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curable evil than ignorance--the silly conceit of pedantry. I am sorry to add, that too many relics of this absurd system are still preserved, though experience has fully demonstrated, that youthful genius, if confined for a series of years to the go-cart of old academical institutions, will scarcely ever be able to walk alone with manly grace and dignity.
As I ventured to ascribe the first corruptions of genuine eloquence, even in the Golden age of Grecian literature, to DEMETRIUS PHALEREUS, as well as to ARISTOTLE, I must now endeavour to do the same strict justice to the Orator, which I hope I have already done to the Critic, not suffering my admiration of the talents of either to make me overlook the baneful influence of their example. I am ready to confess that DEMETRIUS was eminently qualified to rival the most applauded orators who had gone before him. Cicero describes him as a man of greater learning than any of them, but as fitter to appear on the parade than in the field : he marched forth into the dust and heat of the forum, not from a weather-beaten tent, but from the shady recess of erudition : he was the first who relaxed the force of eloquence, and gave her a soft and tender air, choosing rather to be agreeable than to be great or striking—to amuse his hearers rather than to warm their minds, or to inflame their passions—to impress them with a high opinion of his elegance, not, as was said of PERICLES, to sting, as well as to please.
Such is the character given of DEMETRIUS by CiceRO* : Quintilian speaks of him nearly in the same terms t; and DENINA, the ingenious Essayist on the Revolutions of Literature, comes still nearer to the point which I wish to inculcate, in his remark, “that DEMETRIUS, though no wise inferior to any of his predecessors, yet perceiving that the proper path of oratory was become
* De claris Oratoribus.
trite, resolved to be the first or only follower of a new species of rhetoric, rather than by imitating others to remain undistinguished : he therefore addicted himself to a figurative, flowery, polished, but soft and effeminate style, which universally pleased by its novelty, and in him, indeed, animated by the force and vivacity of uncommon genius, had some merit ; but the herd of imitators quickly sunk into the utmost languor, and extinguished every spark of true eloquence.” Thus affectation completed what pedantry had begun; and Greece, alternately torn by intestine divisions, and enslaved by foreign tyrants, never after exhibited, but at very short intervals, even a transient gleam of its former glory.
Eloquence was not so rapid in her advances to perfection at Rome as she had been at Greece ; but she retained somewhat longer her native charms and unimpaired energy. Could we suppose that the Speech over the dead body of LUCRETIA, ascribed to JUNIUS BRUTUS by Livy, had been really the composition of the Orator, and not of the Historian, we should be surprised at the little progress which Eloquence made from that splendid beginning of the Roman republic till the termination of the Punic wars. But Livy, a writer of the most lively fancy and vigorous genius, never let slip an opportunity of making a masterly harangue, suited to the importance of the occasion, and to the character of the supposed speaker, thus animating the narrative, without doing any material injury to truth. We may however observe, in Cicero's sketch of illustrious orators, how thinly they were scattered through the long period here alluded to, He accounts for it on this principle, that an emulation to shine in all the splendors of language is not usually found among a people who are either employed in settling the form of their government, or engaged in war, or struggling with difficulties, or sub. jected to arbitrary power*. The Romans, indeed, had
* De claris Oratoribus.
soon shaken off this last restraint ; but they were afterwards involved in contests with their neighbours, in the still worse convulsions of domestic faction, and in those dreadful wars with the Carthaginians, the longest in their duration, and the least interrupted in their continuance, of any that are recorded in ancient history.
