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felt the need for, beyond the dissipation of occasional students'
parties, taken in turn at their lodgings, when they enjoyed
the exhilaration that was to be procured from strong tea,
tough muffins, and intellectual converse. But, poor though
they were, these youths were proud. They believed in the
aristocracy of intellect. They felt that if they could only
make good their place in this, the true aristocracy, their
ambition would be satisfied, and they would be entitled to
hold the head erect in the presence of the mere common dis-
tinctions of rank, fashion, or wealth. Ambitious they were,
with all the enthusiasm and inexperience of youth. Toil,
anxiety, straitened means, nay, more, loss of health and that
heart-sinking which is partly the result of physical depression
and partly of its attendant mental depression all these they
were ready to brave, buoyed up by the hope of fame ; looking
forward not to ease or pleasure, nor yet money for its own
sake, but to being distinguished men men raised above the


crowd by their own efforts, and by services done for country
and for mankind. Could you have seen them as they worked
away, night after night, in their garrets, you might have
pitied their painful struggles and mean surroundings. But
you need not They were not only contented, but happy
and enthusiastic, as one pictured to himself future success
as a great divine, aiding the ever militant, but imperishable
cause of religion, by demonstrating the reasonableness of the
principle of faith in dealing with the unseen ; or another
looked forward to the career of a true lawyer, risen to emi-
nence in his profession, and vindicating its principles above
mere routine and petty technicalities ; or a third enjoyed the
fondest imagination of all in the life-work of a statesman,
striking out great lines of policy and calling upon the people
to follow him. To them the higher ideal of life proclaimed
by poets was not a mere sentiment. It revealed to their con-
sciousness a fact. Life for them was real and earnest. To
them things were not what they seem to the crowd. Noble
aspirations which make men better, though they may never
be fulfilled !

When men are possessed by the political instinct, they
are drawn, though they may not be in politics themselves, by
a natural attraction to take an interest in whatever conflicts
in public affairs are going on around them, and take sides as
mental convictions, or oftener as their sympathies, lead them.
With boys this tendency displays itself in the enthusiasm
that is roused by the contemplation of notable facts in history,
chiefly those that bear upon questions relating to human
freedom and progress, and the ever-present problem between
the poor and the rich, which, from the past, reflect forward
their influence upon the conflicts of to-day. The College
Debating Society is a field wherein youthful ideas and sym-
pathies have a free course to display themselves, outside the
rigid lines of the prescribed studies of the University and the
Lecture Hall. Certainly, the rules of the University where
Edward Frankfort studied forbade the discussion at the
Historical and Literary Society of any political or religious
question, and all subjects for debate were required to be first
sanctioned by the Dean. But it is difficult to restrain the
emotions of youth ; and as there is a perpetual recurrence of


similar struggles among men, and a development, ever in
progress, of social issues that are identical in essence, though
varying in circumstances perhaps, from what is going on
around us, it was easy for the youthful orator, while pouring
forth eloquence upon the ideas and the conflicts of past times,
to throw considerable light upon those of the world of to-day,
and also to clearly indicate the speaker's sympathies with
regard to them.

Thus, in discussing some question arising out of Plato's
Republic, that philosopher's scoffing allusion to the notion of
choosing pilots for ships according to the property that they
owned, and refusing a poor man permission to steer, even
though he were a better pilot than a rich man, gave a natural
opportunity to the young reformer for incidentally exposing
the folly of property qualifications for public offices. Xeno-
phon's proposition concerning the Athenian Republic, that,
as the bulk of the people did the work of the State, they
should have the main voice in its government, was capable
of a very wide and very present application to questions con-
cerning the electoral franchise now. The contests and fate
of the Gracchi were a fertile theme for exhortation or warn-
ing, as the case might be. But whether dealing with sub-
jects suggested from the ancient world, or denouncing the
wickedness or maintaining the justice of the murder or the
execution of Charles the First ; or discussing the principles
and brilliant reasoning of Milton's appeal for the liberty of
unlicensed printing ; or dealing with some of the many
questions that suggest themselves for controversy, in consider-
ing the course of the two great Revolutions that marked the
close of the eighteenth century, the young men always found
opportunity for displaying their opinions, and matter for the
exercise of their sympathies.

