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Table of contents
A Canyon Gustave Dore A Friendly Tournament Gustave Dore The Road to Jerusalem Gustave Dore The Crusaders massacre the inhabitants of Caesarea Gustave Dore The Children's Crusade in Gustave Dore The Battle of Nicaea in Gustave Dore Related Artists. Fyodor Bronnikov - James Campbell - August Friedrich Schenck - Dante Gabriel Rossetti - John Roddam Spencer Stanhope - John Everett Millais - Thomas Hill - Albert Bierstadt - Konstantin Dmitriyevich Flavitsky - Theodor Aman - Peter Nicolai Arbo - Arthur Hughes - Victor Meirelles - Henry William Banks Davis - Apollinary Goravsky - Edward Burne-Jones - Edouard Riou - Bertalan Szekely - Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema - But he had not the power to electrify them as did John Bright, Gladstone and Chamberlain.
He was at his best amid the inspiring familiarity of the adjuncts of the House of Com- mons.
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Even there his power was limited to a certain measure of brevity. In this matter Gladstone did him more harm than in open attacks across the floor of the House. Disraeli never liked to be beaten by any man, least of all by Gladstone. For the latter it was a matter of comparative ease to speak for two hours or even three, maintaining throughout the highest level of eloquence.
Dizzy regarded this natural, occasionally deplorable, gift with envy. With his keen instinct of the right thing to do, he habitually resisted temptation to attenuate his speech. Gladstone in his prime was equally at home in either sphere of oratorical display. By reason of the vaster audience gathered round the platform, and the contagious enthusiasm displayed, he was more effective in the country even than in the House of Commons.
Brought up in the school of Canning and Peel, he lived through a fundamental change in the style of Parliamentary oratory, a change finally established in the Parliament that placed Campbell-Bannerman in power at the head of an overwhelming majority. When he entered the House, almost contemporaneously with Disraeli, debate was conducted upon much statelier lines than those familiar to-day.
The number of habitual participants in debate was restricted. The vast majority of Members were accustomed to, and satisfied with, the opportunity of hearing their betters talk. Then there was the classical quotation. No Parliamentary speaker of the first rank, even at a period so recent as the days of Lowe, would have been satisfied with his speech unless it embalmed a classical quotation.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema | The Hammock | Page 2
The disappearance of the classical quotation is the result of, and is concomitant with, a simpler, more businesslike manner of debate adapted to the times. Second-reading debates, upon which the orator of old used to expand himself, more and more take the form and the brevity of conversation in Com- mittee. This, while conducive to the progress of business, is obviously fatal to the exuberance of oratory. Apart from the influence of official position, public opinion if expressed would probably give Lord Rosebery pre-eminence among the orators of to-day.
In the former his range was fatally limited. The regret, occasionally expressed in the privacy of conversation, that has overshadowed his life is the fact that he never enjoyed the opportunity of membership of the House of Commons. Succeeding early to the peer- age, his Parliamentary achievements have per- force been confined to the arctic regions of the House of Lords. That Chamber is literally the sepulchre of speech. There are not more than half a dozen Peers who can successfully combat its grievous lack of acoustical properties.
Beyond this structural failing, the habitual manner of the audience chills to the marrow a peer on his legs. In the Commons the poorest joke is certain to receive the overpaid meed of laughter. As The Tenth never danced, so the Lords never laugh— or hardly ever. Occa- sionally when Lord Rosebery is on his legs, brimming over with polished wit or rich humour, something like a titter rises from the benches.
But the homeric bursts of laughter that frequently shake the Commons are unknown in the gilded Chamber at the other end of the corridor. Lord Rosebery rides triumphant over these difficulties. Since the removal from the scene of the massive figure of Lord Salisbury, he remains pre-eminent. A rumour that he intends to take part in current debate fills the Chamber.
As he sits at the cross bench, his head hung back over the rail, supported by his clasped hands, all eyes are bent upon him, waiting for his movement towards the table. Occasionally, whether from malice or otherwise, he, after listening for an hour or so, walks out and is seen no more.
On the public platform, warmed and encouraged by the sym- pathy of a popular audience, he is at his best, playing upon its feelings as the skilled harpist commands melody from the strings. No one who heard his speech delivered in the vast banqueting hall at the White City, welcoming to the Mother- land.
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Passionless, not given to bursts of broad humour, severely intellectual, both the sometime Leader of the House of Commons and the Leader of the Opposition are alike at home in the House of Commons. Of the two, Balfour is more disposed with happy effect to let himself go when faced by a crowded enthusiastic audience.
