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PUBLISHED MONTHLY AT FIVE DOLLARS PER ANNUM-JNO. R. THOMPSON, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
RICHMOND, DECEMBER, 1849.
I powers in general, or of any one of them in Rhetoric, as a part of the College Course. particular, and secondly, the imparting of knowl
edge in itself useful. Most of the usual branches The Archbishop of Dublin, in the introduc- of education combine these two uses, while each tion to his Rhetoric, says, “two questions arise is, notwithstanding, more efficient for one than connected with the study of Rhetoric--first, the other. Thus, mathematics and the languages whether oratorical skill is on the whole a public are prized, mainly as instruments of mental imbenefit or evil, and secondly whether any artifi-provement, while, at the same time, independent cial system of rules is conducive to the attain- of this, they are of themselves valuable acquisiment of that skill. The former of these ques
tions. On the other hand the physical and mortions was eagerly debated among the ancients; al sciences, while serving as an admirable trainon the latter but little doubt seems to have ex
ing for some of the mental powers, are esteemed isted. With us, on the contrary, the state of as valuable, chiefly on account of their practical these questions seems nearly reversed. The
character. In both these respects we deem the value of the skill is generally admitted, but many,
benefits resulting from the study of Rhetoric imperhaps most persons, are inclined to the opin- portant and peculiar, so that the neglect of it is ion that eloquence, either in writing or speaking,
pot compensated for by increased attention to is either a natural gift, or, at least, is to be ac
other branches of study. quired by mere practice, and is not to be attain
It is not very easy, perhaps, to give an unexed or improved by any system of rules.” If we ceptionable definition of Rhetoric, and we will look at the printed catalogues and registers con
not trouble ourselves at present by inquiring taining the course of study pursued in the lite- which of several, given by different writers, is rary institutions of our country, it would seem entitled to the preference. It will be sufficient that there is a general consent that Rhetoric to say that we mean by Rhetoric the system of properly enters into the system of instruction of rules relating to composition generally—to public young men; for we suppose that there is not a speaking and to criticism. This is the ground college in the land from the cuniculum of which usually gone over in the text books upon this it is excluded. But having once noticed La branch, and as far as we know, the lectures of Place set down as a text book in an institution college professors are confined to the same topnot pre-eminently mathematical, and having other ics. Logic and the History of English Literareasons to know that professors are not exempt ture are sometimes connected with it, but are from the weaknesses of human nature, we have obviously studies differing from it as really as learned not to rely implicitly upon the prima fa- mental and moral philosophy, not unfrequently cia evidence of a printed synopsis of studies.
taught by the same professor. If we were to inquire, in a way to bring out In the course of the study of Rhetoric the samo the truth, what is the rank assigned to Rhetoric, powers are put into requisition which, at an earwhen compared with other studies, we think lier period of the student's course, are exercised that it would probably be found to be so low in in the study of the languages, viz: the powers of most of our colleges as to be nearly equivalent remembering, comparing, selecting and judging: to virtual abandonment.
