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whole interest of dialogue to an uninterrupted succession of ideas, which, were they disjointed, would produce no effects, but languish and die.-The progression which imparts increasing strength to each period, is the natural representation of those transports of soul which should enliven throughout the compositions of the orator. Hence it follows, that an eloquent writer can only be formed by a fertility and vastness of thoughts.
Detached phrases, superfluous passages, witty comparisons, unprofitable definitions, the affectation of shining or surprising at every word, the extravagance of genius, these do not enrich, but rather impoverish a writer, as often as they interrupt his progress.
Let, then, the orator avoid, as most dangerous rocks, those ensnaring sallies, which would diminish the impetuosity of his ardour. Without pity on his productions, and without ever regretting the apparent sacrifices which it will cost him, let him, as he proceeds, retrench this heap of flourishes, which stifles his eloquence, instead of embellishing it; and which hurries him on forcibly, rather than gracefully, towards his main design.
If the hearer find himself continually where he was, if he discover the enlargement, the return of the same ideas, or the playing upon words, he is no more transported with the admiration of a vehement orator; it is a florid declaimer, whom he hears without effect. He does not even hear him long. He also, like the orator, makes idle reflections on every word. He is continually losing sight of the thread of the discourse, amidst those digressions of the rhetorician, who is aiming to shine while his subject languishes. At length, tired with this redundancy of words, he feels his exhausted attention ready to expire with every breath.
Mistaken man of genius! wert thou acquainted with the true method of attaining eloquence, instead of disgusting thy hearer with thy insipid antithesis, his
attention would not be at liberty to be diverted. He would partake of your emotion. He would become all that you mean to describe. He would imagine that he himself could discover the plain and striking arguments which you laid before him, and, in some measure, compose your discourse along with you. His satisfaction would be at its height, as would be your glory. And you would find, that it is the delight of him who hears, which always insures the triumph of him who speaks.
"A good judge of the art of Oratory," says Cicero, "need not hear an Orator in order to judge of his merits-He passes on-He observes the judges conversing together-restless on their seats--frequently enquiring in the middle of a pleading, whether it be not time to close the trial, and break up the court. This is enough for him. He perceives at once that the cause is not pleaded by a man of eloquence, who can command every mind, as a musician can produce harmonious tones by touching the strings of his instrument.
But if he perceive, as he passes on, the same judges attentive-their heads erect-their looks engaged, and apparently struck with admiration of the speaker, as a bird is charmed with the sweet sounds of music; if, above all, he discover them (or "the court," or "the audience") most passionately affected by pity, by hatred, or by any strong emotion of the heart; if, I say, as he passes on, he perceive these effects, though he hear not a word of the Oration, he immediately concludes, that a real Orator is in this assembly, and that the work of eloquence proceeds, or rather is already accomplished.
ORATORY is the art of speaking gracefully upon a subject, with a view to instruct, persuade, or please. The scope of this art is, to support truth and virtue, to maintain the rights and liberties of mankind, to alleviate the miseries and distresses of life, or to defend the innocent, and accuse the guilty.-The masters of rhetoric among the Greeks and Romans, have considered an oration as consisting of three or four parts, called the exordium, or mere beginning; the narration and confirmation, extending from thence to the peroration, or recapitulation and conclusion of what has been said. Now, as these parts of an oration differ widely in nature from each other, so they require a difference of style. A discourse may open variety of ways, bespeaking the favour and attention of the audience, as by an address to those who preside in chief; with an apology;-with setting forth the design of the point in debate ;-or with any other form arising from the speaker's consideration of his own situation, or the person of his hearers.-But, from whatever occasion the exordium may take its rise, in general it should be short, plain, and modest.-Swelling introductions to plain subjects are ridiculous, and to great actions unnecessary, because they sufficiently show and magnify themselves ;-not but, on some occasions, it may be proper to begin with spirit and fire. Examples of this kind are found in Cicero.The language too must be plain, simple, and concise in the narration, which is the part for stating the subject, and setting forth its consideration under one or more propositions; the fewer and clearer the better: Neither must the speaker rise much in the confirmation, where he is to prove the point under consideration, by proper illustrations, apt, short, and plain examples; by expressive similitudes, cogent argu
ments, and just observations, backed and supported by authorities divine and human. Here the speaker must make his way to the judgement and conviction of his audience, by words and matter weighty and significant; in sentences grave and unaffected; in short, rather by strong good sense in familiar language, than by trifling observations in hard words and studied ornaments The subject being opened, explained, and confirmed, in the three first parts; that is to say, the speaker, having gained the attention and judgment of his audience, must proceed in the peroration to finish his conquests over the passions, such as imagination, admiration, surprise, hope, joy, love, fear, grief, anger. To these some application may be made in the exordium; but now the court must be paid wholly to them; in managing which is requi red no small skill and address. Now, therefore, the speaker must begin to exert himself. Here it is that a fine genius may display itself in the use of amplification, enumeration, interrogation, metaphor, and every ornament that can render a discourse entertaining, winning, striking, and enforcing. Thus the orator may gain the ascendant over his audience ;-can turn the current of their minds his own way, either like the rapid Severn with uplifted head, rushing on impetuous, or like the smooth gliding Thames, gently rising by almost imperceptible advances.
REMARKS ON READING.
Reading is the food of the mind; it forms taste, enriches knowledge, and refines reason. The gay, the giddy, the frivolous, read without expansion of soul, or improvement of their mental powers. They read without choice, without system, and with heedless precipitation. The impressions and the objects
succeed each other with such rapidity, that the first is effaced by the following, and all are jumbled together in the memory; so that, after much reading, the men I allude to have only acquired the equivocal talent of disgusting a sound mind with embryo ideas, lost in a luxuriancy of words.
Young men are, in general, advised to read much. If they adhere to this counsel; if they devour every book that falls in their way, as is usually the case, even with those who have the best intentions, they overshoot the mark, and their purpose is disappointed. Amusement only will become their aim. They will give up Tillotson, Blackstone, Addison, Steele, Congreve, &c. for a novel, that is, for reading, of a nature the most dangerous to the undecided taste of a raw mind. I am well aware that there are some few of these ephemeral productions that may be run over with a sort of advantage, but this must not be during the period allotted you for laying the foundations of manly eloquence.
A young man may read Don Quixote twenty times over, before he perceives the acuteness of the author, or feels the moral aim of the work. It will appear to him a tissue of extraordinary events only, and eccentricities of a wild imagination. You well know, that in romances, or even novels, things are generally pushed to the extreme. If they treat of virtue, it loses its name, and becomes heroism or fantastic virtue. "They always address themselves to fancy, and lead her a chase after ideal happiness, which nothing but cool reason, in a more advanced period of life, can put a stop to.
For the present, therefore, leave every work of this nature, even the best, and peruse none but such as are recommended to you for truth, solidity, and elegance.
To guard you against this intemperance of reading, I must assure you, that the number of books on which you should form your taste, is by no means considerable. Let your friends see master-pieces in your