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ments of Plato. But the very circumstances was immediate conviction and persuasion. which retarded the growth of science, were He, therefore, who would justly appreciate the peculiarly favourable to the cultivation of elo- merit of the Grecian orators, should place him. quence. From the early habit of taking a share self, as nearly as possible, in the situation of in animated discussion, the intelligent student their auditors : he should divest himself of his would derive that readiness of resource, that modern feelings and acquirements, and make copiousness of language, and that knowledge the prejudices and interests of the Athenian of the temper and understanding of an audi- citizens his own. He who studies their works ence, which are far more valuable to an orator in this spirit will find that many of those things than the greatest logical powers.
which, to an English reader, appear to be Horace has prettily compared poems to those blemishes,the frequent violation of those paintings of which the effect varies as the excellent rules of evidence, by which our spectator changes his stand. The same re-courts of law are regulated,—the introduction mark applies with at least equal justice to of extraneous matter,--the reference to conspeeches. They must be read with the temper siderations of political expediency in judicial of those to whom they were addressed, or they investigations--the assertions, without proof, must necessarily appear to offend against the the passionate entreaties,--the furious inlaws of taste and reason; as the finest picture, vectives,-are really proofs of the prudence seen in a light different from that for which it and address of the speakers. He must not was designed, will appear fit only for a sign. dwell maliciously on arguments or phrases, This is perpetually forgotten by those who but acquiesce in his first impressions. It recriticise oratory. Because they are reading at quires repeated perusal and reflection to deleisure, pausing at every line, reconsidering cide rightly on any other portion of literature. every argument, they forget that the hearers But with respect to works of which the merit were hurried from point to point too rapidly to depends on their instantaneous effect, the most detect the fallacies through which they were hasty judgment is likely to be best. conducted; that they had no time to disentan- The history of eloquence at Athens is regle sophisms, or to notice slight inaccuracies markable. From a very early period great of expression; that elaborate excellence, either speakers had flourished there. Pisistratus and of reasoning or of language, would have been Themistocles are said to have owed much of absolutely thrown away. To recur to the ana- their influence to their talents for debate. We logy of the sister art, these connoisseurs ex- learn, with more certainty, that Pericles was amine a panorama through a microscope, and distinguished by extraordinary oratorical powquarrel with a scene-painter because he does ers. The substance of some his speeches is not give to his work the exquisite finish of transmitted to us by Thucydides, and that exGérard Dow.
cellent writer has doubtless faithfully reported Oratory is to be estimated on principles dif- the general line of his arguments. But the ferent from those which are applied to other manner, which in oratory is of at least as productions. Truth is the object of philosophy much consequence as the matter, was of no and history. Truth is the object even of those importance to his narration. It is evident that works which are peculiarly called works of he has not attempted to preserve it. Throughfiction, but which, in fact, bear the same rela- out his work, every speech on every subject, tion to history which algebra bears to arith-whatever may have been the character or the metic. The merit of poetry, in its wildest dialect of the speaker, is in exactly the same forms, still consists in its truth,-truth con- form. The grave King of Sparta, the furious veyed to the understanding, not directly by the demagogue of Athens, the general encouraging words, but circuitously by means of imagina-his army, the captive supplicating for his iife, tive associations, which serve as its con- all are represented as speakers in one unvaried ductors. The object of oratory alone is not style,-a style moreover wholly unfit for oratruth, but persuasion. The admiration of the torical purposes. His mode of reasoning is multitude does not make Moore a greater poet siagularly elliptical,-in reality most consecuthan Coleridge, or Beattie a greater philoso- tive, yet in appearance often incoherent. His pher than Berkeley. But the criterion of elo- meaning, in itself is sufficiently perplexing, is quence is different. A speaker, who exhausts compressed into the fewest possible words. the whole philosophy of a question, who dis- His great fondness for antithetical expression plays every grace of style, yet produces no has not a little conduced to this effect. Every eifect on his audience, may be a great essayist, one must have observed how much more the a great statesman, a great master of composi- sense is condensed in the verses of Pope and tion, but he is not an orator. If he miss the his imitators, who never ventured to continue inark, it makes no difference whether he have the same clause from couplet to couplet, than taken aim too high or too low.