Debating Society discussions are necessarily immature
in their tone and scope ; but there is a freshness about the
unbiassed expression of young men's ideas that is engaging.
They may be juvenile, but they are very sincere. In no
arena of discussion in after life is there such an expression
of the mere truth of opinions as they are held by the debater.
The lawyer speaks as an advocate, the politician as an
opportunist, the divine as a Churchman. But the subjects


which the youths debate raise as their only issue the question
of what is the truth. Some of those that were discussed by
Frankfort and his brother -students were juvenile in their
character, but others gave evidence of research, and of
thought in their selection. Among them were these :
' Does the usefulness predominate over the evils of national
prejudice ? ' ' Whether is genius or impudence more con-
ducive to success in the common walks of life ? ' ' Whether
the pleasures predominate over the anxieties of even a
successful literary career ? ' ' Whether national character is
moulded by moral and political causes, or by the influence
of climate and locality ? ' 'Has the drama been improved
by the disuse of the chorus in tragedy ? ' ' Is it better to
have a university in a city or in a village ? ' ' Is it likely
to be a happy marriage where the wife is intellectually
superior to her husband ? ' All Frankfort's impulses were
generous and progressive. It was a pleasure to him to
dwell on the great political and social conflicts of the past,
and especially to follow the personal details of the lives of
the grand men that figured in them. He pictured the in-
dividuality to himself of those who had done much and done
greatly, and could not help secretly imagining how readily
he would immolate himself and sacrifice mere personal happi-
ness, could he enjoy even a short life like one of these.

Sometimes this enthusiasm for the heroes of history
would assert itself even through all the discipline and reserve
of the Lecture Room. Once, when Professor Praed, who
was considered the greatest authority in the University upon
the Greek language and literature, was lecturing upon the
Fourth Philippic of Demosthenes, he came to that passage
where the orator deals with the clamour ' unfairly raised '
about the Theatric fund.

He asked what conclusion some authorities had drawn
from this passage.

' It shows that the whole oration is spurious, sir,'
promptly answered Frankfort. ' Demosthenes could not
have spoken it, because he expresses a directly contrary view
in the Olynthiacs.'

' You consider that fact conclusive, then, Mr. Frankfort ?

' Certainly, sir, with a man like Demosthenes.'


' Well, it is conclusive,' replied the Professor, in very
deliberate tones, ' if the unexpressed major premiss of your
proposition is correct that no great politician can say one
thing at one time, and the contrary to it at another. We
will go on, if you please, to the next passage.' Some of the
class were rather inclined to laugh at Frankfort's enthusiasm,
but he felt that, come what may, he could never take a low
view of the orator and patriot, not merely of Greece, but of
the world.

At times, when he broke out in the College Society
debates into inspiring sentiments concerning the perfectibility
of the race, and the ennobling prospects that were opening
to mankind, as men came to govern themselves, instead of
being ridden like a dumb animal by a master ; or the
educating effect that the mere exercise of political rights
must have upon free men, or the invincible and imperishable
nature of truth when he spoke of these things, though in
College-boy fashion, he often infected his hearers with that
mesmeric sympathy that springs from a sense of the deep
feeling and the sincerity of the speaker.

