John Bartholomew Gough.

Autobiography and personal recollections of John B. Gough: with twenty-six ... online

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There was no effort — no fluster — ^all was easy and natural. He was
speaking for the first time to a public meeting in his native land — q^eak-
ing to thousands, who had come with the highest expectations, who ex«
pected much and required much — speaking by means of the pres to
the whole British public. Under such circumstances, occasional ner-
vousness would have been pardonable ; but, from the first, Googfa was
perfectly self-possessed. There are some men who have prodigious ad-
vantages on account of appearance alone. We think it was Fox who
said, it was impossible for any one to be as wise as Thurlow looked.
The great Lord Chatham was particularly favored by nature in this re-
spect In our own time, in the case of Lord Denman, we have seen
how much can be done by means of a portly presence and a stately air.

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Oongb bas notbiDg of ibis. He is just as plain a personage as George
Dawson of Birmingbam would be, if be were to cut bis bair and shave
off bis mustacbe. But tbougb we have named George Dawson, Gougb
does not speaS like bim, or any other living man. Gougb is no servile
copy, but a real original. We have no one in England we can compare
bim to. He seems to speak by inspiration — as the apostles spoke, who
were commanded not to think beforehand what they sAiould say. The
spoken word seems to come naturally — ^as air bubbles up from the bot-
tom of the well. In what be said there was nothing new — there could
be nothing new — the tale be told was old as the bills ; yet as be spoke
an immense audience grew bushed and still, and hearts were melted,
and tears glistened in female eyes, and that great human mass became
knit together by a common spell. Disraeli says, ** Sir Robert Peel
played upon the House of Commons as an old fiddle." Gougb did the
same at Exeter Hall. At bis bidding, stem, strong men, as well as
sensitive women, wept or laughed, — they swelled with indignation or
desire. Of the various chords of human passion, he was master.
At times be became roused, and we thought how —

"In his ire Olympian Pericles
Thundered and lightened, and aU Hellas shook."

At other times, in bis delineation of American manners, be proved
himself almost an equal of Silsbee. Off the stage we have nowhere
seen a better mimic than Gougb ; and this must give bim great power,
especially in circles where the stage is much a terra incognita, as
Utopia, or the Island of Laputa itself. We have always thought that
a fine figure of Byron, where he tells us that be laid his band upon the
ocean's mane. Something of the same kind might be said to be ap«
plicable to Mr. Gougb; — be seemed to ride upon the audience, — to have
mastered it completely to bis will. He seemed to bestride it, as we
could imagine Alexander bestriding Bucephalus.

Gougb spoke for nearly two hours. Evidently the audience could
have listened, had be gone on till midnight. We often hear that the
age of oratory bas gone by, that the press supersedes the tongue, that
the appeal must henceforth be made to the reader in his study, not to
tbe bearer in the crowded ball. There is much truth in that ; never-
theless, the true orator will always please his audience, and true ora-
tory will never die. The world will always respond to it, the human
heart will always leap up to it. The finest efforts of the orator have
been amongst civilized audiences. It was a cultivated audience before
which Demosthenes pleaded ; and to whom, standing on Mars' Hill,

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Paul preached of an unknown God. The tme orator, like die true
poet, speaks to alL He gathers around him earth's proudest as well sf
poorest intellects. Notwithstanding, then, the march of mind, oraloiy
may win her triumphs still. So long as the heart is true to its old
instinct, so long as it can pity, or love, or hate, or fear, it will he moved
hj the orator, if he can hut pity, or love, or hate, or fear, himself.
This is the true secret It is this that has made Gough the giant tliat
he is. Without that he might he polished, learned, — master of all
human lore; but he would be feeble and impotent as —
"The lorn lyre that ne'er hath spoken
Since the sad day its master chord was broken."

It was the same when Mr. Gough visited Scotland. It was said he
would do for England, but not for the coldly critical audiences of the
modem Athens. There, however, as here, Mr. Gough found the way
to all hearts, roused a similar enthusiasm, and achieved a similar soo-
cess. It was calculated that by the close of the year, Mr. Googh had
addressed no fewer than one hundred and four thousand six hundred
persons, and that not fewer than three thousand had taken the pledge
in consequence of his addresses. In his first visit to London alone he
had spoken to thirty thousand.

