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FIRST D E F E C T.
Of R H E T O R I C.
HOUGH nature and genius are the princi
pal foundations of eloquence, and sometimes fuffice alone for success in it, we can
not however deny, but that precepts and art may be of great service to an a orator, whether he uses them as guides to supply him with certain Rules for distinguishing the good from the bad, or for improving and bringing to perfection the advantages he has received from nature.
* These precepts, founded on the principles of good sense and right reason, are only the judicious observations of learned men on the discourses of the best orators, which were afterwards reduced into form, and united under certain heads; whence it was said, that eloquence was not the offspring of art, but art of elo. quence,
From hence it is easy to conceive, that rhetoric without the Itudy of good authors is lifeless and barren, and that examples in this, as in all other things, are infinitely more efficacious than precepts; and indeed the rhetorician feems only to point out the path
Ego in his præceptis hanc vim in præceptis omnibus, non ut ea & hanc utilitatem effe arbitror, fecuci oratores eloquentiæ laudem don ut ad reperiendum quid di- fint adepti; fed, quæ fua spoore camus arte ducamur, fed ut ea homines eloquentes facerent, ea qiæ natura, quæ ftudio, quæ exer. quosdam observasse, atque id egille. citatione consequimur, aut recta sic effe non eloquentiam ex artielle confidamus, aut prava intel- ficio, sed artificium ex eloquentia ligamus; cùm, quo referenda sint, natum. 1. de orar, n. 146. didicerimus. Çic. 2. de orat. n. c In omnibus ferè minùs valenc 232.
præcepta quam experimenta. Quinc. • Ego hanc vim intelligo elle 1. 2. c. 5. Vol. II. B
at a distance which youth are to follow; whilft the orator takes them by the hand, and leads them into it.
As the end then proposed in the class of rhetoric, is to teach them to apply the rules, and imitate the models or examples set before them; all the care of marters with regard to eloquence is reduced to these three heads; precepts, the studying of authors, and compofition.
Quintilian tells us, the second of those articles was entirely neglected in his time; and that the rhetoricians bestowed all their study on the other two. To fay nothing here of the species of compofition, then in vogue, called Declamation, and which was one of the principal causes of the corruption of eloquence ; they entered into a long train of precepts, and into knotty, and very often frivolous questions, which is the reason, that even Quintilian's rhetoric, though so excellent in other respects, appears vaftly tedious in feveral places : he had too just a taste, not to observe, that the reading of authors is one of the most essential parts of rhetoric, and most capable of forming the minds of youth. Yet, however good his inclination might be, it was impossible for him to ftem the torrent; and he was obliged, in spite of all his endeavours, to conform in public, to a custom, that prevailed universally; but followed, in private, that method which he judged the best.
This method is now generally received in the university of Paris, and did not gain ground there but by degrees. I shall dwell chiefly on that part, which relates to the study and explanation of authors, after having treated transiently of the other two, which it may be said to include in some measure.
• Cæterùm, fentientibus jam cudo alicer docendi fecerat legem, cum opcima, duæ res impedimen- &c. Quint. l. 2. c. 5. to fuerunt: quòd & longa consue.