in those of poets who allow themselves that The effect of the great freedom of the press license. Every artificial division, which is in England has been, in a great measure, to strongly marked, and which frequently recurs, destroy this distinction, and to leave among us has the same tendency. The natural and perlittle of what I call Oratory Proper. Our Ic- spicuous expression which spontaneously rises gislators, our candidates, on great occasions to the mind, will often refuse to accommodate even our advocates, address themselves less itself to such a form. It is necessary either to to the audience than to the reporters. They expand it into weakness, or to compress it into think less of the sew hearers than of the innu- almost impenetrable density. The latter is merable readers. At Athens, the case was generally the choice of an able man, and was different there the only object of the speaker assuredly the choice of Thucydides.
in It is scarcely necessary to say that such the stadium, yet enjoyed far greater genora. speeches could never have been delivered. vigour and health than either. It is the same They are perhaps among the most difficult pas- with the mind. The superiority in technical sages in the Greek language, and would pro- skill is often more than compensated by the bably have been scarcely more intelligible to inferiority in general intelligence. And this is an Athenian auditor than to a modern reader. peculiarly the case in politics. States have Their obscurity was acknowledged by Cicero, always been best governed by men who have who was as intimate with the literature and taken a wide view of public affairs, and who language of Greece as the most accomplished have rather a general acquaintance with many of its natives, and who seems to have held a sciences than a perfect mastery of one. The respectable rank among the Greek authors. union of the political and military departments The difficulty to a modern reader lies, not in in Greece contributed not a little to the splenthe words, but in the reasoning. A dictionary dour of its early history. After their separais of far less use in studying them, than a clear tion more skilful generals and greater speakers head and a close attention to the context. They appeared ;- but the breed of statesmen dwindled are valuable to the scholar, as displaying, be- and became almost extinct. Themistocles or yond almost any other compositions, the powers Pericles would have been no match for Deof the finest languages :- they are valuable to mosthenes in the assembly, or Iphicrates in the the philosopher, as illustrating the morals and field. But surely they were incomparably manners of a most interesting age ;—they better fitted than either for the supreme direcabound in just thought and energetic expres- tion of affairs. sion. But they do not enable us to form any There is indeed a remarkable coincidence accurate opinion on the merits of the early between the progress of the art of war, and Greek orators.
that of the art of oratory, among the Greeks. Though it cannot be doubted, that, before the They both advanced to perfection by contemPersian wars, Athens had produced eminent poraneous steps, and from similar causes. The speakers, yet the period during which elo- early speakers, like the early warriors of Greece, quence most flourished among her citizens was were merely a militia. It was found, that in by no means that of her greatest power and both employments, practice and discipline gave glory. It commenced at the close of the Pelo- superiority.* Each pursuit, therefore, became ponnesian war. In fact, the steps by which first an ari, and then a trade. In proportion as Athenian oratory approached to its finished the professors of each became more expert in excellence, seem to have been almost contem- their particular craft, they became less respect. poraneous with those by which the Athenian able in their general character. Their skill character and the Athenian empire sunk to de. had been obtained at too great expense to be gradation. At the time when the little com- employed only from disinterested views. Thus, monwealth achieved those victories which the soldiers forgot that they were citizens, and twenty-five eventual centuries have left un- the orators that they were statesmen. I know equalled, eloquence was in its infancy. The not to what Demosthenes and his famous con. deliverers of Greece became its plunderers and ten:poraries can be so justly compared as to oppressors. Unmeasured exaction, atrocious those mercenary troops, who, in their time, vengeance, the madness of the multitude, the overran Greece; or those who, from similar tyranny of the great, filled the Cyclades with causes, were some centuries ago the scourge tears, and blood, and mourning. The sword of the Italian republics,-perfectly acquainted un peopled whole islands in a day. The plough with every part of their profession, irresistible passed over the ruins of famous cities. The in the field, powerful to defend or to destroy, imperial republic sent forth her children by but defending without love, and destroying thousands to pine in the quarries of Syracuse, without hatred. We may despise the characor to feed the vultures of Ægospotami. She was at length reduced by famine and slaughter to humble herself before her enemies, and to
* It has often occurred to me, that to the circumpurchase existence by the sacrifice of her em
stances mentioned in the text, is to be referred one of
the most remarkable events in Grecian history, I mean pire and her laws. During these disastrous the silent but rapid downfall of the Lacedæmonian and gloomy years, oratory was advancing power. Soon after the termination of the Peloponnesian towards its highest excellence. And it was military discipline, its social institutions were the same.
war, the strength of Lacedæmon began to decline. Its when the moral, the political, the military cha- Agesilaus, during whose reign the change took place, racter of the people was most utterly degraded; was the ablest of its kings. Yet the Spartan armies it was when the viceroy of a Macedonian so
were frequently defeated in pitched bailles, -an oc
currence considered impossible in the earlier ages of vereign gave law to Greece, that the courts of Greece. They are allowed to have fought most bravely, Athens witnessed the most splendid contest of yet they were no longer attended by the success to which eloquence that the world has ever known.