and the argument used to prove that the study of Believing this to be the case, and believing languages is beneficial as a training of the mind, that it is caused by an under-estimate of Rheto- may be adopted with but little change by the adric as a part of the regular college course, we vocate for the study of Rhetoric. We may here would venture a few remarks upon the subject. say, that, in our judgment, one of the principal
The object of college education is to prepare benefits of the study of different languages is a young man for the discharge of the active du- the increased facility in the use of our own—not ties of after life, and education is valuable just in merely because we are put into possession of the proportion as it accomplishes this object. The derivation of a large number of the words in our test is the same, if applied to any particular language-this is a great advantage; but it is a branch of study. This general advantage may still greater one to have turned over in the probe resolved into two others more specific, viz : cess of oral translation, the vocabulary of our first, the developing and strengthening the men-'tongue so often that we have at length become
familiar with its treasures. Whether this advan-words, but extends itself to the minor parts of tage is secured or forfeited depends upon the elocution—the tones of the voice, the rapidity of mode of teaching adopted by the teacher. Ver- utterance, and especially to propriety of pronunbum verbo is certainly the proper way for begin- ciation. No one will consider these things as ners who are always inclined to read by what unimportant, but no one who has not had some they call gumption, rather than by grammar. experience, knows how much young men need But when a scholar can be trusted be ought to correction in these particulars. be encouraged to proceed, laxis habenis. A boy Another distinct and important advantage beshould learn his grammar before he leaves the longing to the study of Rhetoric, is the improvegrammar school, but when a young man trans- ment of the taste. We will not involve ourselves lates, in a college hall, a classical poet, it is surely in difficulty by attempting to define taste. Call time for him to abandon the gibberish produced it a faculty or what you will. It is enough for by using a word first in one language and then us at present to say that we all know that there in another. Students should be encouraged in is a great difference between men in the amount their translations to aim at accuracy, elegance of pleasure which they receive from the objects and fluency; all will not attain these excellences, of taste, and in their power of discrimination but some will, and all who make the effort will with regard to these objects—that taste can be be improved in the use of their own language. cultivated--and that for the cultivation of it, as It must be obvious that the improvement in this applied to a large class of objects, no study is respect to be expected from oral recitations upon better than that of Rhetoric. We may add, bowRhetoric, is yet more ample and more certain. ever, that the value of a cultivated taste is to be The subject is too extensive to allow preparation estimated not solely with reference to the multiby rote, and in framing answers, more copious-plying of the sources of our elegant pleasures or ness as well as more originality in the use of to the sharpening of our critical powers. T'aste words is demanded of the student than when he connects itself with many of the more serious is engaged in the translation. If the attention and practical affairs of life; saves a man from of young men is directed to the acquisition of many a mistake, of which the consequences readiness in the use of language they generally would be something more than mortificatiou and become fond of the exercise, and their improve- embarrassment, and sometimes even leads away ment is very manifest. The service done in this from the path of error, or erects a barrier which way by the study of Rhetoric, (and we may add turns back the feet that have already entered by the study of mental and moral philosophy upon it. also, though perhaps not to the same extent,) is As we have said of languages so we say of the more important because the study of the Rhetoric
, and so we might say of any other study, mathematical branches, so far from contributing that it depends mainly upon the mode of instructo the same end, is rather hurtful as it regards the tion which is pursued whether the advantages expression of our ideas. Mathematics is an ex- which ought to be derived from it are actually act science. Mathematical language is also an secured. In the remarks which we have made, exact language, into which comparatively few of we have taken it for granted as to the system of the words of the general vocabulary are intro- instruction, that it includes of course, among duced, and these few are for the most part ar- other things, regular and extended oral examiranged in definite formulas. For this reason, of nations and frequent exercises in composition. all fluent persons, a mathematical demonstrator With regard to the latter we approve the plan is the most fluent.
adopted by some professors of requiring of the But take a young man who has just explained class what may be called extemporaneous a problem in Descriptive Geometry that looks as if positions. For example; the professor will call it might be a section cut out of the famous Laby- up daily two members of his class to the blackrinth, -and explained it too with faultless precis- board, and assigning them a subject, the same ion of language,—and ask him why it is that we for both, require them to write a composition take pleasure in seeing performed a tragedy which while the usual lecture or recitation is going on. makes us weer—and he will perhaps hesitate, These compositions will be short, for not much flounder and be guilty of innumerable inaccura- can be written with chalk upon a black-board; and cies, if not improprieties, of speech. So far from they will not usually be very good : but they will being aided by his fluency in the use of mathe- have the advantage of being entirely original and matical language, he is actually impeded by it. of affording opportunities for the application of Just as the swimmer with cork is in a worse con- Rhetorical rules, in a way to make a more per dition for learning to swim than if he had never manent impression than when Addison
, or Botried at all. We will add that this improvement lingbroke, or Carlyle, or Scott, are made to furis not limited to increased facility in the use of nish the examples. It does something, too, to
wards enabling a young man to acquire that most lecturers upon all manner of subjects. Educavaluable power of writing promptly in the pre- tion, abolition, temperance, odd-fellowship, messence of others upon a given subject. These merism cum multis aliis. We have our regular extemporaneous compositions should not, how- national anniversary orators, and special orators ever, take the place of more elaborate original provided for the use of colleges, lyceums, instiessays and criticisms.
