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ENGLISH ELOQUENCE-IX

Synopsis

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The Speech known as the Begum Speech, to support the impeachment of Warren Hastings , Esq., delivered at Westminster Hall on June 13, 1788, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
IN 1775, the year that Burke delivered his speech on Conciliation, Sheridan, his junior by twenty years, was producing The Duenna and negotiating for the purchase of Drury Lane Theatre. Five years later, in 1780, he entered Parliament, having already, in the words of Byron, ' written the best comedy (School for Scandal), the best opera (The Duenna-in my opinion far before that St. Giles's lampoon the Beggar's Opera), the best farce (The Critic), and the best address (Monologue on Garrick).' Eight years later still, ' to crown all, he delivered the very best oration ever conceived or heard in this country.'
Upon the subject which inspired it, the impeachment of Warren Hastings , Burke and Sheridan, though mutually antipathetic, and, in a sense, rivals, were united. The great political philosopher had moved the impeachment in the House of Commons with dazzling eloquence. With equal brilliance the dramatist and wit had brought forward the charges relating to the spoliation of. the Begum Princesses of Oude. He was appointed one of the ' managers ' to make good the charges in Westminster Hall. There, over a period of four days, he delivered the Begum Speech, which fulfilled Byron's dictum that, ' whatever Sheridan has done, or chosen to do, has been par excellence, always the best of its kind.'

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