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CHARLES BUTLER, 1750-1832.
CHARLES BUTLER was born in London, of a Roman Catholic family, in 1750. After receiving the rudiments of his education at a school of that denomination at Hammersmith,' he was sent to the English college at Douay, where, according to his own account, the scholars were excellently well instructed in their religion, and the classics were well taught; “but writing, arithmetic, and geography were little thought of, and modern history was scarcely mentioned;" the object being rather to make the scholars good Papists than to be useful and active citizens of general society. From Douay Mr. Butler removed to Lincoln's Inn, where he entered upon the study of the law, and ultimately practised as a convey. ancer. His legal publications were numerous, and gave him much reputalion as a lawyer. In 1797 appeared his “Horæ Biblicæ,” among the most popular of his works. The first part contains an historical and literary account of the original text, early versions, and printed editions of the Old and New Testaments; and the second a similar account of the sacred books of the Mohammedans, Persians, &c. It is free from any party, theological spirit, and it speedily ran through five editions. His writings in behalf of the Papal Church are numerous and valuable, and involved him in occasional controversy with some eminent men of letters. But the work by which he is now most known to general readers is his " Reminiscences," the first volume of which was published in 1822, and the second in 1827. It is a history of his literary life, and contains some very interesting details, and pleasing sketches of distinguished men; and from it the following extracts are selected. Mr. Butler died in London, June 2d, 1832. •
LORD CHATHAM.-HIS ELOQUENCE.
Of those by wbom Lord North was preceded none, probably, except Lord Chatham, will be remembered by posterity; but the nature of the eloquence of this extraordinary man, it is extremely difficult to describe. No
person in his external appearance was ever more bountifully gifted by nature for an orator. In his look and his gesture, grace and dignity were combined, but dignity presided; the "terrors of his beak, the lightnings of his eye,” were insufferable. His voice was both full and clear; his lowest whisper was distinctly heard; his middle tones were sweet, rich, and beautifully varied. When he elevated his voice to its highest pitch, the house was completely
· Four miles west of London.
filled with the volume of the sound. The effect was awful, except when he wished to cheer or animate; he then had spirit-stirring notes, which were perfectly irresistible. He frequently rose, on a sudden, from a very low to a very high key, but it seemed to be without effort. His diction was remarkably simple; but words were never chosen with greater care. He mentioned to a friend that he had perused some of Dr. Barrow's Sermons so often as to know them by heart.
His sentiments, too, were apparently simple; but sentiments were never adopted or uttered with greater skill. He was often familiar and even playful; but it was the familiarity and playfulness of condescension--the lion that dandled with the kid. The terrible, however, was his peculiar power.-Then the whole House sunk before him.—Still he was dignified; and wonderful as was his eloquence, it was attended with this most important effect, that it impressed every hearer with a conviction that there was something in him even finer than his words; that the man was infinitely greater than the orator. No impression of this kind was made by the eloquence of his son, or his son's antagonist.
Still, with the great man—for great he certainly was—manner did much. One of the fairest specimens which we possess of his lordship’s oratory is his speech, in 1776, for the repeal of the Stamp Act.
Most, perhaps, who read the report of this speech in “ Almon's Register,” will wonder at the effect which it is known to have produced on the hearers; yet the report is tolerably exact, and exhibits, although faintly, its leading features. But they should have seen the look of ineffable contempt with which he surveyed the late Mr. Grenville, who sat within one of him, and should have heard him say with that look—"As to the late ministry, every capital measure they have taken has been entirely wrong. They should also have beheld him, when, addressing himself to Mr. Grenville's successors, he said—“As to the present gentlemen—those, at least, whom I have in my eye"-(looking at the bench on which Mr. Conway sat)—“I have no objection; I have never been made a sacrifice by any of them. Some of them have done me the honor to ask my poor opinion before they would engage to repeal the act: they will do me the justice to own, I did advise them to engage to do it; but notwithstanding—(for I love to be explicit)—I cannot give them my confidence. Pardon me, gentlemen"-(bowing to them) confidence is a plant of slow growth.” Those who remember the air of condescending protection with which the bow was made, and the look given, when he spoke these words, will recollect how much they themselves,
at the moment, were both delighted and awed, and what they themselves then conceived of the immeasurable superiority of the orator over every human being that surrounded him. In the passages which we have cited, there is nothing which an ordinary speaker might not have said; it was the manner, and the manner only, which produced the effect.
MR. FOX AND MR. PITT.
On his first separation from the ministry, Mr. Fox assumed the character of a Whig.
Almost the whole of his political life was spent in opposition to his majesty's ministers. In vehemence and power of argument he resembled Demosthenes; but there the resemblance ended. He possessed a strain of ridicule and wit which nature denied to the Athenian; and it was the more powerful, as it always appeared to be blended with argument, and to result from it. To the perfect composition which so eminently distinguishes the speeches of Demosthenes, he had no pretence. He was heedless of method: having the complete command of good words, he never sought for better; if those which occurred expressed his meaning clearly and forcibly, he paid little attention to their arrangement or harmony.
The moment of his grandeur was when, after he had stated the argument of his adversary, with much greater strength than his adversary had done, and with much greater than any of his hearers thought possible, he seized it with the strength of a giant, and tore and trampled on it to destruction. If, at this moment, he had possessed the power of the Athenian over the passions or the imaginations of his hearers, he might have disposed of the House at his pleasure; but this was denied to him; and, on this account, his speeches fell very short of the effect which otherwise they must have produced.
