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A man

The word eloquence seems to have varied a good deal from its original signification; and the abuse of it has proved in practice of more importance than that of most other words, as it has had no small influence on the conduct of public affairs in various countries. Eloquence in its proper sense is the faculty of speaking, that is of extemporizing, in public with effect, and is quite distinct from the faculty of writing well in the closet, or of reading with grace and propriety. In common usage however we apply the epithet of an eloquent man to a good writer and a good reader, at least, a good reader of his own composition, as well as to a good speaker. Now these several powers, though in some measure allied to each other, suppose very different habits, if not talents. may be able to write in perfection, who from want of exercise or some original incapacity is unable to extemporize a sentence. This was the case with Rousseau, the most impassioned perhaps of all writers, who from a defect of humour, bad not the faculty of commanding his powers even in small circles, and observed of himself that the slightest objection uniformly overset him; and that he had no sense till half an hour after he wanted to employ it. Again, there is nothing more common than to hear a man denominated eloquent, principally because he is able to read in a forcible and impressive way his own written composition, which perhaps on examination has but little value; and which, such as it is, he is quite unable to produce extempore. This is the case with most of our preachers, whose sermons are generally written out beforehand as they are delivered ; and whose reputation for eloquence is sometimes founded as much upon their skill in reading, as any other quality. This is also the case with a great part of the orators in the deliberative assemblies on the continent of Europe, who are almost universally in the habit of reading written speeches; a practice which happily is not admitted in our legislative bodies or in the British parliament.

Now this confusion of ideas, which, abstractedly considered, is of little importance, has led to some very serious practical consequences. It may be regarded for example as the cause of the practice which we have just mentioned of reading written sermons and written speeches on political affairs. Both these habits are productive in different ways of great inconvenience. A reasonable degree of expedition in the despatch of public business is extremely desirable on various accounts; and this is materially impeded in most of the European assemblies by the prevailing opinion that every person who is capable of writing a dull speech or causing one to be written for him, is at liberty to consume the time and patience of his colleagues with reading it to them, under the pretext of speaking to the question. There is not only a great loss of time but an intolerable degree of fatigue and disgust consequent upon this usage. It is enough perhaps to make a sensitive man vote against a measure in itself good, to see a host of orators, not one of whom is capable of uttering a sentence, rising one after another to support it, and coolly putting on their spectacles, and taking out of their pockets their respective quires of eloquence. As the thing is done alike on both sides of all questions, there is no great danger of any unfavorable effect upon the decision of points in dispute ; but the practice is at once highly inconvenient and well fitted to create a disgust for the form of representative government itself. With us this evil is not experienced ; but the public service would be greatly advanced if it were understood that an orator must not only be able to speak, but to speak well, before he can take the floor with advantage to himself, his party, or the public. If this conviction could be once fairly established in the general opinion, it would save many an unfortunate member from bringing disgrace upon himself and his constituents, and making enemies for life of his colleagues, and that part of the public, probably not a very numerous one, who think themselves bound in duty and honor to read every speech that is printed in the newspapers. This matter is better managed in the British parliament with all its corruption. The speaking is there left for the most part on both sides to a few distinguished members who are capable of throwing light upon the subject; and it is not found that the public service sustains any injury in consequence, as no erroneous measure that has ever been adopted in that country can be fairly traced lo a defect of public discussion. If we choose to consider the British as our enemies we should perhaps do well to apply in this case the old Roman maxim, Fas est ab hoste doceri.

The confusion of ideas to which we have alluded has also led to the practice of reading written discourses in the pulpit, one of the most unfortunate innovations that has ever been made on the discipline of the primitive church. It is true that we owe to it many volumes of instructive and elegant

'Tis the live fountain in the speaker's heart
Sends forth the streams that melt the ravished hearer.
Then work away for life-heap book on book-
Line upon line, and precept on example :
The stupid multitude may gape and look,
And fools may think your stock of wisdom ample.
But would you touch the heart, the only method known

My worthy friend, is first to have one of your own.' If then, feeling be the essential part of eloquence, every thing that tends to impede its flow should of course be carefully avoided, and this is the necessary and direct operation of declaiming from written notes.