Perhaps one of the most memorable meetings in oonneotion with Mr.
Gough in England, was that held in St. Martin's Hall on the eveninf;
of December 28, 1853, when children to the number of one thousand,
belonging to the Bands of Hope, were present, and when, at the re*
quest of the committee, the Earl of Shaftesbury presided. At the oon-
elusion of Mr. Gough's address, in acknowledging a vote of thanks, his
lordship said: "I do not think thanks are due to me for sitting here
and listening to the most eloquent, touching, convincing, and efiective ad-
dress I have ever heard, or was ever delivered on any other platform,
and I am sure you will join with me in thanking Mr. Gough— wbidi I
heartily do— for hb efforts ; and I thank God, who has brought him to
this country, as I trust, to do a great work; and I am sure yon wiD
promise, with me, to do as the children in America have done, — ^help
him to the best of our ability. The longer I live, the more I am ood*
vinoed that intemperance is the cause of a very large amount of national
evils, both at home and abroad ; and, unless it is obstructed in its oih
ward march, it will in this country, as in Australia, prove ruinoiis to
society. I feel also convinced that the future destinies of this great
oountiy are in the hands of such as those who form the majority of the
present interesting meeting; and it will be by their instrumentality that


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those evilB over which we moarn will be ultimately remoyed. I again
say, that the fature destinies of this land, my young friends, are in
your hands; and I would therefore exhort you to continue combating
with those evils which have been so eloquently placed before you this
evening by our friend, Mr. Oough. We must have by and by a new
generation of men and women ; and I may say, that such men as Mr.
Gough — and I may also name Mr. Smithies, the editor of that excel-
lent little paper addressed to the Bands of Hope — are doing much
towards bringing about the state of things which will transpire when
those of us who have passed the meridian of life shall have ceased our
kbors to better the condition of society.''

From London, Mr. Gough has found his way into all our crowded
homes of busy life. He has traveled over almost all England and Scot-
land. The chief towns of each county he has repeatedly visited, and
wherever he has gone, he has received but one kind of welcome, and his
visits have led to but one result. It has been felt that Mr. Gough
has opened a way for the propagation of temperance principles in circles
where those principles had been viewed with indifference, contempt, or
disdain. Among his auditory have been such ladies as the Duchess of
Sutherland, the Duchess of Argyle ; amongst his chairmen such noble
men as the Earl of Shaftesbury, and Lord Bobert Grosvenor. Many
members of our Senate, many of our most popular divines, many of
our ablest writers, have listened to his addresses ; and thus the influences
of temperance principles have been extended far and wide. As regards
the temperance cause itself— equally gratifying has been the result.
Mr. Gough's advent has revived the energy of the temperance ranks.
The good old cause is again dear; the old love is again felt; the old cry
is again heard; the old fire is again seen ; the old banner again floats in
triumph, and complete success seems near at hand !

To Mr. Gough himself hb tour in his native land must have afforded
peculiar pleasure. Some of the incidents cpnnected with it must have
been peculiarly grateful to a mind senutive as his own. For instance,
on the anniversary of his birthday, August 22, 1854, a meeting was got
up by ihe Temperance Association of the romantic little village in which
Mr. Gough was bom. It was a memorable day for Sandgate. In the
afternoon addresses were delivered by Messrs. Geary, McCurry, Camp-
bell, White, and Tweedie, of the Committee of the London Temperance
League, to the children of Sandgate and the immediate neighborhood
who had assembled for that purpose in great numbers ; and at the close,
eedi child received from Mr. Gough a copy of his address to the Bands