It is therefore from the destruction of Carthage, and from the consequent security and independence of Rome, that we must date the first grand effulgence of her genius, which continued to beam forth with increasing lustre from that era till the united extinction of eloquence and liberty under the CÆSARS. How just is the observation of CICERO, who cannot be too often quoted upon this subject, that Eloquence is the attendant of peace, the companion of ease and prosperity, and the tender offspring of a free and well-established constitution *! add, that she cannot long survive the loss of any of these blessings, but least of all that of perfect freedom, which is so essential to her existence. She felt, however the enervating effects of pedantic instruction and of false refinements, before she sunk under the deadly influence of despotism. Among the number of Greek emigrants, who had fled to Rome for security and support, a great many taught Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, and all those perplexing systems, which never fail to destroy or enfeeble originality, by attempting to reduce into an art what had before been the offspring of genius and nature. ARISTOTLE was the text-book made use of by the several professors; and young minds, thus entangled, at the very commencement of their studies, in the intricacies and thorny disquisitions of the schools, could seldom rise above mediocrity.
The models of fine writing, the master-pieces of beautiful and animated composition, which were found in the Greek language, served in some measure to counteract
the pedantry introduced with the study of it, and, in youth of great talents, to kindle the flame of generous emulation. The elder ANTHONY, CRASSUS, HORTENSIUS, CÆSAR, and Cicero rivalled the glory of the most celebrated Grecian orators, but left far behind them such of their own countrymen as paid more attention to the precepts of ARISTOTLE than to the example of DEMOSTHENES. We are told by Cicero himself, that he came forth an orator—not from the schools of the Rhetoricians, but from the spacious walks of the Academy, which he considers as the theatres of diversified and extensive argument,as the sources whence Eloquence derived all her fertility and all her materials*.
Yet, even Cicero in his old age, after having exhibited the most finished pattern of Roman eloquence, and raised the literature of his country to such perfection, that he alone might be opposed to Plato and DEMOSTHENES, seems to have been desirous of distinguishing himself as an ARISTOTLE also, the substance of whose Art of Rhetoric he presented to the Romans in a Latin dress, and thereby increased the fondness for preceptive details which was so general in his time. How much more entitled to our admiration does he appear in his Notices of eminent Orators, and his Character of the accomplished Speaker, both which inestimable works are calculated to form the taste of youth, and to animate as well as to direct their exertions in the study and attainment of genuine eloquence.
The prevalence of pedantry at Rome was quickly followed by a decline of true taste, by a contempt of simplicity and nature, and by the substitution of false and affected beauties. Before the close of AUGUSTUS's reign, a certain effeminacy of style insinuated itself at court; and the malignant criticisms of Asinius Pollio, and of his son Asinius GELLIUS, on the language and compositions of CICERO, greatly conduced to wean the Romans, as
* Orat. ad Brut.
DENINA expresses it, from that great fountain of Latin oratory. Eloquence was no longer to be seen in an elegant undress, but was always tricked, and flounced, and highly decorated with the studied graces of novelty, or the attractive glitter of points, of witticisms, allusions, and conceits. The want of real dignity was supplied by a pompous strut ; and artificial flowers were profusely scattered to conceal the decay of Nature's sweetest blooms.
But the gradual corruptions of oratory might still have admitted of some corrective or reform, had not the liberty of speech in the Senate, in the Forum, in all popular Assemblies been destroyed by the establishment of despotism at Rome ; and had not all the remaining powers of enslaved genius been constantly exerted in strains of fulsome adulation, and in adorning with the splendors of gaudy panegyric the pretended blessings of every tyrant's reign. It is not under the government of such men, or rather of such monsters as a TIBERIUS, a CALIGULA, a CLAUDIUS, or a Nero, that we are to look for any remains of solid eloquence. In contemplating such sad periods of human degradation, we feel the same indignant emotions as Hayley, and exclaim with him,
“ Thou bane of liberal knowledge! Nature's Curse !
In the last line, I have substituted ELOQUENGE for HisTORY, the remark being equally applicable to both, as the dignity and energy of truth, which constitute the essence of Oratory, as well as of History, can exist only in the regions of Freedom. “ All other qualifications,” says LONGINUS, " you may find among people who are deprived of liberty ; but never did a Slave become an Orator : he can only be a pompous Flatterer. His spirit being ef