The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 68. Windham

Among other parliamentary figures prominent in the early years of the century was William Windham, whose birth and breeding as a country gentleman of ancient descent had implanted in him, together with an unextinguishable interest in the peasantry, a spirit of unflinching patriotism and of independence which refused to bend before any pressure of court or party. A school-fellow of Fox, and a follower of Burke, he had imbibed a love of literature which induced Johnson to describe him as, in that region, inter stellas Luna minores. His oratory, however, found its proper sphere in the house of commons, and it was when he led the Grenville party in opposition that his ability as a debater was most conspicuous. His speeches, of which a considerable collection remains, are full of apt, rather than striking, Latin quotations, besides occasional native sallies. In a different key from his attacks upon the peace of Amiens, and his stern comments on the seizure of the Danish fleet, is his long and temperate speech on the scandal which drove the duke of York from office. No politician was ever more free from self-interest, or orator from rant. “Nothing,” he said, “is more agreeable than to praise the Athenians among the Athenians; but I rather consider it the duty of public men to speak wholesome truths.”