they had formerly been accustomed. No solution of
these circumstances is offered, as far as I know, by any The causes of this phenomenon it is not, I ancient author. The real cause, 1 conceive, was this think, difficult to assign. The division of la- The Lacedæmonians, alone among the Greeks, formed bour operates on the productions of the orator commonwealths were engaged in agriculture and trade;
a permanent standing army. While the citizens of other as it does on those of the mechanic. It wa. they had no employment whatever but the study of remarked by the ancients, that the Pentaihlete, military discipline. Hence, during the Persian and Pewho divided his attention between several exer- neighbours which regular troops always possess over
loponnesian wars, they had that advantage over their cises, though he could not vie with a boxer in militia. This advantage they lost when other states the use of a cestus, or with one who had con- began, at a later period, to employ mercenary forcer,
who were probably as superior to them in the art of was fined his attention to running in the contest of l as they had hitherto been to their antagonists.
ters of these political Condottieri, but it is im- He may ramble as far as he is inclined, and possible to examine the system of their tactics siop as soon as he is tired. No one takes the without being amazed at its perfection. trouble to recollect his contradictory opinions
I had intended to proceed to this examination, or his unredeemed pledges. He may be as and to consider separately the remains of Ly- superficial, as inconsistent, and as careless as sias, of Æschines, of Demosthenes, and of Iso- he chooses. Magazines resemble those little crates, who thongh, strictly speaking, he was angels, who, according to the pretty Rabinical rather a pamphleteer than an orator, deserves, tradition, are generated every morning by the on many accounts, a place in such a disquisi- brook which rolls over the flowers of Paradise, tion. The ngth of my prolegomena and di- --whose life is a song,—who warble till sunset, gressions compels me to postpone this part of and then sink back without regret into nothing. the subject to another occasion. A magazine ness. Such spirits have nothing to do with the is certainly a delightful invention for a very detecting spear of Ithuriel or the victorious idle or a very busy man. He is not compelled sword of Michael. It is enough for them to to complete his plan or to adhere to his subject. I please and be forgotten.
W. have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. and which illustrates the character of an im. We form our judgment of him, indeed, only portant epoch in letters, politics, and morals, from events of universal notoriety-from his should disappear from the world. If we err in own works, and from the works of other wri- this matter, we err with the gravest men and ters, who have generally abused him in the bodies of men in the empire, and especially most rancorous manner. But, unless we are with the Church of England, and with the greatly mistaken, he is a very clever, a very great schools of learning which are connected honest, and a very good-natured man. We with her. The whole liberal education of our can clearly discern, together with many merits, countrymen is conducted on the principle, that many serious faults, both in his writings and no book which is valuable, either by reason of in his conduct. But we really think that there the excellence of its style, or by reason of the is hardly a man living whose merits have light which it throws on the history, polity, been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults and manners of nations, should be withheld have been so cruelly expiated.
from the student on account of its impurity. In some respects, Mr. Leigh Hunt is excel- The Athenian Comedies, in which there are lently qualified for the task which he has now scarcely a hundred lines together without undertaken. His style, in spite of its manner- some passage of which Rochester would have ism-nay, partly by reason of its mannerism been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt -is well suited for light, garrulous, desultory Press and the Clarendon Press, under the diana, half critical, half biographical. We do rection of syndics and delegates appointed by not always agree with his literary judgments; the Universities; and have been illustrated but we find in him what is very rare in our with notes by reverend, very reverend, and time--the power of justly appreciating and right reverend commentators. heartily enjoying good things of very different Every year the most distinguished young kinds. He can adore Shakspeare and Spenser men in the kingdom are examined by bishops without denying poetical genius to the author and professors of divinity in the Lysistrata of of " Alexander's Feast;" or fine observation, Aristophanes and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. rich fancy, and exquisite humour to him who There is certainly something a little ludicrous imagined “ Will Honeycomb” and “Sir Roger in the idea of a conclave of venerable fathers de Coverley.” He has paid particular atten- of the church rewarding a lad for his intimate tion to the history of the English drama, from acquaintance with writings, compared with the age of Elizabeth down to our own time, which the loosest tale in Prior is modest. and has every right to be heard with respect Bui for our own part we have no doubt that on that subject.
