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ELOQUENCE AND ORATORY.
Eloquence may be defined to be the art of expressing our thoughts and feelings with precision, force, and elegance; and of heightening the impressions of reason, by the colouring of imagination.
It is applicable, therefore, to the whole faculty of verbal discourse, whether oral or written. It addresses itself by the pen to the eye, as well as by the living organs to the ear. Thus we speak (with admitted accuracy) of an eloquent book, as freely as of an eloquent oration; of the eloquent Buffon (alluding to his celebrated work on natural history ;) and of the eloquent writings, as of the eloquent speeches of Edmund Burke. The apostrophe to the queen of France is as genuine a piece of eloquence, as if it had been spoken in the House of Commons.
Oratory, on the contrary, is precise and limited in its application: and, in this respect, indeed, even popular usage is pretty generally correct. It may be defined to be oral eloquence; or the art of communicating, by the immediate action of the vocal and expressive organs, to popular or select assemblies, the dictates of our reason, or our will, and the workings of our passions, our feelings and our imaginations.
Oratory, therefore, includes the idea of eloquence: for no man can be an orator who has not an affluence of thought and language. But eloquence does not necessarily include the idea of oratory: since a man may be rich in all the stores of language and thought, without possessing the advantages of a graceful and impressive delivery.
Elocution is the art, or the act of so delivering our own thoughts and sentiments, or the thoughts and sentiments of others, as not only to convey around us (with precision, force, and harmony,) the full purport and meaning of the words and sentences in which these thoughts are clothed; but also to excite and impress upon their minds, the feelings, the imaginations and the passions by which those thoughts are dictated, or with which they should naturally be accompanied.
Elocution, therefore, in its more ample and liberal signification, is not confined to the mere exercise of the organs of speech. It embraces the whole theory and practice of the exterior demonstration of the inward workings of the mind.
To concentrate what has been said by an allegorical recapitulation-Eloquence may be considered as the soul, or animating principle of discourse; and is dependent on intellectual energy and intellectual attainments. Elocution is the embodying form, or representative power: dependent on exterior accomplishments, and on the cultivation of the organs. Oratory is the complicated and vital existence resulting from the perfect harmony and combination of Eloquence and Elocution.
The vital existence, however, in its full perfection, is one of the choicest rarities of nature. The high and splendid accomplishments of oratory (even in the most favoured age, and the most favoured countries) have been attained by few: and many are the ages, and many are the countries, in which these accomplishments have never once appeared. Generations have succeeded to generations, and centuries have rolled after centuries, during which the intellectual desert has not exhibited even one solitary specimen of the
stately growth and flourishing expansion of oratorical genius.
The rarity of this occurrence is, undoubtedly, in 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 cultivation and display,-to which few can have the fortune to be born; and which fewer still will have the hardihood to endeavour to create.
FAULTS OF CONVERSATIONS.
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 before 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 'tother; lastly, the silent persons, who seem afraid of opening their mouths, lest they should catch cold, and literally observe the precepts of the gospel, letting their conversation be only yea, yea; and nay,
The rational intercourse kept up by conversation, is one of our principal distinctions from brutes. We should therefore endeavour 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 interesting prerogative.
ON SATIRICAL WIT.
-Trust me, this unwary pleasantry of thine will 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 laughed at, considers himself in the light of a person injur
ed, 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 mustered 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 an 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 that 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-thy wit forgotten-thy learning trampled upon. 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.