tutes, monuments, corner-stones and barbacues. We think we have said enough,—though we Every thing in this country begins in talk. From have been purposely abstinent upon a tempting the annexation of a new country and the nomitheme—to show that this department of a col- nation of a President down to the establishment lege course is very valuable for training purposes. of a cotton factory, every thing comes within the But we may further remark in this connection purview of a public meeting great or small, and that it is generally an attractive study to young every public meeting must have its speaker great men. It is easy compared with some of their or small. In most countries it is the privilege of other studies; and those who have been severely soldiers to be mutum pecus, but not so with us. drilled in mathematics and the languages feel as Our soldiers receive swords, and dinners, and if Rhetoric was a sort of dress parade. But nominations, and are called out to address public apart from this recommendation to the favor of meetings, until we almost see in them the ambimany who study it, in itself it is less didactic dextrous troubadours, wielding with equal skill than most of the other branches and calls into the lyre and the sword. It may be said of us play faculties of the mind, the exercising of that if public speaking is not our forte, the paswhich gives peculiar pleasure. In the hands of sion for it is our weakness. Some may think a professor who is a man of talent and varied in- that we have too much public speaking and we formation, of delicate taste and handsome elocu- will not undertake to maintain the contrary; but tion, nothing can be more fascinating; while in- it will be conceded that we ought to endeavor to structors who are not thus gifted, if they are but improve the quality of this great staple. So too diligent in making preparation rarely fail to secure with regard to writing-never was the press the attention of their classes.
more concerned with the movements of any age In all our literary institutions we believe that than of ours, and never was any age more charRhetoric occupies the student near the close of acterized by movements having far-reaching conhis course, and the zest with which it is pursued sequences. is heightened, because from its obvious connec- The question then is simply, is the study of tion with professional studies, it is regarded as a Rhetoric calculated to make men better speaksort of prelude to the real struggle of life. This ers, and better writers ? That it is, has been well arrangement, it is true, is inverted at the West established, we think, by Archbishop Whately. Point Academy. There, we see by the register, Not indeed by the help of the distinction which a boy is required, the first year he enters, to study he draws apparently with a good deal of self-satBullion's Grammar, Morse's Geography, and isfaction between “ An Art of Reasoning” and Blair's Lectures. We presume that this remark- “ The Art of Reasoning,” but by what he quotes able classification of studies depends upon some from Aristotle, who says substantially——" that military principle with which we are unacquaint- some succeed better than others in explaining ed, or connects itself with some deep reason of their opinions, and bringing others over to them; State Policy.
and this not merely by superiority of natural We will pass from this view of the subject—that gifts, but by acquired habit; and that consequentthe student is profited by the study itself, crescit ly if we can discover the causes of this superior eundo—and consider what is the value of the success—the means by which the desired end is acquisition in the way of after fruits.
attained by all who do attain it-we shall be in To be a good speaker or a good writer is to possession of rules capable of general applicapossess a power which, hy common consent, can tion. This is the province, and herein consists scarcely be estimated too high. And in no coun- the value of Rhetoric. Nothing comes by chance, try and at no time was it ever more desirable to and every one who speaks or writes well, does possess this power than it is now, in the United so by rule, whether he is himself aware of it or States. Never, perhaps, was there a people pot. By attention, then, to excellent models, we more given to speaking. Lawyers and divines may hope to arrive at the rules which, if followare every where speakers of course, but ours do ed, promise success; and with more certainty, more of this work than their brethren in other may we learn by noticing the errors of others, to countries. And then we have our statesmen avoid those errors ourselves. In fact, in treatises and legislators of the nation, and our statesmen upon Rhetoric, we find that the didactic parts and legislators of thirty sovereign states our consist of rules mainly in a negative form. Freepoliticians and our politicians' friends, and our dom from fault is not however merely a negative virtue ; it is a positive excellence. Effect de-preferred to any other in our language. Its charpends not solely upon the amount of power em- acteristic excellence is its systematic arrangeployed, but also upon the number and character ment. The general plan is comprehensive, the of existing impediments. Practically it is the main divisions are natural, and the sub-divisions same thing in mechanics, to