the great societies which direct the education The plays to which he now acts as intro- of the English gentry have herein judged ducer are, with few exceptions, such as, in the wisely. It is unquestionable that an extensive opinion of many very respectable people, acquaintance with ancient literature enlarges ought not to be reprinted. In this opinion we and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable can iny no means concur. We cannot wish that a man whose mind has been thus en. that any work or class of works which has ex- | larged and enriched, is åkely to be far more ercised a great influence on the human mind, useful to the state and to the church, than one
who is unskilled, or little skilled in classical • To Dramatic Works of WYCHERLEY, CONGREVE, cult to believe that, in a world so full of tempta.
learning. On the other hand, we find it diffi. VANBRUGH, and FARQUHAR. With Biographical and Critical Notices. By Leigh Hunt. 8vo. London. 1840. I tion as this, any gentleman, whose life would
have been virtu zus if he had not read Aristo- various periods been fashionable. phanes and Juvenal, will be made vicious by therefore by no means disposed to condemn reading them. A man who, exposed to all the this publication, though we certainly cannot influences of such a state of society as that in recommend the handsome volume before us which we live, is yet afraid of exposing himself as an appropriate Christmas present for young to the influences of a few Greek or Latin verses, ladies. acts, we think, much like the felon who begged We have said that we think the present pubthe sheriffs to let him have an umbrella held lication perfectly justifiable. But we can by over his head from the door of Newgate to the no means agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt, who gallows, because it was a drizzling morning, seems to hold that there is little or no ground and he was apt to take cold.
for the charge of immorality so often brought The virtue which the world wants is a against the literature of the Restoration. We healthful virtue, not a valetudinarian virtue- do not blame him for not bringing to the judg. a virtue which can expose itself to the risks ment-seat the merciless rigour of Lord Angelo; inseparable from all spirited exertion-not a but we really think that such flagitious and virtue which keeps out of the common air for impudent offenders as those who are now at fear of infection, and eschews the common food the bar, deserved at least the gentle rebuke of as too stimulating. It would be indeed absurd Escalus. Mr. Leigh Hunt treats the whole to attempt to keep men from acquiring those matter a little too much in the easy style of qualifications which fil them to play their part Lucio, and perhaps his exceeding lenity disin life with honour to themselves and advan- poses us to be somewhat too severe. Lage to their country, for the sake of preserving And yet it is not easy to be too severe. For, a delicacy which cannot be preserved—a deli- in truth, this part of our literature is a disgrace cacy which a walk from Westminster to the to our language and our national character. Temple is sufficient to destroy.
It is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but But we should be justly chargeable with it is, in the most emphatic sense of the words, gross inconsistency, if
, while we defend the earthly, sensual, devilish.” Its indecency, policy which invites the youth of our country though perpetually such as is condemned, not to study such writers as Theocritus and Catul- less by ihe rules of good taste than by those of lus, we were to set up a cry against a new morality, is not, in our opinion, so disgraceful edition of the “ Country Wife," or the “Way a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We of the World.” The immoral English writers have here Be!ial, not as when he inspired Ovid of the seventeenth century are indeed much and Ariosto, “graceful and humane," but with less excusable than those of Greece and Rome. the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistopheles. But the worst English writings of the seven. We find ourselves in a world, in which the leenth century are decent, compared with much ladies are like very profligate, impudent and that has been bequeathed to us by Greece and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a much bad for any place but Pandæmonium or Norbetter man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato folk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads has written things at which Sir George Etherege of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and would have shuddered. Buckhurst and Sed- tongues set on fire of hell. ley, even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Dryden defended or excused his own ofBow Street, for which they were pelted by the fences, and those of his contemporaries, by rabble and fined by the Court of King's Bench, pleading the example of the earlier English would never have dared to hold such discourse dramatists: and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to as passed between Socrates and Phædrus on think that there is force in the plea. We al. thai fine summer day, under the plane-tree, together differ from this opinion. The crime while the fountain warbled at their feet, and charged is not mere coarseness of expression. the cicadas chirped overhead. If it be, as we The terms which are delicate in one age bethink it is, desirable that an English gentle- come gross in the next. The diction of the man should be well informed touching the English version of the Pentateuch, is somegovernment and the manners of little common- times such as Addison would not have venturwealths, which both in place and time are far ed to imitate; and Addison, the standard of removed from us—whose independence has purity in his own age, used many phrases been more than two thousand years extinguish- which are now proscribed. Wheiher a thing cd, whose language has not been spoken for shall be designated by a plain noun-substanages, and whose ancient magnificence is attest- tive, or by a circumlocution, is mere matter of ed only by a few broken columns and friezes, fashion. Morality is not at all interested in much more must it be desirable that he should the question. But morality is deeply interested be intimately acquainted with the history of in this—that what is immoral shall not be prethe public mind of his own country; and with sented to the imagination of the young and the causes, the nature, and the extent of those susceptible in constant connection with what revolutions of opinion and feeling, which, is attractive. For every person who nas obduring the last two centuries, have alternately served the operation of the law of association raised and depressed the standard of our national morality. And knowledge of this sort is * Mr. Moxon, its publisher, is well entitled to com to be very sparingly gleaned from parliament- mendation and support
for having, by a series of corres.
