plan can succeed and no party can thrive
For six mortal years, as rhetorical graces,
Whatever his legal attainments, he to personal consideration and esteem. born, high-bred, and highly connected. His manners were courteous, his integrity unimpeachable, his talents and acquirements above par. It is therefore remarkable that he should have been the chosen butt of the political satirist in England, and that the fiercest diatribe and coarsest personalities ever uttered in the Irish House of Commons should have been levelled at him. Toler (afterwards Lord Norbury) once answered him thus:
had every title He was high
"What! was it come to this-that in the Irish House of Commons they should listen to one of their own members degrading the character of an Irish gentleman by language that was but fit for hallooing on a mob? Had he heard a man out of doors using such language as that by which the honourable gentleman had violated the decorum of Parliament, he would have seized the ruffian by the throat and dragged him to the dust.'
Martin, of Galway, spoke as follows, Mr. Ponsonby's sister being, with some other ladies, in the gallery :
'These Ponsonbys are the curse of my country. They are prostitutes, personally and politically-from that toothless
old hag who is now grinning in the gallery, to that whitelivered scoundrel who is now shivering on the floor.'
A duel, a bloodless one, followed. When Martin was asked how he knew that Miss Ponsonby was in the gallery, he replied, 'Oh, I walked down to the House with Ponsonby, and he told me his sister was coming to hear him.'
Reluctant as we are to pass over Lord Manners and Sir Anthony Hart, who come next, we really have no alternative; for our remaining space is only just sufficient for a compressed tribute to the memory of Plunket, to whom must be awarded the first place amongst Irish orators, if reason and logic, as well as fancy, wit, humour, and imagination, are to be the tests. Curran's imagination has been compared to virgin gold crumbling from its own richness. Grattan's mind was pre-eminent for fertility and force. But neither of them equalled Plunket in the combination of chasteness and purity with splendour, intensity, and power. His loftiest flights and boldest bursts were tempered and restrained by the severest taste: he never risked an apostrophe, the most dangerous of rhetorical figures or artifices, until the audience were thoroughly warmed for its reception: he was never stiltish, like Sheridan in the most applauded passages of the Begum speech, nor melodramatic, like Burke in the dagger scene: he was never gaudy or flowery: in a word, he was wholly free from the faults popularly attributed to the Irish school of eloquence; and this is the reason why some of his greatest triumphs were won in the English House of Commons, in which Flood failed and Grattan obtained only a qualified success. It was a favourite aphorism of Fox, that, if a speech read well, it was not a good speech. Plunket's speeches do read well, and they are emphatically good speeches. It was the opinion of a man steeped to the lips in classic lore, the lamented Sir George Cornewall Lewis,
that Plunket came nearer to the Demosthenic model than any other modern orator: awarding the palm for Ciceronian excellence to Pitt.
Plunket has not been fortunate in his biographers. The Life, in two volumes, by his grandson, is an imperfect and unsatisfactory work: being especially deficient in accurate reports of the best speeches:1 and Mr. O'Flanagan has vainly endeavoured to make up by admiring enthusiasm for his incapacity to grasp so varied and expansive a subject, or to keep to it. As if he had not enough upon his hands without meddling with irrelevant topics, he introduces (apropos of Thurlow's being Lord Chancellor when Plunket was a student) Thurlow's well-known reply to the Duke of Grafton; and apropos of Plunket's father having 'found a congenial spirit in a fair daughter of the town washed by the beauteous Lough Erne,' he tells us how the said town (Enniskillen) was once inhabited by the Maguires and their tributaries,' amongst whom were my ancestors the O'Flanagans, Chiefs of Tara, now the barony of Magheraboy.'
