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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843, by John HANBURy Dwyer, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the Northern District of New-York.
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As usefulness to our fellow men is one of the grand ends of our being, it behoves every one to contribute his share to the general good; therefore, if this attempt prove but as the widow's mite, yet is the writer justified in making it.
The Exercises which it was necessary that the Author should compose for the instruction of his pupils, first suggested the idea of attempting to make a book upon the subject, by extending the plan. This suggestion was strengthened and encouraged by the favorable opinions of some who read those exercises, and for whose judgment and talents the writer and the community at large have a high respect.
If Elocution, so diligently studied by persons of respectability in Europe, were duly appreciated in this country, its advantages would be so apparent, that wonder would arise that it should have remained so long without a proper place amid the general mass of information, so widely disseminated among the people of America. Perhaps, useful knowledge being the grand aim here, ornamental aids may have been considered superfluous; but, in this case, they are so happily blended, and so necessarily connected, that just fault cannot be found with the mixture. Independently of Elocution, correct oral eloquence cannot exist, for it is its grammar. In this, the freest country that now exists, or ever did
exist, although elocutive knowledge will not make us orators, yet it will cause us to be fearless and correct
speakers in a land like ours, where the humblest of her sons has continually occasion to address his fellow-citiZenS. Eloquence has frequently been objected to, as having a tendency to bewilder the understanding by dressing fiction in the garb of truth; but admitting that to be the case, are we to argue the exception against the general rule 2 To decry oratory because an abuse of it may occur, would be as absurd as to find fault with Christianity, because some, not following its precepts, use the semblance of it hypocritically, and as a cloak for their own selfish and wicked purposes. As well may we abuse the blessed sun which sheds life, and light, and lustre all around, because the intenseness of his rays sometimes engenders putridity
“For nought so vile that on the earth doth live,
Such objections generally spring from minds incapable of conceiving the inexpressible delights which flow from eloquence, delights which do not rest merely in being capable of comprehending and feeling the orations of a Demosthenes, a Cicero, a Curran, or the senatorial harangues of a Chatham, a Burke, a Fox, a Pitt, a Sheridan, without reference to all the rest, whose names alone would fill a volume, but in the highly fraught mental enjoyment of speaking peace and pardon to, and smoothing the pillow of the dying, and perhaps before desponding sinner; of advocating the cause of defrauded orphanage, or unprotected widowhood; of arousing the spirit of a country to the assertion of its rights; of unlocking the stores of affluence for the godlike purpose of drying the tears of penury; of vindicating our brethren and ourselves, and of upholding the religion of our Maker against the dark and self immolating doctrines of the pitiable unbeliever. Who can reflect upon such advantages, and not exult that Providence, in its munificence, has strewed that sweet and pleasant flower in the probationary and thorny path of wandering man 2 Were the Author asked what oratory is, he would answer, mind—but he would be qualifiedly understood. This bears an equivocal meaning, something similar to that which the great father of eloquence wished to inculcate when being asked what oratory was, he answered action. So aware were the ancients of the impetus which utterance gave to gesture, that they frequently called pronunciation action. Yet action is the last and least of its parts, which are, mind, that enables us to invent, memory, the repository of our own thoughts and those of others, imagination, which imparts brilliancy to our language, disposition or arrangement, which places our matter in a proper point of view, utterance or pronunciation, which gives effect to our invention, feeling, which gives it force, then action. It must be allowed that in the time of the ancients, action had more influence in eloquence than at the present time. The style of their orators being consonant with it, and the number of their auditors requiring it as a type of words, which could not always be distinctly heard by such multitudes; therefore a style of action which was admissible in them, would in us be deemed extravagant and unnatural; but in avoiding the one extreme the British are said, by foreigners, to have fallen into the other, i.e. of not using a sufficiency of action to give effect to their subjects. This objection may have some foundation in fact, but if they err in this particular, it is certainly on the side of safety and deCOrum.
It was the intention of the writer to have marked the examples in this book with italics, but he was deterred from doing so by the objections which upon deliberation seemed to oppose such a plan, especially when Dr. Blair is with him, an author who has done so much for the eloquence of the English language, and who must remain a source of admiration to the enlightened, and of instruction to those who seek for Rhetorical and Belles Lettres information.
NOTE:-The above tribute to departed merit, is not invidiously paid with a view of derogating from the merits of subsequent and powerful writers on the same subject; but in justice to the pioneer who cleared the soil, and rendered it receptive of the high cultivation since bestowed upon it.