ponding Reprints, (comprising the works of the elder ary debates, from state papers, and from the Dramatists, -executed in a compendious but very come. works of grave historians. It must either not ky form, and accompanied with useful prolegomena--put be acquired at all, or it must be acquired by tion to procure, at a comparatively sınall cust, the no
it in the power of any one desirong of such an acquisithe perusal of the light literature which has at I blest Dramatic Library in the world
in his own mind, and in the minds of others, Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, or Scandal with
cate represented in a favourable light. We re- morality or immorality of the Horner of Wymember many plays in which such persons cherly, and the Careless of Congreve, is as are bafiled, exposed, covered with derision, and absurd as it would be to arraign a sleeper for insulted by triumphant husbands. Such is the his dreams. They belong " to the regions of fate of Falstaff, with all his wit and knowledge pure comedy, where no cold moral reignsof the world. Such is the fate of Brisac in when we are amongst them we are amongst a Fletcher's “Elder Brother"-and of Ricardo chaotic people. We are not to judge them by and Ubaldo, in Massinger's “ Picture.” Some our usages. No reverend institutions are in. times, as in the “Fatal Dowry," and "Love's sulted by their proceedings, for they have none Cruelty,” the outraged honour of families is among them. No peace of families is violated, repaired by a bloody revenge. If now and for no family ties exist among them. There then the lover is represented as an accom- is neither right or wrong-gratitude or its opplished man, and the husband as a person of posite-claim or duty-paternity or sonship. weak or odious character, this only makes This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr. the triumph of female virtue the more signal; Lamb's doctrine. We are sure that we do not as in Jonson's Celia and Mrs. Fitzdottrel, and wish to represent him unfairly. For we adin Fletcher's Maria. In general we will ven- mire his genius; we love the kind nature ture to say, that the dramatists of the age of which appears in all his writings: and we Elizabeth and James the First, either treat the cherish his memory as much as if we had breach of the marriage-vow as a serious crime known him personally. But we must plainly -or, if they treat it as a matter for laughter, say that his argument, though ingenious, is turn the laugh against the gallant
altogether sophistical. On the contrary, during the forty years Of course we perfectly understand that it is which followed the Restoration, the whole body possible for a writer to create a conventional of the dramatists invariably represent adultery world in which things forbidden by the Deca. -we do not say as a peccadillo—we do not logue and the Statute Book shall be lawful, say as an error which the violence of passion and yet that the exhibition may be harmless, or may excuse—but as the calling of a fine gen- even edifying. For example, we suppose that tleman-as a grace without which his cha- the most austere critics would not accuse leracter would be imperfect. It is as essential nelon of impiety and immorality, on account to his breedug and to his place in society that of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the he should make love to the wives of his neigh- Dead. In Telemachus and the Dialogues of bours, as that he should know French, or that the Dead, we have a false religion, and consehe should have a sword at his side. In all this quently a morality which is in some points there is no passion, and scarcely any thing incorrect. We have a right and a wrong, that can be called preference. The hero in- differing from the right and the wrong of real trigues, just as he wears wig; because, if life. It is represented as the first duty of men he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city to pay honour to Jove and Minerva. Philoprig, perhaps a Puritan. All the agreeable cles, who employes his leisure in making qualities are always given to the gallant. All graven images of these deities, is extolled for the contempt and aversion are the portion of his piety in a way which contrasts singularly the unfortunate husband. Take Dryden for with the expressions of Isaiah on the same example; and compare Woodall with Brain-subject. The dead are judged by Minos, and slek, or Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycher- rewarded with lasting happiness for actions ley, and compare Horner with Pinch wife. which Fenelon would have been the first to Take Vanbrugh, and compare Constant with pronounce splendid sins. The same may be Sir John Brute. Take Farquhar, and com- said of Mr. Sonthey's Mohammedan and Hin. pare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Con- doo heroes and heroines. In Thalaba, to speak greve, and compare Belmour with Foudlewife, in derogation of 'he Arabian Imposter is blas