Imatges de pÓgina
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LECTURE

The INTRODUCTION, and the DISTRIBUTION of the Subject.

T

HE use of speech is common to all mankind. For we find none of the human race but who are capable of expreffing their ideas, fentiments, and intentions to others, in a more or lefs adequate manner, by words: and this capacity was necessary to that mutual intercourse, and free communication, without which beings of our focial nature could not be happy.

It is the province of art to improve upon nature, by adding to her powers and advantages: and, for the exercise of our intellectual and active powers, all the gifts of nature are little more than the bare unwrought materials of thofe accomplishments, from which refult the dignity and refined happiness of focial life.

Thus ORATORY is the natural faculty of fpeech improved by art; whereby the ufe of it is perfected, facilitated, and extended; and consequently its value and influence greatly increased. And the excellence of this art is the more generally acknowledged, and its effects the more admired, because, language being common to us all, all men can the more eafily conceive both the

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the importance, and the difficulty of the improvements of which it is capable..

Very few perfons ever find themselves at a lofs to deliver a single sentence or two at a time; becaufe they are able to fee at one view the whole of what they intend to fay. But it is not common to find a person able to acquit himself with propriety in a fpeech of confiderable length, even though he prepare himself. by digesting beforehand all that he intends to fay; because the: order and connexion of fentiment, and variety of diction, neceffary: in a continued fpeech, are not easily carried in memory: and it requires a very extraordinary invention and recollection to speak. long, in a proper and graceful manner, quite extempore.. Nor can. a person, without the affistance of art and instruction, even compose a fet discourse upon any subject; because it requires greater exactness in the ufe of words, more accuracy of method, and variety of transition than perfons uninstructed and unused to compofition can be masters of. For this reafon we see many perfons who make a good figure in conversation, by no means able to make a speech, or a compofition of any confiderable length.. It is in this respect, where the powers of nature fail us, in expreffing our fentiments to advantage, that we have recourse to the art of Oratory.

It may not be amifs, at the entrance upon thefe Lectures upon Oratory and Criticifm, to premife one caution; which is, that we must not expect too much from the art; fince this can do little for us in comparison of what must be the fruit of our own. previous application to fcience. The art of oratory can only consist of rules for the proper use of those materials which must be acquired from various study and obfervation, of which, there

fore,

fore, unless a perfon be poffeffed, no art of oratory can make him an orator.

In order to speak, or write well upon any fubject, it is neceffary that that fubject be thoroughly understood, that every argument which is to be used be previously collected, and the value of it ascertained. How abfurd, for inftance, would it be to imagine that a person, who had never ftudied law, government, and history, should be enabled, by the art of oratory, to make a political harangue, or write a differtation upon the conftitution of a state? With what fuccefs would an orator, who had not ftudied the Law, undertake the defence of a client? or a perfon wholly unacquainted with morals or theology, attempt to speak from the pulpit? Whatever subject, therefore, any perfon intends to write or speak upon, he muft, by applying to the proper fources, acquire a perfect knowledge of it, before he can expect any affistance from the art of oratory, as such.

Moreover, let a perfon be ever so perfect a mafter of his fubject, he could not be taught to speak or write about it with propriety and good effect, without being previously instructed in the principles of GRAMMAR, i. e. without a knowledge of the inflection of words, and of the ftructure of fentences, in the language he makes use of.

It is neceffary, likewise, as far as reafoning is concerned, that a perfon be, in fome fenfe, a logician before he be an orator; fince it is by the rules of LOGIC that we judge of every thing relating to arguments, their perfpicuity or confufion, their fallacy or their force. More efpecially is it of confequence to every orator whose business is with men, to be well acquainted with buman nature; that knowing the paffions, prejudices, interests,

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and

and views of thofe he hath to do with, he may know how to addrefs them accordingly.

But notwithstanding this be treated of in many books written on the fubject of oratory, and particularly by Aristotle; there is no more reason why we should encumber a system of oratory with it, than that we croud into it the elements of any other fcience, or branch of knowledge, that the orator may have occafion for. Besides, those plain principles of human actions with which the orator hath to do, are obvious to common reflection, and must have occurred to every perfon before he hath lived to the age in which he has any occafion for the art of oratory. For this part of the furniture of an orator, therefore, let the ftudent have recourfe to Ethical treatifes, as far as they unfold the principles of human nature; let him ftudy authentic hiftories of human characters and conduct; and let him principally attend to the emotions of his own heart. However, that knowledge of human nature, which is neceffary to understand the rationale of the ornaments of ftyle will not be excluded a place in thefe Lectures, but will be explained pretty much at large in the third part of the course.

Suppofing a man, therefore, to be perfectly acquainted with the fubject on which he proposes to speak or write, that he is not deficient in the knowledge of grammatical propriety, and that by logic, natural or artificial, he can judge of the force or fallacy of any argument that occurs, or is propofed to him; it is afked what affiftance he may expect from the art of oratory, in carrying his defign into execution in the most advantageous manner.?? In this cafe, all that remains to be done is,

First,

First, to affift him in the habit of recollection, or to direct him which way to turn his thoughts, in order to find the arguments and illuftrations with which his mind is already furnished; and likewise, when a general topic, or head of difcourfe, is found, in what manner to confirm or illuftrate it, in order to have materials for the bulk or body of the discourse. In this manner oratory may affift the invention; but it is not in finding things. with which the mind was wholly unacquainted, but in readily recollecting, and judiciously selecting, what is proper for his purpofe, out of the materials with which the mind was previously furnished.

Secondly, the art of oratory teaches in what order to dispose of those topics. It fhews what difpofition of the materials of a difcourfe will give them the greatest force, and contribute the moft to produce the effect intended. by it..

Thirdly, to contribute still farther to the effect of a discourse, the art of oratory teaches what ftyle, or manner of expreffion, will beft become, adorn, and recommend it.

Fourthly, if the difcourfe is to be pronounced, the art of oratory teaches what tone of voice, or what geftures of the body, will best become,, and add grace to the delivery of it..

The four great objects, therefore, that fall within the province of the orator are RECOLLECTION, METHOD, STYLE, and ELOCUTION. Of thefe I fhall treat in the order. in which they are here mentioned..

LECTURE

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