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been the offspring of genius and nature. ARISTOTLE Was the text-book made use of by the several professors; and young minds, thus entangled, at the very commencement of their studies, in the intricacies and thorny disquisitions of the schools, could seldom rise above mediocrity.
The models of fine writing, the master-pieces of beau tiful and animated composition, which were found in the Greek language, served in some measure to counteract the pedantry introduced with the study of it, and, in youth of great talents, to kindle the flame of generous emulation. The elder ANTHONY, CRASSUS, HORTENSIUS, CESAR, and CICERO rivalled the glory of the most celebrated Grecian orators, but left far behind them such of their own countrymen as paid more attention to the precepts of ARISTOTLE than to the example of DEWe are told by CICERO himself, that he came forth an orator-not from the schools of the Rhetoricians, but from the spacious walks of the Academy, which he considers as the theatres of diversified and extensive argument, as the sources whence Eloquence derived all her fertility and all her materials *.
Yet, even CICERO in his old age, after having exhibited the most finished pattern of Roman eloquence, and raised the literature of his country to such perfection, that he alone might be opposed to PLATO and DEMOSTHENES, seems to have been desirous of distinguishing himself as an ARISTOTLE also, the substance of whose Art of Rhetoric he presented to the Romans in a Latin dress, and thereby increased the fondness for preceptive details which was so general in his time. How much more entitled to our admiration does he appear in his Notices of eminent Orators, and his Character of the accomplished Speaker, both which inestimable works are calcu
*Orat. ad Brut.
lated to form the taste of youth, and to animate as well as to direct their exertions in the study and attainment of genuine eloquence.
The prevalence of pedantry at Rome was quickly followed by a decline of true taste, by a contempt of simplicity and nature, and by the substitution of false and affected beauties. Before the close of AUGUSTUS's reign, a certain effeminacy of style insinuated itself at court; and the malignant criticisms of ASINIUS POLLIO, and of his son ASINIUS GELLIUS, on the language and compositions of CICERO, greatly conduced to wean the Romans, as DENINA expresses it, from that great fountain of Latin oratory. Eloquence was no longer to be seen in an ele gant undress, but was always tricked, and flounced, and highly decorated with the studied graces of novelty, or the attractive glitter of points, of witticisms, allusions, and conceits. The want of real dignity was supplied by a pompous strut; and artificial flowers were profusely scattered to conceal the decay of Nature's sweetest blooms.
But the gradual corruptions of oratory might still have admitted of some corrective or reform, had not the liberty of speech in the Senate, in the Forum, in all popular Assemblies been destroyed by the establishment of despotism at Rome; and had not all the remaining powers of enslaved genius been constantly exerted in strains of fulsome adulation, and in adorning with the splendors of gaudy panegyric the pretended blessings of every tyrant's reign. It is not under the government of such men, or rather of such monsters as a TIBERIUS, a CALIGULA, a CLAUDIUS, or a NERO, that we are to look for any remains of solid eloquence. In contemplating such sad periods of human degradation, we feel the same indignant emotions as HAYLEY, and exclaim with him,
"Those bane of liberal knowledge! Nature's Curse!
"The Soul of Genius in the trance of Death;
In the last line, I have substituted ELOQUENCE for HISTORY, the remark being equally applicable to both, as the dignity and energy of truth, which constitute the essence of Oratory, as well as of History, can exist only in the regions of Freedom. "All other qualifications," says LONGINUS," you may find among people who are deprived of liberty; but never did a Slave become an Orator: he can only be a pompous Flatterer. His spirit being effectually broken, the timorous vassal will still be uppermost the habit of subjection continually overawes and beats down his genius. For, according to HOMER,
"Jove fix'd it certain, that whatever day
"Makes man a slave, takes half his worth away."
"Thus, we are told, the cases, in which dwarfs are kept, not only prevent the future growth of those who are inclosed in them, but diminish what bulk they already have, by too close constriction of their parts. So slavery, be it never so easy, yet is slavery still, and may deservedly bę called the prison of the soul, and the public dungeon."
In the same section of the Treatise on the Sublime, from which the above extract is taken, we find a beautiful and just picture of the happy influence of a free government, which LONGINUS considers as "the Nurse of true Genius. Great writers," he adds, "will be found only in this sort of government, with which they flourish and triumph, or decline and die. Liberty produces fine sentiments in men of genius it invigorates their hopes, excites an honorable
emulation, and inspires an ambition and thirst of excelling; and, what is more, in free states there are prizes to be gained, which are worth contending for. Thus the natu ral faculties of the orators are sharpened and polished by continual practice; and the liberty of their thoughts, as is reasonable to expect, shines out conspicuously in the liberty of their debates*."
It is with some difficulty that I restrain myself from copying the whole section, in the latter part of which the moral causes of the corruption of genius, and of the decay of sublimity, are accurately described. But I beg leave to recommend it to the attention of every tutor ;' and I hope that honest zeal will prompt him to infuse its spirit into his pupils, and to impress upon their minds this important truth, That the faculties of the soul can never be completely invigorated or improved, and that genius cannot exert itself or rise to the true sublime, where virtue is neglected, and the morals are depraved.
The design of the present Introduction to the study and practice of Eloquence being to point out the chief obstacles to its progress and the principal causes of its decline, it is enough to have traced its most memorable revolutions in ancient Greece and Rome, without plunging into the darkness of ignorance and barbarism, which overspread Europe for so many ages after. The dawn or revival of letters is commonly dated from the beginning of the sixteenth century; but though Italy and France may boast of having taken the lead in various works of taste and genius, yet neither of them produced a DEMOSTHENES OF a CICERO. This honor was reserved for England, whose sons, animated by the spirit of liberty, rose to the utmost heights of oratsrical eminence, and have regularly consigned the elevated post to their successors for a longer
* Sect. XLIV.
period than ever before had been known in the history of Man. It was not however till the close of the seventeenth century, after domestic tyrants had been expelled, and the pride of foreign enemies humbled in the dust ;-after proper checks had been imposed on the abuse of royal authority, and the rights and privileges of the people distinctly ascertained; that the freedom of the press and the still more uncontrolled freedom of speech in parliament gave to British Eloquence that fire, energy, and grandeur for which it has ever since been so justly admired and distinguished.
If we take a view of CICERO's highly finished gallery of oratorical portrait, and, after doing ample justice to the painter's exquisite art, come to consider the small collection of proper subjects that he discovered worthy of notice from the beginning to the termination of the Roman republic, we shall be astonished to find the first twenty or thirty years of British liberty producing a far greater number of illustrious orators than the eminent Historian of Eloquence, with all his accuracy of research and his ardent zeal for the honor of his country, could discover in its most brilliant annals for a series of five centuries. In the short reigns of King WILLIAM and Queen Anne, we may proudly mention the names of a SOMERS, a HOLT, an ASHLEY, a MONTAGUE, a HARLEY, a ST. JOHN, a CONINGSBY, a JEKYL, and many of their cotemporaries, whose speeches and whose writings may be opposed, without the least dread of inferiority, to any of those so highly extolled by the Roman panegyrift. Let us select two of them, SOMERS and BOLINGBROKE, men of opposite parties, opposite principles, opposite character-but, alike admired for their genius and their talents.
With regard to the first of these, we cannot do greater justice to his memory than by repeating one of Mr. WAL