Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/37

This page needs to be proofread.


/,///,/ N. /' ' // < Career. 33

tii-lil, he threw down the gauntlet to all comers. Party or ambition, or some other motive, o>nstr.iiiK-l M-VIIM! gentlemen famous before, ii..t<>riou> ufu-ru.inU to meet him. In every instance of such te- merity, theopposer was made to bite the du^t.

"The ladies surrounded the rostrum with their carriages, and added by their beauty, interest to the scene. There was no element or oratory that his genius did not supply. It was plain to see where his boyhood had drawn its romantic inspiration. His imagination \v.is colored and imbued with the light of the shadowy past, and was richly stored with the unreal but life-like creations which the genius of Shakespeare and Scott had evoked from the ideal world. He had lingered spellbound, among the scenes of mediaeval chivalry. His spirit had dwelt, until almost naturalized, in the mystic dream- land they peopled among paladins and crusaders and Knights Templar; with Monmouth and Percy with Bois-Gilbert and Ivan- hoe, and the bold McGregor with the cavaliers of Rupert, and the iron enthusiasts of Fairfax. As Judge Bullard remarks of him, he had the talent of an Italian improvisatore, and could speak the thoughts of poetry with the inspiration of oratory, and in the tones of music. The fluency of his speech was unbroken no syllable un- pronounced not a ripple on the smooth and brilliant tide. Probably he never hesitated for a word in his life. His diction adapted itself without effort to the thought; now easy and familiar, now stately and dignified, now beautiful and varied as the hues of the rainbow; again compact, even rugged in sinewy strength, or lofty and grand in elo- quent declamation.

" His face and manner were alike uncommon. The turn of his head was like Byron's; the face and the action were just what the mind made them. The excitement of the features, the motions of the head and body, the gesticulation he used, were all in absolute harmony with the words you heard. You saw and took cognizance of the general effect only; the particular instrumentalities did not strike you; they certainly did not call off attention to themselves. How a countenance so redolent of good humor as his, at times, could so soon be overcast, and express such intense bitterness, seemed a marvel. But bitterness and angry passions were probably, as strongly implanted in him as any other sentiments or qualities.

" There was much about him to remind you of Byron the cast of the head, the classic features, the fiery and restive nature, the moral and personal daring, the imaginative and poetical temperament, the scorn and deep passion, the deformity of which I have spoken, the