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many things, and I have often succeeded at last. I will sit dewn now, but the time will come when you will hear me."
His prophecy, like Sheridan's, has also been verified, and by dint of the same indefatigable toil.
Chatham and Burke in like manner, Pitt and Fox, Grattan, Erskine, Curran and Shiel, Lord Brougham, Macaulay, and the finest orators of the present day, form no exception to the fixed law that genius, to succeed even in public speaking, cannot afford to dispense with labor, all it can do is to shorten the time of labor. Lord Chatham, at the age of eighteen, when he went to the University of Oxford, forthwith entered upon a severe course of rhetorical training. We are informed by his biographers that he adopted the practice of translating largely from the most famous orators and historians of antiquity. His model was Demosthenes, and by frequently writing translations of his finest orations, he insensibly acquired the habit of always using the right word in the right place. This practice of accurate translation he adopted from Cicero, who has recommended it in his treatise “ De Oratore,” and whose preface to his versions of both Demosthenes' and Æschines' “ De Corona ” is extant, though the translations themselves have perished. As another means of acquiring a copia verborum,' and a choice diction, he diligently studied the sermons of Barrow; and, with the same view went twice through Nathan Bailey's folio dictionary, examining the exact meaning and use of every word until he thoroughly appreciated the strength, beauty, and significance of the English language, and could enlist any part of it at will in the service of his oratory. He trained himself at the same time for the graces of public speaking by unwearied exercises in elocution. An imposing figure
* A sufficient vocabulary.
and an eagle eye aided him materially in the effects that he produced, but the amount of drudgery that he underwent is, in the case of so great a man, almost more wonderful than his eloquence I know of no more striking evidence that in the words of the Latin poet: “Nil sine magno Vita labore dedit mortalibus."
But to select an orator of a more argumentative class than Lord Chatham, how did Fox acquire his skill as a debater ?
Those, indeed, notably err," writes one of his admirers, “ who judging only by the desultory social habits and dissipated tastes of Mr. Fox, concluded that his faculties attained their strength without the necessary toil of resolute exertion."
The propensity to labor at excellence, even in his amusements, distinguished him through life; and we learn from his nephew, Lord Holland, that at every little diversion or employment, at ehess, cards, or carving at dinner, he would exercise his faculties with wonderful assiduity till he had attained the required degree of perfection.
Fox once remarked to a friend that he had literally gained his skill
at the expense of the House,” for he had sometimes tasked himself during a whole session to speak on every question that came up, whether he was interested in it or not, as a means of training his ability for debate.
A debater has been aptly described as “one who goes out in all weathers." He must always be prepared for every emergency, and ready to grapple with his antagonist at a moment’s notice. Spurred on by ambition, and untiring in his zeal, Fox rose, as Burke declared, “by slow degrees to be the most brilliant and accomplished debater the world ever saw."
Let us take the case of the last quoted orator and philoso
* Life gives nothing to mortals without great labor.
pher. Burke says of himself in one of his letters: “I was not swaddled and dandled and rocked into a legislator. Nitor in adversum is the motto for a man like me.” His studies at the University of Dublin were severe.
Leland, the translator of Demosthenes, used to speak of him young man more anxious to acquire knowledge than to display it.” Accordingly, when he had left college he had mastered most of the great writers of antiquity. Poets and historians, philosophers and orators -- all had been laid under tribute to enrich the intellectual treasury of the future orator. Bacon, Shakespeare, and Milton were the great English triumvirate whom he daily studied, and his memory was a vast storehouse of all wisdom, ancient and modern, sacred and profane. Though often spoken to almost empty benches, Burke's speeches are probably the most eloquent ever delivered by any uninspired man. The very reasons which made them unpleasant to the parliamentary members of his own day are those which have rendered them invaluable to posterity. Burke's oratory was essentially didactic. His speeches were dissertations, or declaimed pamphlets, and while his hearers were absorbed in considering what they deemed the mere question of the hour he rose to grand genzralizations until his arguments on particular topics assumed the dignity of universal propositions. To quote once more from Lord Lytton's poem:
“ But what the faults that could admirers chill,
And then the benches plain Dundas could fill?
"I struggle against opposition.
Fox, in distinction to Burke, at once seized the strong points of a case and avoiding all circuitous processes and subtle exposition, struck at the very heart of a subject, and forced the attention of his audience. Nevertheless, in 1790 Fox stated in the House of Commons that " if he were to put all the political information which he had learned from books, all that he gained from science, and all that any knowledge of the world and its affairs had taught him, into one scale; and if the improvements which he had derived from his right honorable friend's instruction and conversation were placed in the other, he should be at a loss to decide to which to give the preference.” Burke's talk,” said Dr. Johnson, " is the ebullition of his mind. He does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.” On another occasion he declared: “Burke is the only man whose common conversation corresponds with the general fame which he has in the world. Take up whatever topic you please, he is ready to meet you.” Again: “No man of sense can meet Mr. Burke by accident under a gateway, to avoid a shower, without being convinced that he is the first man in England."
We may rest assured that Burke did not become her greatest orator, the most instructive conversationalist, and the first man in England (according to Dr. Johnson) without having previously undergone almost superhuman labor. Nay, more, he boasted of his incessant toil, and, disclaiming superior abilities, attributed his success to his superior industry.
We are accustomed to read accounts which seem almost fabulous of the oratorical powers of Curran. He could command at will the laughter and the tears of his audience; and it has been said that while he poured forth his invective like a stream of lava he could inflame the minds of his coun
trymen almost to madness by a recital of their alleged wrongs. Lord Brougham, who, however, has given us no sketch of his life, calls him the greatest orator, after Grattan and Plunket, that Ireland has produced, and, in every respect, worthy of being placed on a line with those great masters of speech.” We might reasonably imagine that Curran if any one was a born orator; but what do we find stated if we turn to any of his biographies? We learn that his voice was bad, his articulation indistinct, and that he was nicknamed by his school fellows, “Stuttering Jack Curran."
Certainly a curious coincidence between his case and that of Demosthenes, to which I alluded before. Nor were the two men unlike in many other respects, though their style of oratory was wholly different. Curran's manner was awkward, and his general appearance ridiculous. The portrait of him prefixed to his life by Charles Phillips is one that can scarcely be forgotten. It was only by unremitting efforts that he conquered his innumerable faults, both of action and elocution. Keenly alive to his deficiencies he declaimed daily before a mirror (as Demosthenes had done two thousand years ago) and recited ore rotundo select passages from standard authors. His repeated failures at the London debating societies procured for him the title of “Orator Mum." But, as Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton has said: « The main difference between the great and the insignificant is energy, invincible determination, a purpose once fixed, and then - death or victory. That quality will do anything that can be done in the world.” That quality Curran possessed, and with him the struggle ended not in death, but in victory. “He turned his shrill and stumbling brogue,” writes one of his friends, "into a flexible, sustained, and finely modulated voice. His action became free and forcible; and he acquired a perfect