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of Hope in St Martin't HalL In tbe evening a pablio meeting was
held in the National School-room, which had been kindly lent for that
purpose by the clergyman of the pariah, and at which that able artist and
lealoua teetotaler, Oeorge Cruikahank, Esq., presided. To a meeting
crowded in every part, Mr. Goagh delivered one of his most effiectiTe
addresses. The occasion was affecting. It was his birthday. Thiitj-
seven years before, he was a babe ; the oottage in which be was bora
was yet standing; those who knew hb beloved mother; those who knew
him as a poor soldier's boy, — ^were around him. He had traveled fa
from his early home ; he had dwelt amidst the men and cities of the &r
distant West; he had wandered in the ways of an — ^far from peace tad
happiness and God ; he had been steeped to the very lips in poverkj,
and misery, and degradation, and shame, — and yet he had been saTed,
as a brand from the burning ; he had been led back to the narrow waj,
from which he had so long strayed — and saved himsell He- had been
enabled to devote to the salvation of others a leal that never tired, an
ek>quenoe that never wearied, a tongue that never grew cold or doll
At the age of twelve he had gone forth frpm that village home ; — anotber
twelve years, and he had signed the temperance pledge; — another
twelve, and he was back in his village home again : — and here he wai)
with beauty and fashion and wealth around ; filling bright eyes with
tears, — softening manly hearts, — ^teaching the drunkard to burst his
chains ; or showing the young how alone they could be safe. No won-
der that the scene was one Uiat will not soon be forgotten by those wbo
were there ; or that on Mr. Gough himself the effect was great ; or that
even in hb strange career he oould find no incident more startling or

And yet, such passages are numerous in Mr. Gough's history. Tbt
writer will not soon forget almost a similar one, which happened in
Drury Lane, in Dec., 1854. Old Drury was filled with as dioice an
audience as ever gathered within its capacious walls ; for Mr. Googh
was to give an address, and the Earl of Shaftesbury was to take the
chair. It is nnnecessaiy to add that Mr. Gough kept up the attention
of his audience to the very last ; that whether he were grave or gay—
whether he told the old sad story, or called up smiles in all feoee— his
efforts were equally powerful. So much so, indeed, that the Earl of
Shaftesbniy, in replying to thanks for his conduct in the chair, perhaps
pronounced the most flattering, yet truthful eulogiums that have ever
greeted Mr. Gough'. The noble Earl referred, in language perfectly un-
premeditated, yet graceful and expressive, to the delight he had received

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in beiBg permitted to listen to sach addresses as those of Mr. Gough.
He declared that it was utterly impossible to overrate the value of Mr.
Gongh's labors; — that they were above all praise; and that he deemed
the preservation of Mr. Gough's health, and his continuance in his ad-
vocacy of the temperance piinciples, as essential to the welfare — ^not of
England or America alone, but of the whole civilized world. Such an
allusion to himself in such a place, and from such a man — one of the
very flower of our aristocracy — was too much for Mr. Gough : the past
all came back to him again ; all its pain and agony and despair. He
thought of what he had been in that fearfdl time ; and then he thought
of what he was ! — of the peace and sunshine of the present ; and again
he pose to utter feelings which he could not repress — to say how bitter
had been his path — what light and hope beamed on it now, and to re«
cord his entire consecration to the cause that had done so much for him.
We need not add that the scene highly affected all present. '* What a
sublime man it is ! " said Soyer, the great gastronome, to the writer, as
they came out of the theater together. The writer felt that this was,
perhaps, the highest compliment ever paid to Mr. Gough. Soyer enthu-
sii^tio at a teetotal lecture, was a sight, certainly, we never expected
to see.

And now, in taking leave of our subject, we cannot but express our
hope that Mr. Gough's feeble strength may be renewed, that his resi-
dence among us may be continued, and that for many a coming year he
may preach temperance, and what foUbws in its train, in his native land.

The following is an extract from a long article, that
appeared in the " British Banner/' from the pen of
Rev. Dr. Campbell : —

The expectation was obviously very great ; and, if we mistake not,
a feeling somewhat allied to disappointment ran through the hall on Mr.
Gough's being introduced side by side with the chairman, whose com-
manding and dignified presence only tended to make matters worse.
There was certainly nothing that gave promise of what was to follow.
There stands before the audience, a man of the most, unpretending air,
apparently about thirty-two, or thirty-three years of age, ^ve feet eight
inches in height, with a dark and sallow complexion ; very plainly
dressed ; his whole mien bespeaking a person who had still to learn that
be was somebody. Escaping his own notice, he has nothing to excite
that of others. He might travel fix)m Stoke Newington to Pimlico,
widioat'attraeting a passing glance from even the keenest of the fifty