The upshot is that the Reverend Thomas Plunket, a Presbyterian minister of Enniskillen, married Mary, daughter of Mr. Redmund Conyngham of that ilk, and had by her six sons and two daughters, the youngest son being William Conyngham Plunket, born July 1, 1764. The family removed to Dublin in 1768, where the father died in 1776; leaving little or no fortune beyond a good name, to which the future Chancellor was mainly indebted for his education. The requisite funds were provided by the members of the paternal congrega
1 The Life, Letters, and Speeches of Lord Plunket. By his Grandson, the Hon. David Plunket. With an Introductory Preface. By Lord Brougham.' In two Volumes. London, 1867. There is little in the Introductory Preface which had not already appeared in Lord Brougham's Historical Sketches.' It is much to be regretted that the composition of this biography did not devolve on another grandson, the present member for Trinity College, Dublin; who, himself an excellent speaker, would at least have done justice to the oratorical portion.
tion, and were honourably repaid by him in after life with interest.
He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1779, obtained a scholarship in 1782, and in the course of the same year joined the Historical Society, that nursery of Irish eloquence, in which so many of his most distinguished countrymen have, like him, first essayed their powers and laid the foundation of their fame. As the audiences were not limited to the resident students, the celebrity acquired in it soon spread beyond its walls; and the distinguished position won in this Society was no inconsiderable recommendation to Plunket when (in 1787) he commenced his attendance in the Irish Courts with a view to practice. He had spent the two years preceding his call to the Bar in England reading hard, and his biographer attributes the superiority of tone and judgment of which he gave proof at starting in the conduct of cases, to the opportunities he had enjoyed of studying the best examples of English advocacy, which, it is suggested, was of a less digressive and more sober or prosaic character.
'The English barrister would deem venturing on a flight of impassioned eloquence while discussing a legal proposition as nothing short of absurdity, while an Irish barrister of this period would not have hesitated to indulge in such disporting. We have instances in which the learned counsel reminded the chief of the court he was addressing of the banquets which they shared the friends they lost-the tears they mingled.' He next proceeds to give instances of the Irish fondness for metaphor: As for example, one member of the Bar implored the jury not to be influenced “ "by the dark oblivion of a brow." Another, whose clients had instituted proceedings against a false witness, said "Gentlemen, my clients are not to be bamboozled. They adopted a bold course. They took the bull by the horns, and indicted him for perjury." A
third, anticipating the case of his opponents—“ I foresee what they are at. I see the storm brewing in the disstance, I smell a rat, but I'll nip it in the bud."'
If Mr. O'Flanagan were equally well up in the traditions of the English bar, he would know that sentimental or poetical digressions, with mixed metaphors running riot, have been by no means peculiar to his countrymen. Erskine was quite as discursive as Curran, and even more egotistical-witness the introduction of the savage with the bundle of sticks in the speech for Stockdale, or the appeal to the probable opinion of his ancestors on a knee-buckle.1 We have heard a learned counsel and law author (Archbold) pathetically adjuring the judge of the Bail Court to consider 'the agonising effects of a rule nisi;' and another (of literary and legal eminence) conclude a dry technical argument before the Common Pleas by reciting from the Merchant of Venice' the entire passage beginning: 'The quality of mercy is not strained.' A quondam leader of the Western Circuit and Vinerian Professor (Philip Williams), in a law lecture at Oxford, spoke thus: The student, launched on an ocean of law, skips like a squirrel from twig to twig, vainly endeavouring to collect the scattered members of Hippolytus.' Moreover, there was nothing extraordinary or exceptional in an Irish student's two years' residence in England for the purposes of legal study; and all things considered, we should be disposed to account for Plunket's sobriety of fancy and sense of fitness by the inborn qualities of his mind.
Such being the advantages and peculiar merits with which he started, it surprises us to find that his early eminence at the Bar was acquired in criminal cases on
1 This was in a patent case. In the course of his address to the jury, Erskine held up the buckle and exclaimed theatrically, 'What would my ancestors have said, could they have seen this miracle of ingenuity?' 'You forget,' remarked Garrow, that your ancestors were unacquainted with the garment for which it was intended.'