Charles Dickens, Hard Times (1854),

The orator Slackbridge who was a portrait of the radical agitator Mortimer Grimshaw who Dickens had observed, provided us with a masterpiece of description in appearance, timing and the essentials of oratory. Speaking in a crowded and suffocatingly close hall, "in which the orator, perched on a stage, delivered himself of this and whatever froth and funme he had in him. He had declaimed himself into a violent heat, and was as hoarse as he was hot. By dint of roaring at the top of his voice under a flaring gas-light, clenching his fists, knitting his brows, setting his teeth, and pounding with his arms, he had taken so much out of himself by this time, that he was brought to a stop and called for a glass of water.

As he stood there trying to quench his fiery face with his drink of water, the comparison between the orator and the crowd of attentive faces turned towards him, was extremely to his disadvantage. Judging him by Nature's evidence, he was above the mass in very little but the stage on which he stood. In many great respects, he was essentially below them. He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so goodhumoured; he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe solid sense. ... The orator having refreshed himself, wiped his corrugated forehead several times with his handkerchief folded into a pad, and concentrated all his revived forces in a sneer of disdain and bitterness."

"Slackbridge the orator looked about him with a withering smile; and holding out his right hand at arm's length (as the manner of all Slackbridges is), to still the thundering sea, waited until there was a profound silence." Book the Second, Chapter 4.Dickens was never really sympathetic to any manifestation of the nascent Trades Union.



William Strang

etching and dry point



and another unsympathetic portrait of the orator set against the stereotypes of the Working Masses.