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thousand persons he might meet io the way. He might be mixed vp
with an assembly, large or small, without eren the most coriouft— w
long as he was silent — ^being induced to ask ''who is that?'' By a
shrewd stranger at the first glance, he would probably be pronounced a
Methodist preacher — say of the primitive class. The cerebral deyelop-
ment completely deceives you ; phrenology was never more completely
at faults— not even in the case of the late far famed Dr. Andrew Thomp-
son, of Edinburgh, whose giant power lay concealed under the gaiae
of a mere rough, resolute, common-place citizen— or, perchance, a sturdy
farmer, who would relish a glass, and a row on market day, without the
slightest appearance of a logic which was never surpassed, and of an
eloquence which subdued all before it. The voice of Mr. Gougfa, too,
unites to carry on the deception. At the outset it is merely strong and
deep ; but it gives no sign of the inherent flexibility and astonishing
resources, both of power and of pathos. It is in perfect keeping with
the entire outer man ; which, at ease, seems to draw itself up to the
smallest possible dimensions ; but, when fired, becomes erect, expand-
ing in magnitude and stature, so as to present another, and entirely new
roan. Mr. Oough is a well-adjusted mixture of the poet, orator, and
dramatist, — ^in fact, an English Gktvazzi. Gough is, in all respects, —
in stature, voice, and force of manner, — on a scale considerably lower
than the great Italian orator. Gavazzi is more grand, more tragic,
more thoroughly Italian ; but much less adapted to an English auditoiy.
In their natural attributes, however, they have much in common. If
Gavazzi possesses more power, Gh)ugh has more pathos. This is the
main difierence, — ^the chief; and here the difference is in favor of
Gough. Gough excels Gavazzi in pathos, far more than Gravazzi excels
Gough in power. Then, Gough is more moderate in his theatrical dis-
plays. He paints much more, and acts much less ; while, as to force
and general effects, he is, of course, on high vantage ground, speaking
his native tongue, and among his fellow countrymen. He b, in this
respect, in England, what Gavazzi would be in Italy. Both find— and
find to an equal extent — their account in their histrionic mann«.

Last night the address was a succession of petaree,

delivered in a manner the most natural ; and hence, at one time, feel-
ing was in the ascendant, and at another, power. His gift of mimicrj
seemed great. ' This perilous, though valuable faculty, however, waa
but sparingly exerdsed. It is only as the lightning, in a single fladi,
illuminating all, and gone, — ^making way for the rolling peal and the
falling torrent. Throughout the whole of last night he addressed him-

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self to the &Doy and to the heart We cannot donbt, however, that
Mr. Goagh is, in a very high degree, capable of dealing with prin-
dples, and grappling with an adversary by way of argument ; but he *
adopted a different, — and, as we think, a much wiser course for a first
appearance. The mode of address is one of which mankind will never
tire till human nature becomes divested of its inherent properties. He
recited a series of strikingly pertinent fiicts, all of which he set in
beautiful pictures. Nothing could exceed the unity of the impression ;
while nothing could be more multifarious than the means employed to
effect it. It was a species of mortar-firing, in which old nails, broken
bottles, chips of iron, and bits of metal, together with balls of lead, —
anything, everything partaking of the nature of a missile, — were avail-
able. The compound mass was showered forth with resistless might
and powerful execution. The great idea, which was uppermost all the
evening, was,— the evils of drinking ; and, under a deep conviction of
that truth, every man must have left the assembly. The conclusion to
which we have come, then, is that the merits of Mr. Gough have by no

means been over-rated Oratorically considered, he is never

at fault. While the vocable pronunciation, with scarcely an exception,
is perfect, the elocutionary element is every way worthy of it He is
wholly free, on one hand, from heavy monotony ; and, on the other,
firom ranting declamation, properly so-called. There is no mouthing,
no stilted shouting. His whole speaking was eminently true ; there is
nothing false, either in tone or inflection ; and the same remark applies
to emphasis. All is truth; the result is undeviating pleasure, and
irresistible impression. His air is that of a man who never thought
five minutes on the subject of public speaking, but who surrenders
himself to the guidance of his genius, while he ofltimes snatches a
grace beyond the reach of art In Mr. Gough, however, there are
&r higher considerations than those of eloquence. We cannot close
without adverting to the highest attribute of his speakings it is per-
vaded by a spirit of religion. Not a word escapes him which is
objectionable on that score. Other things being equal, this never fiiils
to lift a speaker far above hb fellows.