But it was some time before he felt himself at ease in the
difficult art, not so much of speaking (for empty-headed
people can do that), but of thinking on his legs. In his earlier
efforts imagination, and the force of that nervous sympathy
that supplies the motive power, the steam, as it were, to
oratory, taxed all his self-possession and resolution when he
rose to speak. He never forgot his first attempt. He was
nominated by the committee of the Debating Society as one
of the speakers who were to maintain, at the opening debate
of the session after the summer vacation, the affirmation of
the proposition that the principles of the French Revolution
represented the main lines of human progress. When he
saw in the notice paper, which was published before they
separated for the vacation, his name in real print, in the list
of speakers, he felt that an important event had happened,
as the French say. And so, indeed, it had. During the
holiday time he had no other work to occupy him, and he
could think of nothing but the French Revolution, and the
lessons it bequeathed to mankind. At home on the farm,
where he spent the holidays with his parents, he read all the


books upon the subject that he could get from the lending
Library in the nearest town, including the suggestive and
picturesque commentary of Carlyle, and as much of Thiers
and Taine as he had time to read at the Library. When he
walked about the fields he found himself breaking out into
glowing periods about the wrongs of the poor in France
before the great outburst ; the heartless iniquity of the system
of taxation, the utter rottenness of the Court, the aristocracy,
even the Church a social pyramid, with an apex of tinsel
and gilt, and foundations laid in misery and despair ! He
spoke eloquently to the trees, and felt then that he could
plead the cause of the hapless millions of France (for he
fancied himself standing forth as their advocate) before all
men. It has been said that no man could make an eloquent
speech standing alone, to a stone wall. Delivering a speech
makes considerable demand upon the physical and nervous
powers of the system as well as the mental ; and they might
well flag in such a situation. But yet it is in solitude that
the nature, gifted with that sensibility which is the source of
eloquence, conceives those noble ideas and inspiring senti-
ments that afterwards seem to burst forth from the orator's
mouth spontaneously, and responsively to the reciprocal
enthusiasm of the hearers. And inspiriting were the senti-
ments that welled up within this youthful friend of man in
his lonely walks.

When the vacation was drawing to a close, and Frankfort
had gone back to his lodgings near the college, as the fateful
day for the debate approached, he felt his enthusiasm rather
damped, partly because, having dwelt so fervently upon the
subject, he had somewhat exhausted his stock of sympathy
for the wrongs of the French poor, and partly by the mental
reaction that came of having over-studied his part. Also,
he was oppressed by the stern reality now daily coming
nearer to him, of having, for the first time, to stand up before
a crowd of hearers, and, alone, challenge their attention to
the words that he would speak. To do this seems to be a
small thing to the looker-on, but to the imaginative beginner
it is an event of his life ; just as it is to the young soldier to
hear the bullets cut the air around him in battle for the first
time. As he walked down to the College Hall upon the


appointed evening, and thought of how much, for him, was
involved in what the next hour would bring forth, he could
not help the absurd fancy coming to him that even the
passers-by in the street knew something of the momentous
business that he had in hand. When he got to the meeting,
he found it crowded, as all the students, and some of the
public, had come in for the opening event of the Society's
academic year. This rather roused his enthusiasm, and made
him feel brave amidst his agitation ; and he was even able
to listen a little to the speeches of those who spoke before
him ; though he was oppressed by the idea all the time that
several of the audience must be thinking of him and the first
attempt that he was just about to make, instead of attending
to the debate. At last it seemed to him a long time
coming his turn came, and the Dean, who had honoured
the occasion by taking the chair, called out, ' Mr. Edward
Frankfort.' He sprang up. The people seemed quite
different to him now, as, standing, he looked down upon
them and felt, rather than saw, all those glistening eyes up-
looking at him ; and this, for the first time in his life an
experience that can be had only once in a lifetime. He
spoke. He said, ' Mr. Dean.' His voice seemed something
strange to him, as if he and it were different, and it belonged
to some one else : not in the least like the voice with which
he had harangued the trees. He had not heard it before in
like circumstances, and he did not recognise it. He felt as
if a deadening sense of oppression, or paralysis, was settling
down upon him, and closing him round, coming somewhere
from the ceiling. He tried to shake it off; but it seemed to
have behind it some unseen power that was pressing it on,
and which he had no force to resist. As for his ideas and his
carefully-prepared divisions of the argument, which he had
laboriously framed so as to quite exhaust the subject, they
danced through his brain as if mocking him. Queer that
at times we should be the sport of our own impalpable ideas
not their master ! But so it is ; and that even, too, at
other times than when we are making speeches. He tried
to go on. He repeated ' Mr. Dean,' and spoke some formal
words. He wanted to name the speaker who had preceded
him, but though he knew his name as well as he did his own,


he could not recall it. The spell cast over him by a nature
in which imagination and sensibility had a great part was
too strong. He sat down. The failure of a lifetime seemed
to be concentrated into a moment.