Whilst Asquith is disposed to crush the enemy by well-delivered strokes of the sledge- hammer, Balfour prefers to pink him in the ribs with brilliant passes of the rapier. Neither approaches John Bright, Gladstone, or in degree Lord Rosebery in the power of profoundly stirring the heart and soul of a great multitude.
The similarity between the two statesmen is carried farther by the circumstances of their early appearance on the stage which in later years they were destined to command. Asquith, thanks to his practice at the Bar, attracted notice by his earliest speech. It was admitted that the speech was able, in parts even brilliant. But complaint was made that it had too obviously been prepared in the study and learned off for recitation.
There are few Members of the present House who remem- ber the tall figure with its long stride, its languid air, and a youthful countenance over which con- stantly brooded a look of boredom. Attracted by the vitality of Randolph Churchill and his three companions, Balfour joined the Fourth Party.
He was of it but scarcely in it, his attendance being fitful and his speech rare. He made little impression upon the House, and shrank from its unsympathetic regard. He is not a good speaker, but he is endowed with the rich gift of conveying the impression that presently he will be a successful Parliamentary debater, and that in the meantime he should assiduously prac- tise it. He is a pleasing specimen of the highest form of the culture and good breeding which stand to the credit of Cambridge University.
He is not without desire to say hard things of the adversary opposite, and sometimes yields to the temptation. But it is ever done with such sweet and gentle grace, is smoothed over by such earnest protestation of innocent intention, that the adver- sary rather likes it than otherwise. He came forth from it strengthened and hardened, and thereafter achieved a position of authority in the House which, whether exercised in office or in Opposition, has rarely been excelled.
Later comers to the vineyard are Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Each has shown himself capable of swaying the passions of a multi- tude. But there is nothing new in the method or manner of either. Lloyd George has sat at the feet of the Gamaliel who in roused Radicalism throughout the country to its highest pitch.
Oddly enough, he first com- manded attention in the House of Commons and laid the foundation of his fortune by persistently attacking Chamberlain, a dangerous undertaking for an ordinary man. Lord Rosebery, recently installed in a short Premier- ship, visited Cardiff, an occasion that led to a blazing revival of Party spirits. One afternoon Lloyd George mounted the platform. At home among his own people, the then almost obscure country solicitor delivered a speech which in the glow of its eloquence and the brilliance of its attack convinced at least one in the audience that here was a man who would go far.
I admit it did not occur to me that the Premiership was his possible goal. He is in other respects than those of personal resemblance a replica of his father. The same arrogance of manner, the same exaggeration of speech, the same readiness to make the best of both worlds of political party, mark father and son. It was characteristic of him that his first public appearance as an orator was made at a well-known London music hall. Its fre- quenters, annoyed by what they regarded as police persecution, were in a state of incipient revolt.
The future Minister of War in a Coalition Government, up in town from Sandhurst on holiday bent, stood up in the stalls and in a fiery speech encouraged resistance to Scotland Yard. Weighted by the responsibility of minis- terial office, he surprises the House of Commons by the soberness of his speech, the gravity of his manner. He makes up for this burdensome self-restraint when he goes down to Manchester, Glasgow, or elsewhere and is let loose to play with a Party mob. It is probable that during the campaign of the General Election, whose opening cannot long be delayed, the country will hear more of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill than of other participants in the fray on either side.
The forecast of the poten- tiality of the two statesmen has in the interval been strikingly verified. The two Chambers are in their physical aspects wholly dissimilar. In the House of Commons no effort has been made to achieve grandeur, even dignity of ap- pearance. It is literally a workshop, rigorously plain and businesslike in all its arrangements.
I have heard from many people who visit it for the first time an expression of surprise at the smallness of the chamber. The assembly fills so large a space in the mind of the world that, unconsciously, strangers imagine a magnificent hall of broad and lofty proportions.
The House of Lords will more nearly gratify expectation of this character. In the Commons every inch of space on the floor of the House is impressed into the service of Members.
Under the gallery by the door there are two rows of benches which will accommodate a dozen or so of strangers. Otherwise no stranger may appear on the floor of the House whilst it is in session. When the Sovereign opens Parliament in person, room is found for peeresses on the benches on the floor of the House. Foreign Ministers and Judges are on such occasions provided with sitting room. At all times peeresses may sit in the side galleries, the analogous quarter in the Commons being strictly preserved for Members. At the other end, where the throne stands, space is reserved for Privy Councillors and the eldest sons of peers.
Whilst the chamber of the House of Lords is more imposing to look at, it is not nearly so easy to speak in as its more modest neighbour.