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STYLE OF PRESCOTT, THE AMERICAN HISTORIAN.

It may serve to convey just ideas of the best historical style, as well as of the excellence of this branch of American literature, to add, from the North American Review, a criticism upon W. H. Prescott, author of the History of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of the Conquest of Mexico.

The style of the latter work, published in 1843, has essentially the same qualities of style as those which throw an unvarying charm over the pages of the former work. Mr. P. is not a mannerist in style, and does not deal in elaborate, antithetical, nicelybalanced periods. His sentences are not cast in the same artificial mold, nor is there a perpetual recurrence of the same forms of expression, as in the writings of Johnson or Gibbon; nor have they that satin-like smoothness and gloss for which Robertson is so remarkable. The dignified simplicity of his style is still farther removed from any thing like pertness, smartness, or affectation; from tawdry gum-flowers of rhetoric, and brass-gilt ornaments; from those fantastic tricks with language which bear the same relation to good writing that vaulting and tumbling do to walking. It is perspicuous, flexible, and natural, sometimes betraying a want of high finish, but always manly, always correct, never feeble, and never inflated. He does not darkly insinuate statements, or leave his reader to infer facts. Indeed, it may be said of his style, that it has no marked character at all. Without ever offending the mind or the ear, it has nothing that attracts observation to it, simply as a style. It is a transparent medium, through which we see the form and movement of the writer's mind. In this respect we may compare it with the manners of a well-bred gentleman which have nothing so peculiar as to awa ken attention, and which, from their very ease and simplicity enable the essential qualities of the understanding and character to be more clearly discerned.

Many of the sentences would have fallen with a richer music upon the ear, with some changes in their structure and rhythm. But, in looking on the work (on Mexico) as a whole, and from the proper point of view, every thing else is lost and forgotten in the general blaze of its merits. It is a noble work; judiciously planned and admirably executed; rich with spoils of learning, easily and gracefully worn; imbued every where with a conscientious love of the truth, and controlled by that unerring good sense without which genius leads astray with its false lights, and learning encumbers with its heavy panoply.

One of the principal duties of an historian is to give the very form and pressure of the time he is describing, to infuse its spirit into his pages; to paint his scenes to the eye as well as to the mind; to produce an effect resembling, as nearly as possible, the illusion created by seeing the events he narrates represented by well

trained actors, with appropriate costume, scenery, and decorations. Here, too, Mr. P. has been signally successful. In his animated pages we see, as in the mirror of Cornelius Agrippa, the very shape and features of the sixteenth century.

The style of George Bancroft, as an historian, is generally as much admired as that of Prescott.

CHAPTER IV.

OF ESSAYS AND PHILOSOPHY.

Q. What sort of writing do you include under the term Essays?

A. Essays are a species of writing confined to subjects of no particular kind, though generally understood as denoting short dissertations upon topics connected with life and manners.

Q. What does the word essay properly mean?

A. A trial, or an attempt at something; and is a term often modestly applied to treatises of the greatest profundity.

Q. What is meant by the British Essayists?

A. The Tatler, Spectator, Guardian, Rambler, Idler, Adventurer, Observer, Mirror, Lounger, &c., &c., all consisting of short dissertations upon various subjects, and exhibiting some of the choicest specimens of English composition. (For other remarks, see part vi., sec. v.)

While this statement is just, there is too much truth in the following criticism, from Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, respecting them:

The Essayists occupy a conspicuous place in the literature of the last century; but, somehow, I do not feel disposed to set much store by them. Their fault, or, let us be gentle, their misfortune is, that they do not relate so much to human nature as to some of its temporary modes. There is a sad deal too much about hoops and flounces, and rolled stockings, and enforcements of little moralities which no gentleman now thinks of disobeying ; and then the Flirtillas, and Eudosias, and Eugeniuses, and Hymenæuses, are stiff old frumps at the best. The whole reminds one of an exhibition of waxwork and old dresses; yet there are fine things among them too: Sir Roger De Coverly, for instance, that admirable Old-English gentleman, so humane, so little think ing of the current of the world, so unreflecting on every thing be

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yond the traditionary habits and duties of his station and locality. Here, also, we have the majestic moral melancholy of Johnson, and the fine pathos of Mackenzie. But, after all, it must be a selection from that long line of essays which can give pleasure nowadays.

The author farther would express, as his own opinion, that the modern British essayists, Professor Wilson, Sir Walter Scott, and T. B. Macaulay, in brilliancy and power of composition, far transcend the justly-lauded British essayists of earlier days.