increase the moving are clear, and stand so related to one another, power or to diminish the friction. We know that and to the whole, as to secure admirable unity it may be said, that there have been many emi- in the management of a subject which presents nent orators and writers, who had no acquaint- many difficulties on this score. This causes every ance with Rhetoric as a science, and that on the student to see the development of the subject, other hand, many well-versed in its principles, and enables the instructor to recur, as frequently have been little profited by their knowledge. as he pleases, to ground previously gode over. This is true of Rhetoric, and it is equally true of We know of no text-book, of equal size, and any ot'er branch of human knowledge, and the embracing as great a variety of topics, which a same objection has at different times been urged class will master as soon and as well. No other against every one. The absurdity of the objec- book in our language, except Blackstone's Comtion is best shown by allowing it as good against mentaries, is as good an example of the value of all at once, and then drawing the inevitable con- method. The opinions expressed in the work, clusion, that all instruction may safely be dis- are for the most part such as command the aspensed with. Find a General, as you may find sent of all critics, and the rules laid down are as many a one, who has been successful, though he practical as the nature of the subject permits. never had regular military training, and then say The style is pure and agreeable, and while it does that books upon the science of war are humbugs: not aim at the energy or the brilliancy which if an artist has excelled by force of natural ge- most modern writers seem to think indispensable, nius, ridicule those who think they can be profit- it is so satisfactory as to lead us to doubt whether ed by going to Rome: because many celebrated after all it is not the best for conveying instrucdivines have been their own teachers, pull down tion. The author is so candid and temperate, all theological seminaries, and finally assert that that we always feel safe; and so free from arroso far from a rule's being established by excep- gance, that when he speaks positively we feel tions, there can be no rule where there is an ex- almost sure that he is right. One of the most ception. Some are prejudiced against Rhetoric brilliant orators of the United States Senate ovee from an entire misapprehension of its true object. said to us, that after the lapse of thirty years, he They look upon it as professing either to teach a was reading Blair for the second time, and he sophistical mode of general reasoning, or to cul- was astonished to find what an amount of valutivate the power of forid declamation. This able practical instruction it contained. Still it is prejudice has its origin in a confused notion of not such a text-book as we need. It is too old. Logic and Rhetoric, and hetrays iguorance of It was written nearly a hundred years ago, and both. Yet it must be allowed that the history it is strong testimony to the soundness of its of both Logic and Rhetoric, and the pretensions general principles, that it has been continued to of some of the ancient writers upon these sub- be used so long. The essential rules of good jects might readily occasion such a prejudice. writing and speaking are of course always the Whoever will take the trouble, however, to look same; but there are many supplemental ones into any of the modern authors upon Rhetoric, established by the experience of the last century will find that they take great pains to inculcate which are important. In criticism especially, we the principle that sound sense must be the basis seem to be almost wasting our time in the minute of all excellence in speaking and writing, while examination of a number of the Spectator or the they attack empty declamation with unsparing Rambler. We want a master to dissect the wriridicule. We cannot suppose that a prejudice tings of Chalmers, and Macaulay, and Foster, so illiterate, nor indeed a prejudice of any kind and Irving, and Coleridge, and Carlyle, and Emagainst Rhetoric is found within College walls; erson, and others good and bad. We would like nor can we suppose that experienced instructors to see some of the critiques of Jeffrey in the of youth are ignorant of the advantages of the Edinburgh brought to the form of canons. study when properly pursued. And yet, as we
Kames' Elements of Criticism, never was inhave already intimated, we believe that even tended as a text-book, and as a whole could not College Professors speak of Rhetoric more slight- be used as such. It is however an excellent ingly than of any study in the course. Two cau- book for the student to refer to, as it contains ses perhaps contribute to produce this. In the some good philosophy, and more good taste. It first place, there is no good text-book upon Rhe- was published before Dr. Blair's work, and the toric. The one in most general use is Blair's Doctor made very free and judicious use of it. Lectures, and perhaps as a text-book, it is to be Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric is used in
