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thought while it is floating like a cloud through his mind; but when he is asked to put that same thought into black and white, oh, how it shrinks and shrivels into the smallest proportions!"
The careful revision of literary productions, either by the mental or the pen method, though not practised nor advised by all who have discussed these subjects, is nevertheless quite generally recommended. There is scarcely an exception among ancient classical authors. The familiar lines of Horace embody the prevailing Grecian and Latin sentiment :
"Never the verse approve and hold as good,
Pericles, Demosthenes, and Cicero revised their orations with the greatest care. Burke had all his principal works printed two or three times at a private press before submitting them to his publisher. Charles Sumner was indefatigable in the work of revision.
Nearly all great preachers have worked for years upon the same subjects, and, in many instances, upon the same sermons. "I wish," said the king to Dr. South, complimenting him on a sermon, "that you had had time to make it longer." He replied, "May it please your majesty, I wish I had had time to make it shorter."
Henry Melville, one of the most finished and popular preachers in London during the present
century, attempted but one sermon a week, which he rewrote always twice, often three times. Massillon rewrote some of his sermons fifteen and even twenty times. Bossuet also belongs to this class of laborious revisers. In a word, young preachers would be astonished if they knew the amount of time that many preachers of note, in our own day and country, spend upon the sermons that are thought to be easily and quickly prepared.
Another means of rhetorical and oratorical improvement, which has been well-nigh universally recommended and practised by orators is, translation from one tongue to another. This kind of work was a sort of pastime with Cicero. Lord Stanhope tells us that Pitt, when asked to what he ascribed the two chief characteristics of his eloquence, namely, the lucid order of his reasoning and the ready choice of his words, replied, that he believed he owed the former to an early study of the Aristotelian logic, and the latter to his father's practice of making him every day, after reading over to himself some passage in the classics, translate it aloud and continuously into English prose." Rufus Choate was a diligent translator, Tacitus being his favorite author. Says Bishop Simpson:
"Command of Janguage may be best gained in two ways: First, by the practice of translating aloud, especially of reading in company a work written in some foreign language. This was recommended strongly by the elder Pitt, and has in some form been practised by eminent writers and speakers. Dr. Franklin was accustomed when a young man, to read one of Addison's essays, and, holding the
ideas in his mind, to write them out in his own language, and then compare them with those of Addison: this was a species of translation. Without any design of its influence on my future life, I acquired the habit, when a youth, of reading aloud to my friends from books in any language I studied, whatever I found to be either very beautiful or very interesting. Especially was this the case with the writings of Xenophon, and the orations of Demosthenes, Virgil's Æneid, and Fénelon's Telemachus. It was also my practice for a number of years to read in family worship from the original languages, thus accustoming myself to instantaneous choice of words to express the ideas of the writers."
Still another method recommended for acquiring ease and correctness in oratorical speech is, the constant study of the best literature in the mother-tongue of the orator. Bautain has so well stated this thought that we cannot forbear quoting:
"There is another practice which strikingly conduces towards facilitating expression and towards perfecting its form; we mean the learning by heart of the finest passages in great writers, and especially in the most musical poets, so as to be able to recite them at a single effort, at moments of leisure, during a solitary walk, for instance, when the mind so readily wanders. This practice, adopted in all schools, is particularly advantageous in rhetoric, and during the bright years of youth. At that age it is easy and agreeable, and he who aspires to the art of speaking ought never to neglect it. Besides furnishing the mind with all manner of fine thoughts, well expressed and well linked together, and thus nourishing, developing, and enriching it, it has the additional advantage of filling the understanding with graceful images, of forming the ear to the rhythm and number of the period, and of obtaining a sense of the harmony of speech, which is not without its own kind of music; for ideas, and even such as are the most abstract, enter the
mind more readily, and sink into it more deeply, when presented in a pleasing fashion. By dint of reading the most beautiful lines of Corneille and Racine, Bossuet's majestic and pregnant sentences, the harmonious and cadenced compositions of Fénelon and Massillon, one gradually and without effort acquires a language approaching theirs, and imitates them instinctively through the natural attraction of the beautiful, and the propensity to reproduce whatever pleases; and at last, by repeating this exercise daily for years, one attains a refined taste for the delicacies of language and the shades of style, just as a palate accustomed to the flavors of the most exquisite viands can no longer endure the coarser."
Demosthenes was a diligent student of Grecian literature. He transcribed the history of Thucydides eight times, and studied it until committed, word for word. Chatham memorized several of the sermons of Barrow, and a number of Spenser's poems. His son, Pitt, did the same, also committing to memory much of Shakespeare. Sheridan, in like manner, could repeat nearly all the published writings of several of the English poets and dramatists. Fox was an ardent lover of English literature, and thus remarks upon this subject;
"I am of opinion that the study of good authors, and especially of poets, ought never to be intermitted by any man who is to speak or write for the public, or, indeed, who has any occasion to tax his imagination, whether it be for argument, for illustration, for ornament, for sentiment, or for any other purpose."
Burke chose for special study the prose of Dryden and the poetry of Milton. His speeches show how
these authors had pervaded his mind.
Erskine, "who spoke probably the finest and richest English ever uttered by an advocate," devoted himself to the study of literature for two years, before his call to the bar. He committed much of Milton to memory, and was so familiar with Shakespeare, that it is said he could almost have held conversations on all subjects for days together, in the phrases of the great English dramatist. "It was in the study of Milton," as Mathews remarks, "that he acquired, not only his rich fund of ideas, but the fine choice of words, the vivid and varied imagery, that distinguished his style." Pinkney was likewise a master in English literature. His rule was to commit to memory every idea which struck him forcibly. Webster's favorites were Milton and Shakespeare. Choate had few equals in his acquaintance with English literature, whether in the departments of science, history, philosophy, or belles-lettres.
Again, the patient study of words so as to master the synonyms of the language, and so as, in the vital parts of a speech, to use words that express volumes, is a method of improving the oratorical style which has strong recommendations. Chatham studied Bailey's large folio dictionary, going through it twice, "examining each word attentively, dwelling on its various shades of meaning and modes of construction, thus endeavoring to bring the whole range of our noble and affluent tongue completely under his control." Webster, Choate, and Pinkney, were also diligent students of the dictionary, a fact which