And now, having ventured to insert in my book,
and by it> to perpetuate these favorable opinions;
fearing that I might become puffed up, imless I had
some check, I will here insert another extract, giving

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what an old lady called "the bane and the antigoat"
William Wells Brown, a colored man, and an escaped
slave, published a book entitled: "Three Years in
Europe ; or places I have seen, and people I have
met." Eight months after my arrival in England, a
handbill made its appearance, and waa posted on the
walls in North Shields, at the time I waa appointed
to lecture there, containing the following extract from
William Wells Brown's book : —

''But the most noted man in the movement at the present time, and
the one best known to the British public, is John B. Gongh. This
gentleman was at one time an actor on the stage, and subsequently be-
came an inebriate of the most degraded kind. He was, however, re-
claimed through the great Washingtonian movement that swept ovor the
United States a few years since. In stature, Mr. Gough is tall and
slim, with black hair, which he usuallj wears too long. As an orator,
he is considered among the first in the United States. Having onoe
been an actor, he throws all his dramatic powers into his addresses.
He has a facility of telling strange and marvelous stories, which can
scareely be surpassed ; and what makes them still more interesting, he
always happens to be an eye witness. While speaking, he acts the
drunkard, and does it in a style which could not be equalled on the
boards of the Lyceum or Adelphi. No man has obtained more signa-
tures to the temperance pledge than he. After all, it is a qaestkn
whether he has ever been of any permanent service to this reform or
not. Mr. Gough has more than once &llen from his position as a tee-
totaler ; more than once he has broken his pledge, and when found hf
his friends, was in houses of a questionable character. However, some
are of opinion that these defects have been of use to him ; for when he
has made his appearance after one of these debaucheries, the people ap-
pear to sympathize more with him ; and some thought he spoke betttt.
If we believe that a person could ^njoy good health with water on the
brain, we would be of opinion that Mr. Gough's cranium contained a
greater quantity than that of any other living man. When speaking be-
fore an audience, he can weep when he pleases ; and the tears shed on
these occasions are none of your make-believe kind — ^none of yoor snail
drops trickling down the cheeks, one at a time ; — ^bat they come in

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great showers, so as to sprinkle upon the paper which he holds in his
hand. Of coarse, he is not alone in shedding tears in his meetings, —
many of his hearers asoally join him; especially the ladies — as these
showers are intended for them. However, no one can sit for an hoar,
and hear John B. Ooagh, without coming to the conclusion that he is
nothing more than a theatrical mountehank."

I was SO surprised, and startled at this, knowing
something of Mr. Brown, and forming a high opinion
of him, that I almost indignantly denied that he was
the author of such an ungenerous article, on one who
had never harmed him, and persisted in my disbelief,
till a friend sent me the volume, with the following

written on the fly-leaf: —

"M 25, 3d Mo.

My Decor Friend, — Accept this volnme as a token of my deep
sympathy for the pain caused by the unfounded libel on thy character
contained therein, and oi my sorrow for the in&tuation that prompted
the author to insert it. Thine sincerely, T. R. T.^

Tastes differ, and I suppose there cannot be found
on this earth, the man who can please everybody ;
and it is well that it should be so, for "variety is the
Bpice of life," and varieties of opinion, give occasion
for quite an amount of spice in their expression. We
must take the bitter with the sweet, and be thankful.

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Route to Scotland— Edinburgh— Fete at Surrey Gardens— Vint to
Sandgato— Old Friends— Old AssodationB— My Home— The Old
Nail — Speech at Folkestone — ^Mrs. Beattie — Reverence Paid to Rank
— My Father's Clergyman — Return to London — London Fog-
Christmas at George Campbell's.

We were now fairly engaged in constant work. I
delivered lectures in the principal towns on the route
to Scotland, and on the 24th of August, we left New-
castle on Tyne, for Galashiels, near Melrose and
Abbotsford, where, for the first time, I addressed a
Scottish audience. After the lecture, we ate salmon
caught in the Tweed, and heard Biums' songs sung in

Online LibraryJohn Bartholomew GoughAutobiography and personal recollections of John B. Gough: with twenty-six ... → online text (page 21 of 38)