The Dean, who knew him as a promising student, felt
for him in his failure, the true explanation of which he saw
at once, and in calling on the next speaker, remarked that
Mr. Frankfort would speak later on, when he had arranged
his notes. When the new speaker began, he beckoned
Frankfort to him. ' I will call you again next,' he said
quietly. ' You will be all right. Speak straight off. It
would be cowardly to be beaten that way.'

When he got back to his seat, a sense of indignation
against himself arose to our stricken hero, as if his personal
courage was questioned. This instinctively braced him up,
and quelled the sensibility that had paralysed him ; which
it was the easier to do, as the nervous excitement had partly
exhausted itself by the one great outburst. Had he lived in
ancient times, it would have been said that some favouring
deity had stood by him, in the shape of the Dean, and infused
strength into his limbs and resolution into his soul. So,
when the chairman called ' Mr. Frankfort ' the second time,
he stood forth, as he seemed to himself, quite a different
man, and words came readily. Mentally, he was not
sufficiently collected to follow the lines that he had prepared ;
but others suggested themselves which, though quite different,
were most successful, as they came forth spontaneously and
produced the effect that speaking direct from mind to mind,
and heart to heart, always does. He had material enough
in his brain for two or three good speeches. Cheers burst
forth partly good-natured, but also distinctively apprecia-
tive and soon he had established between himself and his
audience that mutual mesmeric sympathy which the speaker,
and his brother the actor, must secure .in order to make a
true impression. Then he could run or he could fly. Ideas
that had never occurred to him in all his thinking upon the
subject sprang to his mind ; new illustrations presented
themselves, and as for noble sentiments, why, they came
naturally to him in any case. He felt a mastery over his
hearers, as if he could say anything to them could speak



to them just as he did to the trees the very opposite
to his first state, when he felt he could say nothing. He
sat down amidst repeated applause ; for young men are
generous, and none would have liked to see Ted Frankfort


collapse in that ignominious manner. They might have
understood it ; but the outside people would have thought
him a poor creature ! Not but that he had surprised many
both by his first failure and his subsequent success ; but he
surprised no one more than himself. He often said that he
could no more account for or analyse his feelings, mixed up
as they were of physical and of mental agencies, when he
succeeded than he could when he failed.

From that time forth he was a successful speaker at the
Debating Society. He was also diligent in the class-room
in working at those subjects that were required for securing
the degree. With several of them he had little sympathy, and
whatever benefit he derived from them, then or afterwards,
arose solely from the mental training that they afforded.
In a few years he had forgotten all the direct knowledge
he had acquired in these subjects (chiefly the exact sciences) ;
nor in the pursuits in which he was engaged would it have
been of much use to him to have remembered them. But he
worked assiduously and successfully at languages, political
economy as then taught, and general literature ; partly
because he liked those subjects, but also in the hope of
securing one of the lectureships in Sociological subjects,
which he looked forward to as the means of earning his daily
bread, also as the stepping-stone towards the ambitious
projects that were ever in his mind.

For, like most young men who have the political instinct,
Frankfort's great ambition, owned only to himself or to
some bosom crony, was to sit in the Parliament at West-
minster as the enlightened exponent of advanced views ; but
as far removed from the tone of the time-serving demagogue,
on the one hand, as from the stupid Tory on the other.
The ideal of this high type was, naturally, to a young
Scotsman, Macaulay at Edinburgh, the recollection of whose
career as a Representative of that city was still cherished
there both by literary men and by politicians. What
truthful and dignified statement of his principles by the


candidate ! what generous, even respectful, toleration of
differences by the constituents ! How the Representative
declined to bow down to the Clerical Party, dear though it
was to one powerful section of his people ; or to truckle to
the Liquor interest, dear though it was to another ! Here
was no plausible, supple servility in the politician, nor vulgar,
exacting despotism on the part of the people.

