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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 control 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, from 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 outrè, 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 of difference which distinguish them, all men bear
an interior resemblance to one another, and that their vices have a uniformity, because they always proceed either from weakness or interest. In a word, your descriptions will not be indeterminate: and the more thoroughly you shall have examined what passes within your own breast, with more ability will you unfold the hearts of others.
WIT INJURES ELOQUENCE.
To all those rules which art furnishes for conducting the plan of a discourse, we proceed to subjoin a general rule, from which orators, and especially Christian orators, ought never to swerve.
When such begin their career, the zeal for the salvation of souls which animate them, doth not render them always unmindful of the glory which follows great success. A blind desire to shine and to please, is often at the expence of that substantial honour, which might be obtained, were they to give themselves up to the pure emotion of piety. which so well agree with the sensibility necessary to eloquence.
It is, unquestionably, to be wished, that he who devotes himself to the arduous labour which preaching requires, should be wholly ambitious to render himself useful in the cause of religion. To such, reputation can never be a sufficient recompence. But if motives so pure have not a sufficient sway in your breast, calculate, at least, the advantages of self-love, and you may perceive how inseparably connected these are with the success of your ministry.
Is it on your own account that you preach? Is it for you that religion assembles her votaries in a temple? You ought never to indulge so presumptuous a thought. However, I only consider you as an orator.
Tell me then, what is this you call Eloquence? Is it the wretched trade of imitating that criminal, mentioned by a poet in his satire, who "balanced his crimes before his judges with antithesis?" Is it the puerile secret of forming jejune quibbles? of rounding periods? of tormenting one's self by tedious studies, in order to reduce sacred instruction into a vain amusement? Is this, then, the idea which you have conceived of that divine art which disdains frivolous ornaments, which sways the most numerous assemblies, and which bestows on a single man the most personal and majestic of all sovereignties? Are you in quest of glory?-You fly from it. Wit alone is never sublime; and it is only by the vehemence of the passions that you can become eloquent. Reckon up all the illustrious orators. Will you find among them conceited, subtle, or epigrammatic writers? No; these immortal men confined their attempts to affect and persuade; and their having been always simple, is that which will always render them great. How is this? You wish to proceed in their footsteps, and you stoop to the degrading pretensions of a rhetorician! And you appear in the form of a mendicant, soliciting commendation from those very men who ought to tremble at your feet! Recover from this ignominy. Be eloquent by zeal, instead of being a mere declaimer through vanity. And be assured, that the most certain method of preaching well for yourself, is to preach usefully to others.
OF THE PRODUCTION OF IDEAS.
IT is this continual propagation of great ideas, by which they are mutually enlivened; it is this art of incessantly advancing in composition, that gives strength to eloquence, rapidity to discourse, and the
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