Page images
PDF
EPUB

speeches; and if he receive adequate encouragement, he will cheerfully, at proper intervals, continue the series. Eager to vindicate the insulted Genius of his native land, he is sensible that in no way can it be done more successfully than by exhibiting its eloquence. For, if our writers form but a small company, the regiment of our speakers is full. It may be safely affirmed, that since the Athenian democracy, with no people has the talent of publick speaking so generally prevailed. Eloquence of the highest order, and the purest species, we may not have attained. But though we have not emulated those lofty strains and brilliant effusions which the ancient specimens display, or are to be seen in some of the spirited harangues that the momentous events of modern Europe have inspired, yet in that style of oratory, which shines without dazzling, and charms rather than excites astonishment, or kindles enthusiasm, we are extensively gifted and eminently excel. There have been, perhaps, brighter luminaries, but not a greater constellation. Collectively, we are entitled to boast of as much eloquence as has been exhibited in any age or country.

A well grounded conviction of the value of a compilation like the present, induced the Editor to take a wide survey of the Rhetorick of Europe. His researches, though sometimes baffled, have, on the whole, been rewarded with a success very disproportioned to the moderate expectations with which he commenced his task. From the cabinets of the curious, and from the hoards of "literary misers" he drew indeed such a profusion of materials as to have ultimately imposed upon him rather the

perplexity of selection than the toil of gleaning. But, still, some speeches which he has studiously endeavoured to procure, have eluded his inquiries, and he fears are irretrievably lost.* Nevertheless, the Editor pronounces with some degree of confidence that his collection will be found to contain not a few of the noblest specimens of eloquence which at the bar, or in the senate, have delighted, roused, defended, or governed mankind.

The volumes now published, embrace the whole of the revised speeches of Burke which are contained in the recent edition of his works; more than has before appeared of Chatham's; many of the speeches of Fox and Pitt; several of Mansfield's; the two memorable speeches of Sheridan on the trial of Hastings; all of the pleadings of Erskine and of Curran which are faithfully reported; the best speeches on the Slave Trade; Mc'Intosh's celebrated defence of Peltier, besides a large selection of Irish eloquence, and some speeches of the "olden time.”

This catalogue, so rich and so various, surely requires only to be exhibited to give a pledge, at once,

* Although the Editor has omitted no practicable mode of research; though he has availed himself of the very valuable assistance of one of the most diligent inquirers among the Literati of Great Britain, and publickly advertised, and privately written for the necessary documents, he has been disappointed in his attempts to obtain the speeches of Lord Lyttleton the younger, the famous Harangue of William Gerard Hamilton; the speeches of Charles Townsend; the pleadings of Murray, Thurlow, Wedderburne, Dunning, and Anthony Malone!

of the value of the work, and of the care and exertion with which it has been prepared.

In the collation of the contents of these volumes, the editor, rejecting vague reports, and newspaper authority, has been particularly solicitous to select such orations and pleadings, as have undergone the revision, or been published under the superintendance of the author. He has been sedulous to follow with fidelity the text, nor ever presumed foolishly, if not flagitiously, to interpolate the copy; a practice, which of late, has become a sort of fashion in America, to the confusion of authors, and to the prejudice of learning.

He has made indisputable evidence of the genuineness of every speech, the criterion of his choice, and has admitted no one into the work, which is not distinguished either by importance of matter or brilliancy of diction.

Without hazarding a decision of his own, on the question of theǝdns riority of ancient or modern eloquence, he trusts that this compilation will not be thought to weaken the opinion that, were a collection of the best specimens of the latter to be formed, it might fearlessly challenge a comparison with the celebrated exhibitions of Grecian and Roman oratory.

Of the pretensions of the work to publick favour the Editor conceives little more need be said.

It is an attempt, and the only one, to perpetuate Modern Eloquence.

What direct memorial, says a late writer,* would remote posterity have received, even of the existence of the talent, were not a few of Mr. Burke's Orations incorporated with his works? But, gorgeous as is certainly the rhetorick of Edmund Burke, will his speeches alone convey an adequate representation of the extent, variety, and richness of the eloquence of modern times?

It presents at one view to the Lawyer and Statesman a mass of learned and lucid discussions of politicks and jurisprudence, which must be eminently subsidiary to his investigations, and which, as hitherto dispersed were always difficult of access, and in many instances not to be procured.

It will exhibit correct models for the study of Elocution to the rising genius of the country.

Whether we have regard to reputation or to utility, whether we wish to shine in private conversation or in publick speaking, the study of the finest models is vital to success. These are the guides by which genius must be directed, and without which the strongest intellect may be fruitlessly or deviously employed. It has been no less justly, than elegantly asserted by an admirable instructor of the most correct and delicate taste in the liberal arts, and who rigorously observed his own maxims, "that an implicit obedience to the rules of art, as established by the great masters, should be exacted from the juvenile student. When genius has received its utmost improvement, Sir Joshua Reynolds.

* Dr. Parr.

rules may possibly be dispensed with. But let us not destroy the scaffold, until we have raised the building."

These are precepts which seem no less applicable to the study of eloquence. They are, at least, the precepts which are enjoined by the highest authority of antiquity. Both Cicero and Quintilian exhort their pupils to adhere to the establishdd models, lest they fall into a wild licentiousness of taste.

"Poeta nascitur, Orator fit." The orator is the creature of education.

By a system of rhetorical discipline, Bolingbroke and Pultney, Murray and Pitt, Lyttleton and Burke, Townshend and Fox, attained their glorious preeminence, and alternately at the desk or the toilet, in conversation or in council, were able to convince, to persuade, to dazzle, and to delight.

The student, who with a mixture of enthusiasm and industry shall "meditate" the contents of this work can hardly fail to acquire the habit of conversing and speaking with elegance and energy.

Whatever tends to improve or widen the dominion of speech cannot be an object of indifference to a Free People. Eloquence has always been admired and studied; but never with more ardour and success than by republicans. It engages particularly their attention, because it opens to them the widest avenue to distinction. Compared to it, the influence of the other attributes which elevate to rank, or confer

« PreviousContinue »