« PreviousContinue »
a spirit of wit and humour, not mean and vulgar, but consistent with the purest eloquence. His oratory was often rapid and diffused, but in no instance crowded or redundant; it was, as contingence required, vehement, indigrant, and expressive of the justest sorrow: its impression, its splendour, its copiousness, and variety were in all respects responsible to the greatness and dignity of the occasion.
“ With bow great delight he was heard by an attentive senate is universally known. His most determined adversaries were compelled to render tribute to his excellence. portion was added not merely to his ingenious and honourable popularity but to his solid and unfading glory. Posterity will again and again, with renewed delight and wonder, peruse that composition; and with heartfelt
A large animation will often apply to him the words of Æschines, 'Oh that we had heard him!”
The speech to which the learned and classical editor of Bellendenus here alludes was that which Mr. Sheridan made on the summing up of the Begum charge. It was commenced before the lords on the 3d of June, 1788, and continued four different days, with a vigour of genius which seemed to derive increasing energy from unabated exertion. After Mr. Sheridan's pause on the second day, when the high court of parliament had adjourned from Westminster hall, and the commons were assembled in their own chamber, the debate which ensued afforded Mr. Burke an opportunity of displaying his own abilities in the praise of his honourable friend. Mr. Burke's de. scription of the character of Mr. Sheridan's eloquence is so animated, striking, and just, that we feel no hesitation in extracting for the benefit of our readers.
“ He has this day," said Mr. Burke, surprised the thousands who hung with rapture on his accents' by such an array of talents, such an exbibition of capacity, such a display of powers as are unparalleled in the annals of oratory; a display that reflected the highest honour upon himselflustre upon letters-renown upon parliament-glory upon the country. Of all species of rhetoric, of every kind of eloquence that has been witnessed or recorded, either in ancient or modern times; whether the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, the solidity of the judgment-seat, and the sacred morality of the pulpit have hitherto furnished, nothing has equaled what we have this day heard in Westminster-hall. No holy seer of
religion, no sage, no statesman, no orator, no man of any literary description whatever has come up, in the one instance, to the pure sentiments of morality, or, in the other, to that variety of knowledge, force of imagination, propriety and vivacity of allusion, beauty and elegance of diction, strength and copiousness of style, pathos and sublimity of conception, to which we have this day listened with ardour and admiration. From poetry up to eloquence there is not a species of composition of which a complete and perfect specimen might not from that single speech be culled and collected."
We shall not weaken these just tributes of admiration and applause to the talents of Mr. Sheridan, by two of his most celebrated contemporaries, the one an orator gifted with the highest powers of eloquence, the other a
man profound versed in every branch, both of scholastic and elegant learning, by any observations of our own.
Besides these three great men, who were honoured in a particular degree with the personal favour of the Prince of Wales, his royal highness assiduously attached to him every other character of distinction whose intercourse could strengthen, or enrich, or polish his mind. Among the more intimate of his friends were Lord Rawdon (since Earl of Moira), a nobleman with whose name honour and humanity are associated as synonimous terms: the late Lord Hugh Seymour, whose orphan daughter's name is familiar to the public on account of the marked protection which his royal highness affords her, and Rear-Admiral Payne, a man of the most polished manners and lively wit, who for many years held situation in the Prince's household, are