some Colleges, but it must be with very great|cially towards teaching them to avoid the faults expenditure of labor on the part of the Profes- wbich are opposed to the qualities of good style. sor and the student. Dr. Campbell was a man, Upon this branch of Rhetoric, in our view the as every one knows, of great powers and of great main one, viz : style or the expression of our learning; but he was better suited to answer thoughts, Archbishop Whately has comparatively Hume than to write upon Belles Lettres. He little; that little however is so valuable, and for loved argument, and his Rhetoric is a bundle of the most part so original, that it makes us regret argumentative essays very roughly put up. The but the more, the point of view from which he arguments are ingenious, but not unfrequently has chosen to look at the whole subject. unseasonable, fine-spun and tedious. If he pro- The want of a suitable text-book we regard ceeds upon any pre-arranged system, it is one then as one reason why the study of Rhetoric which it is not easy to discover. He takes up meets with less favor than it should. We wish questions which seem to the reader to be irrele- that Macaulay would not think it beneath him to vant, and dismisses topics before they are fully write upon the subject such a book as no other treated. Add to this, that his style labors, until man could write. In the mean time, a writer the reader is fatigued through sympathy. Be- of far inferior capabilities might do good service sides these special objections to Dr. Campbell's if he would resolutely apply himself to the task work, it is to be remarked that it does not go of making a book for the use of students. If he over the whole ground covered by Rhetoric, as would content himself with the work and the the term is commonly understood. Nevertheless fame of a compiler, and would take the textevery reader will be well repaid for the labor books we have mentioned, Lectures on Elowhich a perusal of this book will cost him. He quence by the late President Adams, and the will find some of the principles of criticism tho- Edinburgh and some other Reviews, and put toroughly investigated, many hints of much value, gether properly in a neat style what is to be found a number of admirable illustrations, and a great in these works of principles, illustrations, and deal of disquisition and miscellaneous matter, criticism, he might furnish a book which would entertaining and instructive.
entitle him to the thanks of those who feel that Of more modern works upon Rhetoric, that that they could do better work if they had better by Dr. Whately, Archbishop of Dublin, is facile tools. princeps. The ability, scholarship, and high rep
The other cause which we think operates against utation of the author, together with the practical the study of Rhetoric is the labor of teaching it. tendencies of his miud, seemed to fit him well We have said that it is an easy subject for the for giving forth a canonical book upon the sub- student, but it does not follow that it is an easy ject. But he was encumbered, we think, by one one for the Professor. Some things which cost thing, which he evidently regarded as his highest us the most labor to acquire, are the easiest to qualification, viz: his thorough acquaintance impart. Mathematics, for example, is usually with the science of Logic, and his unusually held to be the toughest subject in the course, high estimate of its practical value. Hence he while it is well known to be the easiest chair in has taken up the greater portion of his work, (a the Faculty. Mathematics is a homogeneous small one altogether,) with what cannot be re- science. The instructor has one thing to impart, garded as much else than a practical application and but one. He need not be learned in philoof scholastic logic--most excellent it is, and logy, or criticism, or history, or moral, or mental doubtless very instructive, but surely out of place. philosophy, or any thing else besides mathematDr. Whately avowedly treats Rhetoric as an off- ics. He cannot even make use of any associated shoot of Logic. Now in a scientific classifica-learning that he possesses. He is rarely called tion this niay be correct, but still there is much upon for anything original or illustrative. Some of Rhetoric which bears but little aflinity to Logic, teachers of mathematics are certainly superior and it is precisely this portion of it which in our to others, but their superiority is to be attributed judgment is most valuable as part of a College rather to their greater fidelity and vivacity as course. The invention of such arguments as teachers, than to the depth and variety of their will convince and persuade, is certainly the great attainments. The case is different in the physithing to be aimed at by the speaker and the wri- cal sciences, in mental and moral philosophy, in ter, but we doubt if all the instruction upon this political economy, in history and in Bell. s Lethead, which can be given in College, is of much tres. Each of these subjects has so many variservice to young men. But it is likewise a mat- ous aspects, and is connected by so many relater of great importance to all, to learn to present tions to other departments of knowledge, that a their thoughts with perspicuity, energy and ele- professor of any of them bas often to answer gauce, and much can be effected, we know, to- questions upon matters which though not foreign wards teaching young men to do this, and espe-'to his subject, lie in such an out of the way spot