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the latter is inferior to the former. Of all the polite and learned nations, Britain alone possesses a popular government, or admits into the legislature such numerous assemblies, as can be supposed to lie under the dominion of eloquence. But what has Britain to boast of in this particular? In enumerating all the great men who have done honour to our country, we exult in our poets and philosophers. But what orators are ever mentioned? Or where are the monuments of their genius to be met with? There are found indeed, in our histories, the names of several who directed the resolutions of our parliament. But neither themselves nor others have taken the pains to preserve their speeches; and the authority which they possessed seems to have been more owing to their experience, wisdom, or power, than their talents for oratory. At present there are about half a dozen speakers in the two houses, who, in the judgment of the public, have reached very near the same pitch of eloquence; and no man pretends to give any one the preference to the rest. This seems to me a certain proof, that none of them have attained much beyond a mediocrity in their art; and that the species of eloquence which they aspire to, gives no exercise to the sublimer faculties of the mind, but may be reached by ordinary talents and slight application. A hundred cabinet-makers in London can work a table or a chair equally well; but no one poet can write verses with such spirit and elegance as Mr. Pope. Hume.
WHY THE ART OF ELOQUENCE DOES NOT
FLOURISH IN ENGLAND.
THERE are some circumstances, I confess, in the English temper and genius, which are disadvantageous to the progress of eloquence, and render all attempts of that kind more dangerous and difficult among them than among any other nation. The English are conspicuous for good sense, which makes them very jealous of any attempts to deceive them by the flowers of rhetoric and elocution. They are also peculiarly modest, which makes them consider it as a piece of arrogance to offer any thing but reason to public assemblies, or attempt to guide them by passion or fancy. I may perhaps be allowed to add, that the people in general are not remarkable for delicacy of taste, or for sensibility to the charms of the muses. Their musical parts, to use the expression of a noble author, are but indifferent. Hence their comic poets, to move them, must have recourse to obscenity; their tragic poets, to blood and slaughter: and hence their orators, being deprived of any such resource, have abandoned altogether the hopes of moving them, and have confined themselves to plain argument and reasoning.
These circumstances, joined to particular accidents, may, perhaps, have retarded the growth of eloquence in this kingdom; but will not be able to prevent its success, if ever it appears amongst us; and one may safely pronounce, that this is a field in which the most flourishing laurels may yet be gathered, if any youth of accomplish
ed genius, thoroughly acquainted with all the polite arts, and not ignorant of public business, should appear in parliament, and accustom our ears to an eloquence more commanding and pathetic. Hume.
HOW DEMOSTHENES ACQUIRED THE ART OF
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 not to mention, that the delicacy of his constitution, his ill state of health, and the excessive fondness of his mother, did not allow his masters to urge him in regard to his studies.
Demosthenes, hearing them one day speak of a famous cause that was to be pleaded, and which made a great noise in the city, importuned them very much to carry him with them to the bar, in order to hear the pleadings. The orator, whose name was Cablistratus, 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. Demosthenes was strongly affected with the honours which were paid to the orator, and still more with the absolute and despotic power which eloquence has over the mind. Demosthenes 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.
Isocrates's school, which formed so many great orators, was at that time the most famous in Athens. But whether the sordid avarice of Demosthenes's tutors hindered him from improving under a master who made his pupils pay very dear for their instruction, or whether the gentle or calm eloquence of Isocrates was not then suitable to his taste, he was placed under Isæus, whose eloquence was forcible and vehement. He found, however, an opportunity to procure the precepts of rhetoric, as taught by Isocrates. Plato indeed contributed most to the forming of Demosthenes. And we plainly discover the noble and sublime style of the master, in the writings of the pupil.
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. Demosthenes had a faint voice, stammered in his speech, and had a very short breath; and yet his periods were so long that he was often obliged to pause in order to take breath. He therefore was hissed by the whole audience, and thereupon 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, and an eloquence which came very near that of Pericles, encouraged him, by the strong remonstrances he made, and the salutary advice he gave him.
He therefore appeared a second time before
the people, but with no better success than before.
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, that the misfortune was not without remedy, nor so desperate as he imagined. He desired Demosthenes only to repeat some of Euripides or Sophocles's verses to him, which he immediately did: Satyrus 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.
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, seemed almost incredible; and to demonstrate, that indefatigable industry can overcome all difficulties. He stammered to
such a degree, that he could not even pronounce certain letters; 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, one after another, without taking breath; and this even when he walked, and ascended very craggy and steep places: so that he at last could pronounce all the letters without