It may be urged, however, that extempore speaking is a matter of habit, and cannot be practised without the necessary previous training, which does not form a part of our ordinary systems of education. This difficulty, however, is constantly encountered at the bar, where the young practitioner, after devoting many years and much expense to the acquisition of various branches of knowledge, is compelled to risk his success in life upon his ability in an art, to which he has given no attention. But admitting the objection in its full strength, it only serves to place in a clearer light, one of the most remarkable deficiencies in our academical institutions, in all of which this branch of education is wholly neglected. In some of our universities there are foundations devoted expressly to instruction in eloquence, but by the same confusion of ideas which we have mentioned, the term is understood to mean the art of writing and reading, and to teach public speaking does not form a part of the duty of a professor of rhetoric and oratory. We have at Cambridge a trial of skill in declamation, and a distribution of prizes as the reward of success ; but declamation, as there understood, does not signify, as it did with the Romans, an extempore harangue on a given subject, but a mere recitation of scraps in prose or verse, a useful exercise enough for boys in grammar schools, but not very well fitted for the improvement of young men, on the eve of engaging in the most weighty occupations of life. This matter was very differently managed by the ancients. The attention of the professional student was directed almost exclusively to the acquisition of the habit of speaking ; and the practice of declamation in private, as an exercise, was kept up with unremitted perseverance. We find from Cicero's letters that he continued it through his

whole life. This plan of education was even carried to excess; and instruction in the mere learning of the profession was almost wholly overlooked. The study of a few weeks was thought sufficient for the acquisition of a competent knowledge of law, while many years in succession was devoted to oratory. And it may, perhaps, be said with safety, that if a gentleman, instead of devoting seven years to the study of various branches of knowledge, and no time whatever to improvement in eloquence, should employ one year in acquiring the habit of speaking in public, and six months in informing himself in the most necessary points of learning, he would begin the practice with far more satisfaction to himself and a much better chance of success, than he does at present. In reality, however, it is not necessary or desirable that any yaluable department of science, which is now attended to, should be omitted ; but only that instruction in eloquence should be superadded to the rest ; and that the manly and really useful discipline of declaiming extempore, should be substituted, in the higher institutions, for the present practice of recitation. To learn to speak with effect in public, is the precise object of education with two thirds of our professional men, and with all who frequent our colleges, as far as they may wish or expect to take a part in the government of the country. All other studies are subsidiary to this. And yet at present the subsidiary studies alone are pursued, and the principal object, in the accomplishment of which they are to aid, is entirely overlooked.

We have followed out this train of thought somewhat farther than was necessary for our immediate object, which was, merely to state with distinctness the proper idea of an orator, with a view to a more correct estimate of the character of Mirabeau. If the principles here advanced are correct, the greatest orator is not the one who can bequeath to after ages the best collection of written speeches, but the one who can make the strongest impression, by the use of the noblest means, upon the most enlightened audience. An excellent writer of speeches may be a very indifferent orator, or may not speak at all. Burke, for example, was not heard with pleasure, and in the proper sense of the term, was orator ; although his written speeches are perhaps the choicest specimens in existence, in this form of philosophy and fine writing: Isocrates never spoke in public. On the other

New Series, No. 11,

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'Tis the live fountain in the speaker's heart
Sends forth the streams that melt the ravished hearer.
Then work away for life-heap book on book-
Line upon line, and precept on example :
The stupid multitude may gape and look,
And fools may think your stock of wisdom ample.
But would you touch the heart, the only method known

My worthy friend, is first to have one of your own.' If then, feeling be the essential part of eloquence, every thing that tends to impede its flow should of course be carefully avoided, and this is the necessary and direct operation of declaiming from written notes.

It may be urged, however, that extempore speaking is a matter of habit, and cannot be practised without the necessary previous training, which does not form a part of our ordinary systems of education. This difficulty, however, is constantly encountered at the bar, where the young practitioner, after devoting many years and much expense to the acquisition of various branches of knowledge, is compelled to risk his success in life upon his ability in an art, to which he has given no attention. But admitting the objection in its full strength, it only serves to place in a clearer light, one of the most remarkable deficiencies in our academical institutions, in all of which this branch of education is wholly neglected. In some of our universities there are foundations devoted expressly to instruction in eloquence, but by the same confusion of ideas which we have mentioned, the term is understood to mean the art of writing and reading, and to teach public speaking does not form a part of the duty of a professor of rhetoric and oratory. We have at Cambridge a trial of skill in declamation, and a distribution of prizes as the reward of success ; but declamation, as there understood, does not signify, as it did with the Romans, an extempore harangue on a given subject, but a mere recitation of scraps in prose or verse, a useful exercise enough for boys in grammar schools, but not very well fitted for the improvement of young men, on the eve of engaging in the most weighty occupations of life. This matter was very differently managed by the ancients. The attention of the professional student was directed almost exclusively to the acquisition of the habit of speaking; and the practice of declamation in private, as an exercise, was kept up with unremitted perseverance. We find from Cicero's letters that he continued it through his

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