True, even this great constituency had its fit of popular
folly, and rejected Macaulay upon one occasion, owing to a
union of all the unworthy elements in the electorate. But
how nobly did it atone for its error ! Modern Athens
though it was or rather, perhaps, because it was it
candidly and openly admitted its mistake, and returned the
independent politician the next time, at the head of the poll,
without his condescending to address them, or even to visit
them, till after the poll. There, thought our youthful
politician, is the true ideal of Representative and People.
It would be a life worth living to be the spokesman before
the nation of enlightened principles, thus supported by a
constituency of thinking men the electors honouring you
upon public grounds for public service done for the nation ;
and with nothing mean, or sordid, or tricky, or humbugging
in your mutual relations.

When the summer vacation came round each year,
Frankfort and some of his fellow-students used to spend
part of it in making excursions through the Highlands of
Scotland. This was cheaper, walking with knapsack on
back, than going abroad ; and they maintained that the
scenery was as fine as could be found in Europe, while it
had the advantage of being identified with facts in their own
history and associations from their own literature that made
it more interesting to them than any foreign scenes could be.
Thus at least they philosophically liked what they could get.
With their homely tastes, and after the hard work of the
year, they enjoyed, with a relish that the mere pleasure-
hunter knows not of, the simpler kinds of recreation. The
mere release from labour, rest after toil, gave a sensation of
delight, especially to them, in the buoyant time of youth,
that it is the special, secret privilege of the true working-
man, with brains or hands, to enjoy. Some of them


afterwards rose to high positions in life ; but they never felt
the freshness of pleasure that they experienced in these
cheap but well-earned excursions.

They generally had in their party some man from one of
the sister Universities of England or Ireland. No one was
a more welcome companion than Myles Dillon, one of the
most promising of the medical students of the sister institu-
tion of Ireland, Trinity College, Dublin. He was a clever,
all-round man too. And they liked him not only for his
intelligence and humour, but for his easy good-nature, which
had more depth and greater sincerity in it than falls to the
lot of that quality sometimes in your good-natured man.
His companions used jocularly to question whether the true
family name was Dillon or O'Dillon.

' Tell us how you lost the " O," Myles. It shows that a
family is descended from the ancient kings of Ireland, does
it not? What about the " O," Dillon? How did you
lose it ? '

Irishmen relish a joke under all circumstances, and never
more than when (under their own guidance) it is played off
against themselves. They are so polite a people that they
revel with more genuine enjoyment in jokes at their own
cost than even in those at the expense of others. So Myles
would explain to them, in his rich Milesian accents, toned
down, however, by the use of Greek, Latin, English, and
other foreign languages, how he became plain Dillon. He
said that his family were really descended from Royalty in
Ireland ; only that an excessively ambitious grandfather of
his, examining into the family tree, as they were aware only
Irishmen could do, came to the conclusion that the true
family name was ' The O'Dillon,' as coming from the senior
stock ; which title he accordingly assumed. But this so
vexed his, Myles Dillon's, father, who did not believe a word
of it, and who was a very conscientious man about titles,
that he dropped the prefix altogether and became plain
Dillon. When this, certainly rather lame, explanation was
received with a general shout of derision, Myles would
quietly continue, and, allowing that there was considerable
ground for their tone of incredulity, would frankly admit
that the enemies of the family gave another explanation of


the change of name : namely, the unhappy close of life of
one of his ancestors, owing to the prevalence in Munster at
that time of sheep-stealing, and the injurious consequences
that attached to the practice. Ever since the unhappy close
of the life of this forefather of his, enemies of the family had

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 45)