It is difficult to decide on the comparative merit of him and Mr. Pitt. The latter had not the vehement reasoning or argumentative ridicule of Mr. Fox; but he had more splendor, more imagery, and much more method and discretion. His long, lofty, and reverential panegyrics of the British Constitution, his eloquent vituperations of those whom he described as advocating the democratic spirit, then let loose on the inhabitants of the earth, and his solemn adjuration of the House to defend, and to assist him in defending, their all against it, were, in the highest degree, both
imposing and conciliating. In addition, he had the command of bitter, contemptuous sarcasm, which tortured to madness. This he could expand or compress at pleasure : even in one member of a sentence, he could inflict a wound that was never healed.
Mr. Fox had a captivating earnestness of tone and manner; Mr. Pitt was more dignified than earnest. The action of Mr. Fox was easy and graceful; Mr. Pitt's cannot be praised. It was an observation of the reporters in the gallery, that it required great exertion to follow Mr. Fox while he was speaking; none to remember what he had said: that it was easy and delightful to follow Mr. Pitt; not so easy to recollect what had delighted them. It may
be added that, in all Mr. Fox's speeches, even when he was most violent, there was an unquestionable indication of good humor, which attracted every heart. Where there was such a seeming equipoise of merit, the two last circumstances might be thought to turn the scale; but Mr. Pitt's undeviating circumspection-sometimes concealed, sometimes ostentatiously displayed -tended to obtain for him, from the considerate and the grave, a confidence which they denied to his rival.1
I cannot but transcribe here the spirited and eloquent comparison of Fox and Pitt by H. B. Stanton, Esq., in his most instructive book, "Reforms and Reformers of Great Britain and Ireland;" a book which every young man entering upon life ought to read.
“Mr. Fox was totally unlike his great rival. Pitt was stately, taciturn, and of an austere temper. Fox was easy, social, and of a kindly disposition. Pitt was tall and grave, and, entering the Ilouse carefully dressed, walked proudly to the head of the Treasury bench, and took his seat as dignified and dumb as a statue. Fox was burly and jovial, entered the House in a slouched hat and with a careless air, and, as he approached the Opposition benches, had a nod for this learned city member, and a joke for that wealthy knight of the shire, and sat down, as much at ease as if he were lounging in the back parlor of a country inn. Pitt, as the adage runs, could “speak a king's speech off-hand, so consecutive were his sentences; and his round, smooth periods delighted the aristocracy of all parties. Fox made the Lords of the Treasury quail as he declaimed in piercing tones against ministerial corruption, while his friends shouted · Hear! hear!' and applauded till the House shook. Piu's sentences were pompous and sonorous, and often their sound revealed their own hollowness.' Fox uttered sturdy Anglo-Saxon sense ; every word pregnant with meaning. Pitt was a thorough business man, and relied for success in debate upon careful preparation. Fox despised the drudgery of the office, and relied upon bis intuitive perceptions and his robust strengih. Pitt was the greater secretary-Fox the greater commoner. Pitt's oratory was like the frozen stalactites and pyramids which glitter around Niagara in mid-winter, stately, clear, and cold: Fox's like the vehement waters which sweep over its brink, and roar and boil in the abyss below. Pitt, in his great efforts, only erected himself the more proudly, and uttered more full Johnsonian sentences, sprinkling his dignitied but monotonous state-paper style with pungent sarcasms, speaking as one having authority, and commanding that it might stand fast. Fox on such occasions reasoned from first principles, denouncing where he could not persuade, and reeling under his great thoughts until his excited feelings rocked him like the ocean in a storm. Pitt displayed the most rhetoric, and his mellow voice charmed like the notes of an organ Fox dis
MASSILLON AND BOURDALOUE.
In delivering his sermons, Bourdaloue used no action; Bossuet and Massillon used much. The action of the last was particularly admired. It produced an extraordinary effect when he pronounced his funeral oration upon Louis the Fourteenth. The church was hung with black, a magnificent mausoleum was raised over the bier, the edifice was filled with trophies and other memorials of the monarch's past glories, daylight was excluded, but innumerable tapers supplied its place, and the ceremony was attended by the most illustrious persons in the kingdom. Massillon ascended the pulpit, contemplated, for some moments, the scene before bim, then raised his arms to heaven, looked down on the scene beneath, and, after a short pause, slowly said, in a solemn subdued tone, “GOD ONLY IS GREAT!” With one impulse, all the auditory rose from their seats, turned to the altar, and slowly and reverently bowed.
Those who read sermons merely for their literary merit will generally prefer the sermons of Massillon to those of Bourdaloue and Bossuet. But those who read sermons for instruction, and whose chief object, in the perusal of them, is to be excited to virtue or confirmed in her paths, will generally consider Bourdaloue as the first of preachers, and every time they peruse him will feel new delight.
When we recollect before whom Bourdaloue preached; that he had for his auditors the most luxurious court in Europe, and a monarch abandoned to ambition and pleasure, we shall find it impossible not to honor the preacher for the dignified simplicity with which he uniformly held up to his audience the severity of the Gospel, and the scandal of the cross. Now and then, and ever with a very bad grace, he makes an unmeaning compliment to the monarch. On these occasions, his genius appears to desert him; but he never disguises the morality of the Gospel, or withholds its threats. In one of the sermons which he preached
played the most argument, and his shrill tones pierced like arrows. Pitt had an icy taste; Fox a fiery logic. Pitt had art; Fox nature. Pitt was dignified, cool, cautious; Fox manly, generous, brave. Pitt had a mind; Fox a soul. Pitt was a majestic automaton; Fox a living man. Pitt was the minister of the king; Fox the champion of the people. Both were the early advocates of parliamentary reform; but Pitt retreated, while Fox advanced; and both joined in denouncing and abolishing the horrors of the middle passage. Both died the same year, and they sleep side by side in Westminster Abbey, their dust mingling with that of their mutual friend Wilberforce; while over their tombs watches with eagle eye and extended arm the moulded form of Chatham."