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Fine Flourishes








Lord Brougham, in an essay published long ago in the Edinburgh Review,
read a smart lesson to Parliamentary wits. "A wit," says his lordship,
"though he amuses for the moment, unavoidably gives frequent offence to
grave and serious men, who don't think public affairs should be lightly
handled, and are constantly falling into the error that when a person
is arguing the most conclusively, by showing the gross and ludicrous
absurdity of his adversary's reasoning, he is jesting, and not arguing;
while the argument is, in reality, more close and stringent, the more he
shows the opposite picture to be grossly ludicrous--that is, the more
effective the wit becomes. But, though all this is perfectly true, it is
equally certain that danger attends such courses with the common run of
plain men.

"Nor is it only by wit that genius offends: flowers of imagination,
flights of oratory, great passages, are more admired by the critic than
relished by the worthy baronets who darken the porch of Boodle's--chiefly
answering to the names of Sir Robert and Sir John--and the solid
traders, the very good men who stream along the Strand from 'Change
towards St. Stephen's Chapel, at five o'clock, to see the business of
the country done by the Sovereign's servants. A pretty long course of
observation on these component parts of a Parliamentary audience begets
some doubt if noble passages, (termed 'fine flourishes,') be not taken
by them as personally offensive."

Take, for example, "such fine passages as Mr. Canning often indulged
himself and a few of his hearers with; and which certainly seemed to be
received as an insult by whole benches of men accustomed to distribute
justice at sessions. These worthies, the dignitaries of the empire,
resent such flights as liberties taken with them; and always say, when
others force them to praise--'Well, well, but it was out of place; we
have nothing to do with king Priam here, or with a heathen god, such
as AEolus; those kind of folk are all very well in Pope's Homer and
Dryden's Virgil; but, as I said to Sir Robert, who sat next me, what
have you or I to do with them matters? I like a good plain man of
business, like young Mr. Jenkinson--a man of the pen and desk, like his
father was before him--and who never speaks when he is not wanted: let
me tell you, Mr. Canning speaks too much by half. Time is short--there
are only twenty four hours in the day, you know.'"

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