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stately growth and flourishing expansion of oratorical genius.
The rarity of this occurrence is, undoubtedly, im part, to be accounted for, from the difficulty of the attainment. The palm of oratorical perfection is only to be grasped it is, in reality, only to be desired-by aspiring souls, and intellects of unusual energy. It requires a persevering toil which few would be contented to encounter a decisive intrepidity of character, and an untameableness of mental ambition, which very, very few can be expected to possess. It requires, also, conspicuous opportunities for cultiva tion and display, to which few can have the fortune to be born; and which fewer still will have the hardi hood to endeavour to create.
Faults of Conversation.
Every one endeavours to make himself as agreeable to society as he can ; but it often happens, that those who most aim at shining in conversation overshoot their mark. We should try to keep up conversation like a ball bandied to and fro from one to the other, rather than seize it all to ourselves, and drive it be fore us like a foot-ball.
We should likewise be cautious to adapt the matter of our discourse to our company; and not talk Greek before Ladies, or of the last new fashion to a meeting of country justices.
But nothing throws a more ridiculous air over our whole conversation than peculiarities; easily acquired but not conquered or discarded without extreme difficulty. Those who accompany every word with a peculiar grimace or gesture; who assent with a shrug, contradict with a twisting of the neck, are angry with
a wry mouth, and pleased in a caper, or minuet step, may be considered as speaking harlequins. With these we condemn the affected tribe of mimics, who are continually taking off the peculiar tone of voice or gesture of their acquaintance; though they are generally such wretched imitators, that like bad painters, they are frequently forced to write the name under the picture before we can discover any likeness.
It is unnecessary to point out all the pests of conversation, or to dwell on the sensibles, who pronounce dogmatically on the most trivial points, and speak in sentences; the wonderers, who are always wondering what o'clock it is, or wondering whether it will rain or no, or wondering when the moon changes; the phraseologists, who explain a thing, by all that and t'other; lastly, the silent persons, who seem afraid of opening their mouths lest they should catch cold, and literally observe the precept of the gospel, letting their conversation be only, yea, yea i and nay, nay.
The rational intercourse kept up by conversation, is one of our principal distinctions from brutes. We should therefore endeavor to turn this particular talent to our advantage, and consider the organs of speech as the instruments of understanding; we should be very careful not to use them as the weapons of vice, or tools of folly, and do our utmost to unlearn any trivial or ridiculous habits, which tend to lessen the value of such an inestimable prerogative.
On Satirical Wit.
TRUST me, this unwary pleasantry of thine wilt sooner or later bring thee into scrapes and difficulties. which no after wit can extricate thee out of. In these sallies, too oft I see, it happens, that the person laugh
ed at, considers himself in the light of a person inju red, with all the rights of such a situation belonging to him; and when thou viewest him in that light too, and reckonest upon his friends, his family, his kindred and allies, and musterest up with them the many recruits which will list under him from a sense of common danger; 'tis no extravagant arithmetic to say, that for every ten jokes, thou hast got a hundred enemies; and, till thou hast gone on, and raised a swarm of wasps about thine ears, and art half stung to death by them, thou wilt never be convinced it is so. I cannot suspect it in the man whom I esteem, that there is the least spur from spleen or malevolence of intent in these sallies. I believe and know them to be truly honest and sportive ; but consider, that fools cannot distinguish this, and knaves will not; and thou knowest not what it is, either to provoke the one or make merry with the other; whenever they associate for mutual defence, depend upon it they will carry on the war in such a manner against thee, my dear friend, as to make thee heartily sick of it, and of thy life too.
Revenge from some baneful corner shall level a tale of dishonour at thee, which no innocence of heart or integrity of conduct shall set right. The fortunes of thy house shall totter-thy character, which led the way to them, shall bleed on every side of it-thy faith questioned thy works belied-hy wit forgotten-thy learning trampled on. To wind up the last scene of thy tragedy, Cruelty and Cowardice, twin ruffians, hired and set on by Malice in the dark, shall strike together at all thy infirmities and mistakes: the best of us my friend, lie open there, and trust me-when to gratify a private appetite, it is once resolved upon, that an innocent and a helpless creature shall be sacrificed, it is an easy matter to pick up sticks enough from any thicket where it has strayed, to make a fire to offer it up with.
Of Successful Speaking.
It is only necessary, in fact, for the orator to keep one man in view amidst the multitude that surrounds him; and, excepting those enumerations which require some variety in order to paint the passions, conditions, and characters, he ought merely, whilst composing, to address himself to that one man whose mistakes he laments, and whose foibles he discovers. This man is, to him, as the genius of Socrates, standing continually at his side, and by turns, interrogating him, or answering his questions. This is he whom the orator ought never to lose sight of in writing, till he obtain a conquest over his prepossessions.. The arguments which will be sufficiently persuasive to overcome his opposition, will equally controul a large assembly.
The orator will derive still farther advantages from a numerous concourse of people, where all the impressions made at the time will convey the finest triumphs of the art, by forming a species of action and re-action between the auditory and the speaker.. It is in this sense that Cicero is right in saying,
That no man can be eloquent without a multitude to hear him." The auditor came to hear a discourse:
the orator attacks him; accuses him ; makes him abashed; addresses him, at one time as his confident, at another as his mediator, or his judge. See with what address he unveils his most concealed passions; with what penetration he shews him his most intimate thoughts; with what energy he annihilates his best framed excuses! The culprit repents. Profound attention, consternation, confusion, remorse, all announce that the orator has penetrated, in his retired meditations, into the recesses of the heart. Then, provided no ill-timed sally of wit follow, to blunt the strokes of Christian eloquence, there may
be in the church two thousand auditors, yet there will be but one thought, but one opinion, and all those individuals united, form that ideal man whom the orator had in view while composing his discourse.
The Orator should Study himself.
BUT, you may ask, where is this ideal man, composed of so many different traits, to be found, unless we describe some chimerical being? Where shall we find a phantom like this, singular but not outre, in which every individual may recognise himself, although it resemble not any one? Where shall we find him?-In your own heart.- -Often retire there. Survey all its recesses. There, you will trace both the pleas for those passions which you will have to combat, and the source of those false reasonings which you must point out. To be eloquent, we must enter within ourselves. The first productions of a young orator are generally too far fetched. His mind, always on the stretch, is making continual efforts, without his ever venturing to commit himself to the simplicity of nature, until experience teach him, that to arrive at the sublime, it is, in fact, less necessary to elevate his imagination, than to be deeply impressed with his subject.
If you have studied the sacred books; if you have observed men ; if you have attended to writers on morals, who serve you instead of historians; if you have become familiar with the language of orators; make trial of your eloquence upon yourself: become, so to speak, the auditor of your own discourses; and thus, by anticipating the effect which they ought to produce, you will easily delineate true characters; you will perceive, that, notwithstanding the shades