« AnteriorContinuar »
ADVANTAGES OF AN ORATOR'S STUDYING
UT, 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 outré, in which every individual may recognize himself, although it resembles 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 distinguished them, all men bear an interior resemblance to one another, and that their vices have an 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.
OF RHETORICAL COMPOSITION.
HESE general principles are insufficient.
Let us, then, pass on to particulars, and apply the rules of art to the composition of a discourse.
“It is an arduous undertaking,” says the Roman Orator, “to appear before a numerous assembly “ which listens to our discussion of the most im
portant subjects, since there is scarsely any one “ who will not more nicely and rigidly observe 66 the faults than the beauties of our discourses ; “ for whenever we speak in public, judgment is
pronounced upon us*.”
Indeed, besides the natural talents which Eloquence requires, and the want of which application never supplies, every orator, who wishes to give satisfaction to his auditory, must join to the instruction which he has derived from his preparatory studies, an intimate knowledge of the subject which he proposes to discuss. He must meditate on it for a considerable time in order to perceive all its principles, and to discover all its relationst. It is by this operation, purely intellectual, that we collect, according to the expres
Magnum quoddam est onus atque munus suscipere atque profiteri se esse, omnibus silentibus, unum maximis de rebus, magno in conventu hominum audiendum. Adest enim fere nemo quin acutius atque acrius vitia in dicente quam recta viileat, quoties enim decimus, toties de nobis judicatur.—Brutus, 27, 125.
M. Maury's translation of the former part of the above quotation is periphrastic rather, than just. The English translation is literal from the French, which is also followed in some other quotations.
t • The foundation of all that can be called eloquent is “ good sense and solid thought. Let it be the first study of “public speakers, in addressing any popular assembly, to « be previously masters of the business on which they are to “ speak; to be well provided with matter and argument ; “ and to rest upon these the chief stress. This will always “ give to their discourse an air of manliness and strength, “ which is a powerful argument of persuasion. Ornament, “ if they have genius for it, will follow of course."BLAIR'S Lectures, vol. ii. p. 49.
sion of Cicero, “a forest of ideas and subjects*, the accumulation of which excites in the Orator a certain eagerness to write, or rather constrains him to deliver by himself the thoughts that occur to his mind; and afterwards renders his matter more copious, and his composition more energetic and perfect. If, at such moments, he would avoid the labour of the memory he should write as fast as he composes.
When the orator hath once collected the principal proofs, which are like the materials of the building, he quickly makes himself master of his subject ; he already discerns the whole of the discourse through those detached ideas which form the ground work, as soon as he directs them to one point.
This disposition costs the orator little," for “ the discourse,” says Fenelon, " is the proposi“tion unfolded, and the proposition is an abstract " of the discourset.
In pointing out this method of study, it is my endeavour to conform to it, while, in writing, the different desultory reflections which I have suggested on the principles of Oratory, begin now,
Sylva rerum ac Sententiarum comparanda est. De Orat. 29.
† Letter on Eloquence, addressed to the French Acadea my, p. 180, in Stevenson's translation.
of their own accord, to arrange themselves into proper order.
Do you feel when composing, notwithstanding these precautions, the languor of an exhausted imagination ?-Quit your retirement.--Converse upon your subject with an intelligent friend. By communicating to him your first thoughts, you will thereby extend the circle of your ideas; and in such moments of enthusiastic fervour, some fortunate strokes will escape you which you have searched for in vain in the retirement of the closet.
OF THE PLAN OF A DISCOURSE.
HAVE you thoroughly investigated the prin
ciples, and dived, if I may so speak, to the bottom of your subject? It is here where art begins. It is time to fix your plan.
This is generally the part which costs much labour, and which very much influences the success of the discourse.
We may censure the method* of divisions as a fatal restraint on Eloquence ; let us, neverthe
* " In all kinds of public speaking, nothing is of greater consequence than a proper and clear method. Though the s method be not laid down in form, no discourse of any