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HISTORY OF THE ORATOR DEMOSTHENES.
DEMOSTHENES, having lost his father at the age of seven years, and falling into the hands of selfish and avaricious guardians, who were wholly bent upon plundering his estate, was not educated with the care which so excellent a genius as his deserved; and the delicacy of his constitution did not allow his masters to urge him in regard to his studies.
2. Hearing them one day speak of a famous cause that was to be pleaded, and which made a great noise in the city, he importuned them very much to carry him with them to the bar, in order to hear the pleadings. The orator was heard with great attention, and, having been very successful, was conducted home in a very ceremonious manner, amidst a crowd of illustrious citizens,' who expressed the highest satisfaction.
3. Demosthenes was strongly affected with the honours which were paid to the orator, and still more with the absolute and despotick power which eloquence had over the mind. He himself was sensible of its force, and, unable to resist its charms, he from that day devoted himself entirely to it, and immediately laid aside every other pleasure and study.
4. His first essay of eloquence was against his guardians, whom he obliged to restore part of his fortune. Encouraged by this good success, he ventured to speak before the people, but he acquitted himself very ill on that occasion, for he had a faint voice, stammered in his speech, and had a very short breath.
5. He therefore was hissed by the whole audience, and went home quite dejected, and determined to abandon for ever a profession to which he imagined himself unequal. But one of his hearers, who perceived an excellent genius amidst his faults, encouraged him, by the strong remonstran ces he made, and the salutary advice he gave him. He therefore appeared a second time before the people, but with Do better success than before.
6. As he was going home with downcast eyes, and full of confusion, he was met by his friend Satyrus, one of the best actors of the age; who, being informed of the cause of his chagrin, told Demosthenes only to repeat some verses to him, which he immediately did.
7. Satyrus then repeated them after him, and gave them quite another grace, by the tone of voice, the gesture, and vivacity with which he spoke them, so that Demosthenes observed they had quite a different effect. This made him sensible of what he wanted, and he applied himself to the attainment of it.
8. His endeavours to correct the natural impediment in his speech, and to perfect himself in utterance, of the value of which his friend had made him so sensible, seem almost incredible, and demon'strate that indefatigable industry can overcome all difficulties.
9. He stammered to such a degree that he could not pronounce certain letters at all, and among others that which began the name of the art he studied; and his breath was so short that he could not utter a whole period without stopping. However, Demosthenes overcame all these obstacles, by putting little pebbles into his mouth, and then repeating several verses without taking breath.
10. He would do this when he walked, and ascended very craggy and steep places, so that at last he could pronounce all the letters without hesitating, and speak the longest periods without once taking breath. But this was not all, for he used to go to the sea-shore, and speak his orations when the weather was most boisterous, in order to prepare himself, by the confused noise of the waves, for the uproar of the people, and the cries of tumultuous assemblies.
11. He had a large mirror, before which he used to declaim before he spoke in publick; and, as he had an ill habit of drawing up his shoulders, he hung a drawn sword. over them with the point downwards. He was well paid for his trouble, since, by these methods, he carried the art of declaiming to the highest perfection of which it was capable.
12. His application to study, in other respects, was equal to the pains he took to conquer his natural defects. He had a room made under ground, that he might be remote
from noise and disturbance, and this was to be seen many centuries afterwards. There he shut himself up for months together, and had half his head shaved, that his ridiculous appearance might prevent him from going abroad.
13. It was there, by the light of a small lamp, he composed those excellent harangues, which smelt, as his enemies declared, of the oil, to insinuate they were too much laboured. It is very evident, replied he, yours did not cost you so much trouble.
14. Eschines, a rival orator, opposed the decree which bestowed a crown of gold upon Demosthenes. The cause was argued with the greatest eloquence on both sides, but Eschines was unsuccessful, and suffered exile for his rash attempt. When he was departing from Athens, Demosthenes ran after him, and prevailed upon him to accept of a sum of money to pay his expenses.
15. Eschines, astonished at his liberality, exclaimed, I have reason to regret my departure from a country where my enemies are so generous that I do not expect to find friends equal to them elsewhere. He afterwards established a school for eloquence at Rhodes, which was long celebrated.
16. He commenced his lessons by delivering to his auditors his own oration against Demosthenes, and that of Demosthenes, which caused his banishment. They bestowed great praise upon his own; but, when he came to that of Demosthenes, their acclamations redoubled. If such is your applause, said he, at my delivery, what would you have said you had heard Demosthenes himself?
TIME is more valuable to young people than to any others. They should not lose an hour in forming their taste, their manners, and their minds; for whatever they are to a certain degree, at eighteen, they will be more or less so, all the rest of their lives.
2. Nothing can be of greater service to a young man, who has any degree of understanding, than an intimate con* Pronounced E'ski-neez.