Q. Is there any particular style in which essays should be written?

A. Their style depends altogether upon the subject, and they may contain every species, according to the topic discussed, from the simplest to the most sublime. Q. What do you understand by Philosophical writing?

A. All kinds of composition connected with the principles of art and science, or with the investigation of moral and physical truth.

Q. What should be the character of compositions of this kind? A. Plainness, simplicity, and perspicuity of style, with clear, accurate, and methodical arrangement.

[For an account of some British philosophers, see part vi., section vi.]

CHAPTER V.

OF ORATIONS.

Q. What do you understand by Orations?

A. All those displays of public speaking denominated oratory or eloquence.

Q. Into how many species may eloquence be divided?

A. Into three: the eloquence of popular assemblies; the eloquence of the bar; and the eloquence of the pulpit: the last, a species entirely unknown to the ancients.

Q. What other names do these sometimes receive?

A. The first is called the eloquence of the senate; the second, the eloquence of the forum; and the last, which is appropriated to sacred subjects, is generally styled sermons.

Q. What is the object of all public speaking?
A. To instruct and to persuade.

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Q. What are some of the chief requisites in tne art of persuad ing?

A. Extensive knowledge, sound sense, keen sensibility, and solid judgment, with great command of lanuage, and a correct and graceful elocution. Q. What do you deem the next requisite?

A. Perfect sincerity, earnestness of manner, and a thorough conviction in the mind of the speaker as to the truth of what he delivers.

Q. What are the principal parts of a regular oration or discourse? A. The Exordium, the Division, the Narration, the Confirmation, the Refutation, and the Peroration.

Q. What do you understand by the Exordium?

A. The beginning, or introduction, in which the speaker states the object he has in view, and bespeaks the favor and attention of his audience.

Q. What do you mean by the Division?

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A. The part in which the speaker mentions the na

ture of the question at issue, and lays down the plan which he means to pursue in discussing it.

Q. What do you understand by the Narration?

A. The part in which the speaker takes a view of his whole subject, and states all the facts and circum stances connected with the case.

Q. And what is the Confirmation?

A. The part in which the orator gives his own opin ions, and brings forward all the proofs and arguments on which they are founded.

Q. And what is the Refutation?

A. The part in which the speaker answers the various objections and arguments that may be brought against his opinions by an opponent.

Q. What is the Peroration?

A. The part in which the speaker, after appealing to the passions and feelings of his audience, sums up all that has been said, and brings his oration to a conclusion.

Q. Are all these parts kept perfectly distinct?

A. Not exactly so; for the one is often less or more blended with the other.

What, besides talents, is necessary to make a great orator? A. Long and unremitted application to study, and a mind thoroughly imbued with the principles of virtue, and actuated by the noble principle of independence.

Q. Is eloquence as much cultivated now as it once was? A. Far from it; the period when eloquence chiefly flourished was in the days when Greece and Rome were in all their splendor, and in the full enjoyment of liberty.

Q. Who were the most distinguished of ancient orators? A. Demosthenes among the Athenians, and Cicero among the Romans; the former considered as the greatest that the world has ever seen.

Q. Have modern nations excelled much in oratory?

A. The French, the Dutch, and the Swiss, have all excelled in this art, but more particularly in pulpit eloquence; while the British and American have excelled in all the various kinds.

Q. Can you mention some of the most eminent of the British orators?

A. Chatham, Pitt, Fox, Burke, Sheridan, Grattan, distinguished for the eloquence of the senate; Curran, Erskine, &c., for the eloquence of the bar; and Barrow, Atterbury, and Kirwan, for the eloquence of the pulpit.

Q. Who are and have been the most illustrious among American orators?

A. Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, Fisher Ames, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, E. Everett, John Randolph, W. Preston, G. M'Duffie, and some others.

[For a beautiful sketch of the eloquence of Cicero and Demosthenes, of Burke, Fox, and Pitt, of England, and of Hamilton, Ames, Calhoun, Clay. and Webster, of America, see an article in the Am. Bib. Repository, Jan., 1840, by N. Cleaveland, Esq., of Mass.]

SECTION II.

To aid the student in preparing an oration or speech, the author would first avail himself of the fine example of our distinguished countryman, EDWARD EverETT, of whom, as an orator, the following sketch is given in the North American Review for 1837. It is here given only in part, but sufficient for our purpose:

"The great charm of Mr. Everett's orations consists, not so much in any single and strongly-developed intellectual trait, as in that symmetry and finish which, on every page, give token of the richly-endowed and thorough schol

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