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PRINCIPLES OF ELOQUENCE.
DESIGN OF THIS DISCOURSE.
N presenting the public with this feeble pro
duction, I propose, with a just diffidence of my own abilities, to lay before them some observations which have occurred to me in the course of my reading, or oratorial compositions, respecting the art of Eloquence, which it is the study of my life to cultivate.
They were written at first merely for my own private use. If I have sometimes given a decided opinion, I entreat the reader to remember that I speak to him with freedom, yet without presumption, and that I myself am far from con
sidering the result of my observations as laying down rules of the art.
The general idea which I form, at first view, of the eloquence of the pulpit, is this.
A DESCRIPTION OF THE ELOQUENCE OF
MAN of sensibility discovers his friend a
bout to take a step contrary to his interest or duty. He is desirous of opposing it, but he is afraid of repelling confidence by a hasty contradiction. He gently insinuates himself into his mind. He does not, at first, oppose. He inquires. He is not regarded. He requires only to be heard, and instantly he states his reasons, and offers convincing arguments with modest diffidence...No answer is returned. He then complains, not of obstinacy, but of silence. He meets all objections and refutes them. Animated by the tender zeal of friendship, he is far from attempting to shine by his wit, or to dishearten by his reproaches. He speaks only the language of affection. At length, assured of having arrested the attention of his friend, he uncovers the precipice under his feet, and shews him all its depth, in order to alarm his imagina
tion, that weakest, and yet most predominant of our faculties.
He thus succeeds in moving him. He now descends to entreaty, and gives an unrestrained vent to his sighs and tears. The work is done; the heart yields, and his friend is fully persuaded. They both embrace; and it is to the eloquence of friendship that reason and virtue are indebted for the honour of the victory.
Christian orators! behold your model. Let that compassionate man, who should be affected with sympathetic tenderness in order to convince, be you; and that friend, who should be moved in order to be undeceived, be your auditory.
OF THE MEANS OF PERSUADING A LARGE
IT is only necessary, in fact, for the orator to
keep one man in view amidst the multitude that surrounds him; and, excepting those enumerations which require some variety in order to paint the passions, conditions, and characters, he ought merely, while composing, to address himself to that one man, whose mistakes he laments, and whose foibles he discovers. This man is, to him, as the genius of Socrates* standing continually at his side, and, by turns, interrogating him, or answering his questions. This is he whom the orator ought never to lose sight of in writing, till he obtains a conquest over his prepossessions. The arguments which will be sufficiently persuasive to overcome his opposition, will equally controul a large assembly.
The orator will derive farther advantages from a numerous concourse of people, where all the impressions made at the time will convey the finest triumphs of the art, by forming a species of action and reaction between the auditory and the speakert. It is in this sense that Cicero is
LACTANT10us observes (de origine erroris, ii. 14) that “SOCRATES affirmed that their was a demon or tutelar angel constantly near him, which had kept him company from a child, and by whose beck and instruction he guided his life.” -See a farther account in the life of Socrates, New Biographical Dictionary; See, also, Universal History, vol. i. page 103, and Turret. Instit. Theolog. vol. i. p. 616, 617.
† “ The very aspect of a large assembly, engaged in some “debate of moment, and attentive to the discourse of one
man, is sufficient to inspire that man with such elevation “and warmth, as both gives rise to strong expressions, and
gives them propriety. Passion easily rises in a great as
sembly where the movements are communicated by mu. “tual sympathy between the orator and the audience.”BLAIR's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 54, 4to.
right in saying that “no man can be eloquent without a multitude to hear him *". The Auditor came to hear a discourse :—the Orator attacks him ; accuses him ; makes him abashed; addresses him, at one time, as his, confident, at annother, as his mediator, or his judge. See with what address he unveils his most concealed passions; with what penetration he shews him his most intimate thoughts : with what energy he annihilates his best framed excuses !—The culprit repents. Profound attention, consternation, confusion, remorse, all announce that the orator has penetrated, in his retired meditations, into the recesses of the heart. Then, provided no ill-timed sally of wit follow to blunt the strokes of Christian eloquence, there may be in the church two thousand Auditors, yet there will be but one thought, but one opinion : and all those individuals united form that ideal man whom the Orator had in view while composing his dis
* Orator sine multitudine audiente eloquons esse non potest.com Brutus, 338.