Page images

principal ideas; your subject will then become circumscribed, and you will see its extent.

This plan will be your ground work; it will support you, direct you, regulate the movements of your mind, and submit them to the laws of method. Without it, the best speaker will go astray, his progress will be unguided, and the irregular beauties of his speech will be at the mercy of hazard. How brilliant soever the colours he employs may be, the disposition of the picture will ruin the whole effect; and the speaker may be admired, but his genius will most certainly be suspected.

Why are the works of nature so perfect? says Buffon: it is because every work is a whole, or has its full plenitude: it is because she never deviates from one eternal plan. She prepares in silence the seeds of all her productions: in one bold stroke alone, she hits off the primitive form of every living being; she unfolds and bestows perfection on it by a perpetual motion, and in a prescribed time. The human mind cannot create, it can produce nothing until it has been fertilized by experience and meditation; its notions are the seeds of its productions; but if it imitates the progress and labour of Nature; if it rise on the wings of contemplation, to the most sublime truths; if it connect them, link them, and form them into one grand whole by the powers of reflection; it will raise a monument of fame on an immortal foundation.

It is for want of a plan, and for not having allowed reflection to dwell long enough on his subject, that a man of abilities finds himself embarrassed, and knows not where or how to begin. He at once perceives a vast number of ideas; as he has made no comparison betwixt them, nor established any subordination among them, there is nothing that determines him to give the preference to one more than to the other; he, therefore, stands a victim of his own perplexity. But when he shall have laid down a plan to himself; when once he shall have gathered together, and put in order, every idea essential to his subject, the work

will have arrived at the point of maturity; he will be eager to give it birth; thought will succeed thought, with ease and pleasure to himself: his style will be natural and lucid; the delight he feels will beget a warmth, which will glow through all his periods, and give life to every expression; his animation will increase; the tones of his voice will swell; every object will become prominent and sentiment, in unison with perspicuity, will render the discourse both interesting and luminous.

Weigh your own feelings, examine the emotions of others, endeavour to discover, in every occurrence of life, the spring of human passions, study to imitate nature, and with the genius and judgement you are blessed with, you cannot but succeed as a great speaker.

One word more, and I quit the subject: accustom yourself, even in your common conversation, to link your thoughts to one another; utter none without a momentary examination, whether it is sound and fit or not justness and precision will glide from your conversation into your first little essays, and from these into greater; and when, at last, nature shall have attained its maturity, and occasion touches the spring of genius, all the powers of your mind will burst into harmonious motion.

Section XIV.


It will not, I think, be pretended, that any of our preachers have often occasion to address more sagacious, learned, or polite assemblies, than those which were composed of the Roman senate, or the Athenian people, in their most enlightened times. But it is well known what great stress the most celebrated orators of those times laid on action, how exceeding

imperfect they reckoned eloquence without it, and what wonders they performed with its assistance, performed upon the greatest, firmest, most sensible, and most elegant spirits the world ever saw: it were easy to throw together a number of common-place quotations, in support, or illustration of this, and almost every other remark that can be made upon the present subject.

But as that would lead us beyond the intention of this paper, we need only recollect here one simple fact, which every body hath heard of, that whereas Demosthenes himself did not succeed in his first attempts, through his having neglected to study action, he arrived afterwards at such a pitch in that faculty, that when the people of Rhodes expressed in high terms their admiration of his famous oration for Ctesiphon, upon hearing it read with a very sweet and strong voice by Echines, whose banishment it had procured, that great and candid judge said to them, "How would you have been affected, had you seen him speak it! For he that only hears Demosthenes loses much the better part of the oration."-What an honourable testimony this, from a vanquished adversary, and such an adversary! What a noble idea doth it give of that wonderful orator's action! I grasp it with ardour; 1 transport myself in imagination to old Athens. I mingle with the popular assembly, I behold the lightning, I listen to the thunder of Demosthenes. I feel my blood thrilled, I see the audience tost and shaken like some deep forest by a mighty storm. I am filled with wonder at such marvellous effects. I am hurried almost out of myself. In a little while, I endeavour to be more recollected. Then I consider the orator's address. I find the whole inexpressible. But nothing strikes me more than his action. I perceive the various passions he would inspire rising in him by turns, and working from the depth of his frame. Now he glows with the love of the public; now he flames with indignation at its enemies; then he will swell with disdain of

its false, indolent, or interested friends; anon he melts with grief for its misfortunes; and now he turns pale with fear of yet greater ones. Every feature, nerve, and circumstance about him, is intensely animated each almost seems as if it would speak. I discern his inmost soul, I see it as only clad in some thin transparent vehicle. It is all on fire. I wonder no longer at the effects of such cloquence: I only wonder at their cause


Section XV.


AMONG the innumerable ties by which mankind are drawn and held together, may be fairly reckoned that love of praise, which perhaps is the earliest passion of human beings. It is wonderful how soon children begin to look out for notice, and for consequence. To attract mutual regards by mutual services, is one chief aim, and one important operation, of a principle, which I should be sorry to think that any of you had outlived. No sooner do the social affections unfold themselves, than youth appear ambitious to deserve the approbation of those around them. Their desires of this kind are more lively, as their dispositions are more ingenious. Of those boys who discover the greatest ardour to obtain, by their capacity, their spirit, or their generosity, the esteem of their companions, it may be commonly observed, that they shoot up into the most valuable characters.

Eagerness for the admiration of school fellows and others, without distinction of sexes, is felt at first; but when, in process of time, the bosom becomes sensible to that distinction, it begins to beat with a peculiar anxiety to please the female part of your acquaintance. The smiles, the applause, the attach

ment of young women, you now consider as conferring felicity of a more interesting nature; and to secure such happiness, is from henceforth an object that incites and influences you on a thousand occasions. By an increasing susceptibility to the attractions of the softer sex, you are carried more aud more into their company: and there, my brothers, your hearts and manners, your tastes and pursuits, receive often a direction that remains ever after, very and that will probably decide your destiny through the whole of your existence. I am aware, indeed, that to underrate their importance, and cultivate their commerce only as subservient to convenience, amusement, or voluptuousness, is common among the ignorant, the petulant, and the profligate of our sex : but, happy as I have been in the conversation of many worthy and accomplished persons of the other, I would willingly, if possible, prevent your adopting a system alike ungenerous and false.

It is certain, that savages, and those who are but little removed from their condition, have seldom behaved to women with much respect or tenderness. On the other hand, it is known, that in civilized nations they have ever been objects of both: that, in the most heroic states of antiquity, their judgment was often honoured as the standard, and their suffrages often sought as the reward of merit: and though in those states the allurement of feminine softness was perhaps not always sufficiently understood, owing probably to that passion for public interest, and extensive fame, which seems to have overpowered all other emotions; it must yet be acknowledged, that the Ladies of ancient days frequently possessed a wonderful influence in what concerned the political welfare, and private affections, of the people to whom they belonged.

But say, my friends, does it not reflect some lustre on the fair sex, that their talents and virtues have still been most revered in periods of the greatest renown? And tell me, I beseech you, what age or

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »