« ForrigeFortsett »
XVII.-WARD ON ORATORY. (1)
[From the Critical Review, 1759. “ A System of Oratory,
delivered in a Course of Lectures, publicly read at Gresham College. By John Ward, LL.D.F.R.S. In two volumes, 8vo."]
If diction perfectly grammatical, and a method perfectly scientific; if the marks of extensive reading, and an omission of scarce aught that has been formerly advanced on the subject, demand applause, these lectures may assert their claim. Accurate and copious, they contain all that the
Miss More scratched underneath with her whip, –
“ Some firmer basis, polish'd Langhorne, choose,
And be thy tablet lasting, as thy verse." A very lively, intellectual intercourse” (says Mr. Roberts) “was sustained between them, until a habit of intemperance, in which he had vainly sought relief under the pressure of domestic calamity, raised a barrier between him and persons of strict behaviour.” The following copy of verses, written by Langhorne in his garden, were found among Hannah More's papers :
" Blow, blow, my sweetest rose !
For Hannah More will soon be here,
For her thy golden breast unfold,
For she your wreaths, to glory due,
Has bound upon the hero's brow, (1)
For you her youthful temples bound,
Ve rural nymphs your love confess,
For her who sought your happiness, (2)
See Roberts' Life of Hannah More, tol. i. p.] (1) (Dr. John Ward was Professor of Rhetoric in Gresham College for thirty-eight years. He was born in London in 1679, and died in 1758. ] (1) [The Inflexible Captive.]
(2) [Search after Happiness |
ancients have delivered on the rhetorician's art, all the rules commentators have coolly deduced from a careful perusal of the raptures of Demosthenes and Cicero. This, perhaps, was all the praise our author sought; and this much certainly is his due. We will not accuse the lecturer of phlegm, since he only professes to be didactic; nor censure his many repetitions, since to an audience, perhaps, they conduce to perspicuity. They who seek to understand rhetoric, must be contented with the disgusting dryness of names and definitions : those names and proper definiticns are supplied here in abundance. If, regardless of the present age, the author has not thought proper to adapt his rules to the differing modes of eloquence of different centuries, he has, nevertheless, been a faithful commentator upon the ancients, whom he appears to have studied, and whose languages he seems perfectly to have understood. We would not therefore be thought to object to the execution of the present performance, but to the choice of the subject; not to the lecturer's talents, but the inutility of his task.
Upon a former occasion we hinted our opinion, thai eloquence is more improved by the perusal of the great masters, from whose excellences rules have been afterwards formed, than by an attendance on the lectures of such as pretend to teach the art by rule, more by imitation than by precept. We shall bere, then, take the liberty of pursuing the thought; and as an extract from the work before us can (from the nature of the subject) neither excite the reader's curiosity nor awaken his attention, instead of offering any thing from the author we shall fill up a page with a few observations of our own. We all would be orators: we live in an age of orators : our very tradesmen are orators. Were it not worth while to ask what oratory is ?
Oratory is nothing more than the being able to imprint on others, with rapidity and force, the sentiments of which
Thus we see,
we are possessed ourselves. Thus sometimes even silence is eloquent, and action persuades when words might fail. We may be thus impressed, without being convinced; and our passions are often excited on the side of the speaker, though reason would resist their impulse. “ Whatever," says Boileau, “we clearly conceive, we can clearly express; whatever we conceive with warmth, is expressed in the same manner :" when the emotion is strong, the words rise almost involuntarily, to give our feelings all the force of expression. The speaker who calmly considers the propriety of his diction cools in the interval; the spirit is fted, and, not being moved himself, he ceases to affect his hearers. Should we examine writers of genius on the most applauded parts of their performances, they would readily answer, that those parts have been most admired which they wrote with the greatest ease and the warmest enthusiasm. eloquence is born with us before the rules of rhetoric, as languages have been formed before the rules of grammar. Nature alone is mistress of the art, and perhaps every person who understands the language in which he speaks, who has great interest in the cause he defends, or is warmly attached to his party, must be an orator. This is the reason that the most barbarous nations speak in a style more affecting and figurative than others; they feel with passions unabated by judgment, and tropes and figures are the natural result of their sensations. These strong and vigorous emotions, therefore, can be no where taught, but they may be extinguished by rule; and this we find actually to have been the case : we find no Grecian orator truly sublime after the precepts of Aristotle, nor Roman after the lectures of Quintilian. Their precepts might have guarded their successors from falling into faults, but at the same time they deterred them from rising into beauty. Cool, dispassionate, and even, they never forfeited their title to good sense; they incurred no disgust, and they raised no admiration.
But if rules in general of this kind are of such inutility, how much more must they lead us astray, when we cite the precepts given to the orators of one country to direct the pleadings of another; rules drawn from the ancients to direct a modern barrister, would make him thoroughly ridiculous; and yet this custom prevailed in Europe till about a century ago. A lawyer, who even then perceived the absurdity of the custom, hearing his adversary talk of the war of Troy, the beauteous Helen, and the river Scamander, entreated the court to observe, that his client was christened, not Scamander, but Simon.
In fact, those men who have taken so much pains to reduce what is properly a talent to an art, have but very little advanced the interests of learning : by their means, the mind, attentive to her own operations, mixes judgment with all her enthusiasms; and like a man who is ever reflecting on the danger of every hazardous enterprize, at last is satisfied with the advantages of safety, unconcerned about the rewards attending success.
XVIII.-MURPHY'S ORPHAN OF CHINA.
[From the Critical Revien', 1759. “ The Orphan of China ;
a Tragedy. By Arthur Murphy, Esq.") WHEN luxury has exhausted every mode of enjoyment, and is palled by an iteration of the same pursuits, it often has recourse even to absurdity for redress, and vainly expects from novelty those satisfactions it has ceased to find in nature. Like the Asiatic tyrant of antiquity, wearied of the old pleasures, it proposes immense rewards, and eagerly seeks amusement in the new. From the prevalence of a taste like this, or rather from this perversion of taste, the refined European has, of late, had recourse even to China, in order to diversify the amusements of the day. We have seen gardens laid out in the eastern manner ; houses ornamented in front by zig-zag lines; and rooms stuck round with Chinese vases and Indian pagods. If such whimsies prevail among those who conduct the pleasures of the times, and consequently lead the fashion, is it to be wondered, if even poetry itself should conform, and the public be presented with a piece formed upon Chinese manners?-manners which, though the poet should happen to mistake, he has the consolation left, that few readers are able to detect the imposture. Voltaire, than whom no author better adapts his productions to the colour of the times, was sensible of this prevalence of fashion in favour of all that came from China, and resolved to indulge its extravagance. He has accordingly embroidered a Chinese plot with all the colouring of French poetry; but his advances to excellence are only in proportion to his deviating from the calm insipidity of his eastern original. Of all nations that ever felt the influence of the inspiring goddess, perhaps the Chinese are to be placed in the lowest class : their productions are the most phlegmatic that can be imagined. In those pieces of poetry, or novel, translations, some of which we have seen, and which probably may soon be made public, (1) there is not a single attempt to address the imagination, or influence the passions ; such therefore are very improper models for imitation : and Voltaire, who was perhaps sensible of this, has made very considerable deviations from the original
(1) A specimen of this kind will probably appear next season at Mr. Dodsley's, as we are informed. [In 1761, Goldsmith's friend, Dr. Percy, published his translation of “ Han Kiou Choaan, or the Pleasing History," a Chinese novel, containing a faithful picture of the domestic manners, babits, and characters of that extraordinary people. ]