Gladstone's voice  TIM CARMODY  ·  AUG 12 2010

William Gladstone was very nearly Abraham Lincoln's exact contemporary, both born in 1809 (Lincoln was 10 months older), only he was born in Liverpool, not Kentucky. He was a legendary orator and liberal lion, like an approximation of Lincoln and Ted Kennedy. He served as a member of parliament for almost 50 years, including as Prime Minster four times, before retiring in 1894. (Could you imagine if Lincoln had lived until 1894?)

He also had a great nickname: G.O.M., for "Grand Old Man." His Tory counterpart Disraeli called him "God's Only Mistake."

In 1888, a recording was made of Gladstone's voice on a phonograph cylinder and sent to Thomas Edison. So even though we don't have Lincoln's voice, we have Gladstone's. This is a section of the text he read:

The request that you have done me the honour to make - to receive the record of my voice - is one that I cheerfully comply with so far as it lies in my power, though I lament to say that the voice which I transmit to you is only the relic of an organ the employment of which has been overstrained. Yet I offer to you as much as I possess and so much as old age has left me, with the utmost satisfaction, as being, at least, a testimony to the instruction and delight that I have received from your marvellous invention. As to the future consequences, it is impossible to anticipate them. All I see is that wonders upon wonders are opening before us.

Via Max Deveson at the BBC.

Update: Lainey Doyle tips me that the audio link above is most likely of a recording misattributed to Gladstone. There have been a few disputed Gladstone recordings. Either:

  1. Edison hired an actor to re-record Gladstone's lines
  2. Gladstone sent someone else to read for him

and Edison either:

  1. passed it off as Gladstone's voice anyways or
  2. collectors later falsified it or got confused.

Anyways, the following clip has been put forward as a more credible candidate for being an actual recording of octogenarian Gladstone (reading the same text, which if true throws doubt on the whole "he sent somebody else to read it" theory):

Actually, I can imagine this scenario:


  1. Gladstone records his voice

  2. Edison's unhappy with the quality, asks Gladstone to re-record it

  3. Gladstone sends a friend to tell Edison to sod off,

  4. Edison says, fuck it, let's loop it, who knows what Gladstone sounds like anyways

Clearly, Kate Beaton needs to draw this comic.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
Abraham Lincoln   audio   Thomas Edison   William Gladstone

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