Imatges de pÓgina

Of all those societies I know of none, whose works are worth being known out of the precincts of the city in which they were written, except the Cicalata Academia-or, as we might express it, the tickling society-of Florence. I have just now before me a manuscript oration, spoken by the late Tomaso Crudeli at that society, which will at once serve to give a better picture of the manner in which men of wit amuse themselves in that country, than any thing I could say upon the occasion. The oration is this:

"The younger the nymph, my dear companions, the more happy the lover. From fourteen to seventeen, you are sure of finding love for love; from seventeen to twenty-one, there is always a mixture of interest and affection. But when that period is past, no longer expect to receive, but to buy: no longer expect a nymph who gives, but who sells her favours. At this age, every glance is taught its duty; not a look, not a sigh, without design; the lady, like a skilful warrior, aims at the heart of another, while she shields her own from danger.

"On the contrary, at fifteen you may expect nothing but simplicity, innocence, and nature. The passions are then sincere; the soul seems seated in the lips; the dear object feels present happiness, without being anxious for the future; her eyes brighten if her lover approaches; her smiles are borrowed from the Graces, and her very mistakes seem to complete her desires.

"Lucretia was just sixteen. The rose and lily took possession of her face, and her bosom, by its hue and its coldness, seemed covered with snow. So much beauty, and so much virtue seldom want admirers. Orlandino, a youth of sense and merit, was among the number. He had long languished for an opportunity of declaring his passion, when Cupid, as if willing to indulge his happiness, brought the charming young couple by a mere accident, to an arbour,


where every prying eye but love was absent. Orlandino talked of the sincerity of his passion, and mixed flattery with his addresses; but it was all in vain. The nymph was pre-engaged, and had long devoted to heaven those charms for which he sued. My dear Orlandino,' said she, 'you know I have long been dedicated to St. Catharine, and to her belongs all that lies below my girdle; all that is above, you may freely possess, but farther I cannot, must not comply. The vow is passed; I wish it were undone, but now it is impossible.' You may conceive, my companions, the embarrassment our young lovers felt upon this occasion. They kneeled to St. Catharine, and though both despaired, both implored her assistance. Their tutelar saint was entreated to shew some expedient, by which both might continue to love, and yet both be happy. Their petition was sincere. St Catharine was touched with compassion; for lo, a miracle! Lucretia's girdle unloosed, as if without hands; and though before bound round her middle, fell spontaneously down to her feet, and gave Orlandino the possession of all those beauties which lay above it."



Of all kinds of success, that of an orator is the most pleasing. Upon other occasions, the applause we deserve is conferred in our absence, and we are insensible of the pleasure we have given; but in eloquence, the victory and the triumph are inseparable. We read our own glory in the face of every spectator; the audience is moved, the antagonist is defeated, and the whole circle bursts into unsolicited applause.

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The rewards which attend excellence in this way are so pleasing, that numbers have written professed treatises to teach us the art; schools have been established with no other intent; rhetoric has taken place among the institutions, and pedants have ranged under proper heads, and distinguished with long learned names, some of the strokes of nature, or of passion, which orators have used. I say only some, for a folio volume could not contain all the figures, which have been used by the truly eloquent, and scarcely a good speaker or writer but makes use of some that are peculiar or new.

Eloquence has preceded the rules of rhetoric, as languages have been formed before grammar. Nature renders men eloquent in great interests, or great passions. He that is sensibly touched, sees things with a very different eye from the rest of mankind. All nature to him becomes an object of comparison and metaphor, without attending to it; he throws life into all, and inspires his audience with a part of his own enthusiasm.

It has been remarked, that the lower parts of mankind generally express themselves most figuratively, and that tropes are found in the most ordinary forms of conversation. Thus, in every language, the heart burns; the courage is roused; the eyes sparkle; the spirits are cast down; passion enflames; pride swells, and pity sinks the soul. Nature every where speaks in those strong images, which, from their frequency, pass unnoticed.

Nature it is which inspires those rapturous enthusiasms, those irresistible turns; a strong passion, a pressing danger, calls up all the imagination, and gives the orator irresistible force. Thus, a captain of the first caliphs seeing his soldiers fly, cried out, "Whither do you run? the enemy are not there! You have been told that the caliph is dead; but God is still living. He regards the brave, and will reward the courageous. Advance!"

A man, therefore, may be called eloquent, who transfers the passion or sentiment with which he is moved himself, into the breast of another; and this definition appears the more just, as it comprehends the graces of silence, and of action. An intimate persuasion of the truth to be proved, is the sentiment and passion to be transferred; and who effects this, is truly possessed of the talent of eloquence.

I have called eloquence a talent, and not an art, as so many rhetoricians have done; as art is acquired by exercise and study, and eloquence is the gift of nature. Rules will never make either a work or a discourse eloquent; they only serve to prevent faults, but not to introduce beauties; to prevent those passages which are truly eloquent and dictated by nature from being blended with others, which might disgust, or at least abate our passion.

What we clearly conceive, says Boileau, we can clearly express. I may add, that what is felt with emotion is expressed also with the same movements; the words arise as readily to paint our emotions, as to express our thoughts with perspicuity. The cool care an orator takes to express passions which he does not feel, only prevents his rising into that passion he would seem to feel. In a word, to feel your subject thoroughly, and to speak without fear, are the only rules of eloquence, properly so called, which I can offer. Examine a writer of genius on the most beautiful parts of his work, and he will always assure you that such passages are generally those which have given him the least trouble, for they came as if by inspiration. To pretend that cold and didactic precepts will make a man eloquent, is only to prove that he is incapable of eloquence.

But as, in being perspicuous, it is necessary to have a full idea of the subject, so in being eloquent it is not sufficient, if I may so express it, to feel by halves. The orator should be strongly impressed; which is generally the effect of a

fine and exquisite sensibility, and not that transient and superficial emotion, which he excites in the greatest part of his audience. It is even impossible to affect the hearers in any great degree, without being affected ourselves. In vain it will be objected, that many writers have had the art to inspire their readers with a passion for virtue, without being virtuous themselves; since it may be answered, that sentiments of virtue filled their minds at the time they were writing. They felt the inspiration strongly, while they praised justice, generosity, or good-nature; but, unhappily for them, these passions might have been discontinued, when they laid down the pen. In vain will it be objected again, that we can move without being moved, as we can convince without being convinced. It is much easier to deceive our reason than ourselves; a trifling defect in reasoning may be overseen, and lead a man astray; for it requires reason and time to detect the falsehood, but our passions are not easily imposed upon; our eyes, our ears, and every sense, are watchful to detect the imposture.

No discourse can be eloquent, that does not elevate the mind. Pathetic eloquence, it is true, has for its only object to affect; but I appeal to men of sensibility, whether their pathetic feelings are not accompanied with some degree of elevation. We may then call eloquence and sublimity the same thing; since it is impossible to be one without feeling the other. Hence it follows, that we may be eloquent in any language, since no language refuses to paint those sentiments, with which we are thoroughly impressed. What is usually called sublimity of style seems to be only an error. Eloquence is not in the words but in the subject, and in great concerns the more simply any thing is expressed, it is generally the more sublime. True eloquence does not consist, as the rhetoricians assure us, in saying great things in a sublime style, but in a simple style; for there is, properly

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