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4thly. The heads should be expressed in concise terms; you should avoid all circumlocutions. The setting forth of the main part of your subject in a concise manner enables the hearers to comprehend it more easily.
5thly. The heads ought not to be multiplied unnecessarily, as this enfeebles the discourse.
Fourth. The argumentative part is by far the most important, being really in itself the end and object for which every oration is framed. The ancient orators have established two divisions under this head; the one in which you adduce the proofs and evidence on your own side of the question; the other in which you meet and refute the objections of your adversary. Which of these ought to come first in an oration must depend upon circumstances. In general I should say that in an opening discourse, or in the first upon any question, as when a member introduces a motion in either house of parliament, he should first establish the proofs in his own favour, and then proceed to encounter whatever objections he might conceive likely to be urged against him. In a reply, on the contrary, he should first meet the objections of his adversary, and then proceed to establish his own argument.
To attempt to establish rules respecting this part of an oration, would be trifling with your understanding. The arguments must depend upon the nature of the case, and the genius of the orator. There are indeed no rules to produce a strong reasoner; this is beyond the reach of logic or of any other science; it must be the effect of nature and of study. The ancients, it is true, endeavoured to supply every deficiency of argument by common-place topics, such as I formerly mentioned, to be used according to the nature of the discourse; these were called loci, and hence orations were classed into the demonstrative, the deliberative, and the judicial. Under the first they considered all the qualities that could attend any person from his birth to his death, for which he could be praised or blamed. Under the second they considered the honesty, propriety,
&c. of an action. Under the third they arranged all arguments concerning the relations, accidents, and consequences of things. I am far, however, from thinking these sufficient for all the purposes of an orator, or that they can be suited to the circumstances of every subject. This method may produce declaimers, but can never form a good orator; they may, however, be consulted with advantage, especially by lawyers; and you will find them in Aristotle, Cicero in his book De Inventione, his Topica, the 2d De Oratore, and Quinctilian. Any person who inclines to see them in English may consult Dr. Ward's System of Oratory.
The arrangement of your arguments must also depend upon the subject, the audience and the object to be achieved, and must be altogether under the regulation of your own taste and judgment. You will pursue the analytical or synthetical method according to circumstances. In other respects the following instructions may be useful:
1st. When you prepare the argumentative part of your discourse, place yourself in the situation of a hearer, and consider what arguments would have the greatest effect in convincing yourself. As human nature is every where much the same, so it is most probable these arguments will have much the same effect on others.
2d. You must never rest satisfied with pleasing your audience; they may be pleased when they are persuaded there is not a sentence of truth in your oration. In this part therefore of the discourse the speaker should particularly labour to convince, and reserve the entertaining part for the peroration.
3dly. The topics of your discourse should never be blended in a confused manner; this is so evident that the mention of it is sufficient.
4thly. Your arguments should be so arranged as to support each other; if you are doubtful of your cause, and have but one argument of any strength, place that one in the front, and enlarge upon it, in order to prejudice your hearers in your favour; for if you begin with those that have but little or no force, they will imme
diately conclude that your reasoning is weak and feeble; but if your subject is clear, and your case a good one, commence with those arguments that are more feeble, and make them grow in strength, or, in technical language, rise in a climax; if you have any circumstances which seem trifling, but which yet cannot be conveniently omitted, Cicero judiciously advises to put them in the middle, where they will be least observed; when your arguments are all weak and feeble, the best way is to take them in a mass, as they will be more strong than when they are separate; but if they are clear and convincing, it is best to take them separately, that each of them may appear in its clearest light, and have its full effect.
5thly. Never extend an argument to too great a length; this only burdens the memory without influencing the judgment; it takes from the vis and acumen, which is the best characteristic of talent; and rather let your hearers suppose that something is left to their own fancy and judgment, than that you have entirely exhausted the subject.
The last part of an oration is the peroration or conclusion. This, like all the others, will vary according to the subject, the circumstances, and the genius of the speaker. The best in general, the most useful, and at the same time most common, is a short and forcible recapitulation of the principal arguments, with the inference which the speaker intended to be deduced from them. Men of genius will however by no means confine themselves to this one description of peroration. The vivacity of their imaginations will, as frequently as the circumstances of the case, induce them to take a different course. If an appeal can in this part of the oration be made to the passions of the audience, it seldom fails of a happy effect. But the subject should completely authorize it, for nothing is more truly disgusting than affected pathos; and it should not be abruptly introduced, but should be a continuation of something of the same description which preceded. Bishop Sherlock is very happy in his perorations; and I do not
know a finer passage than that which is quoted by Bishop Lowth in his Grammar, and afterwards by Dr. Blair, as an example of the prosopopoeia...." Go to your natural religion," &c.
Dr. Ogden has also displayed a happy talent in this as well as in every branch of the rhetorical art. I transcribe almost at random the conclusion of his thirteenth sermon on the Articles of the Christian Faith.
"Let this suffice. Embrace the offer of life; fly from the wrath to come. You know not the plan of infinite government, what the order of God's universe admits, what eternal wisdom counsels, or supreme rectitude requires. Say not within yourselves, If he desires that I should be happy, he can make me so. He can do every thing that is right and fit to be done; and nothing more. He desires you to be happy, and it is therefore he does so much, and, for any thing you know, all he can do, to effect it. He is your friend and your father: but, in this respect, like your parents upon earth; he can only lament over your calamities, if resist his goodness, and are resolved to perish in spite of all the efforts of omnipotence.
"For your own sake, and for the sake of those who love you, not only on earth, but above, the blessed angels, the Holy Trinity, return to yourself, to a sound mind, to the exercise of piety, and the practice of all virtue there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth."
I cannot however give you a finer instance of a spirited peroration, than the conclusion of Mr. Burke's address on the hustings at Bristol, when he declined the election in 1780, and with this I shall conclude my letter; only adding one observation, that the short address from which it is extracted is one of the most precious specimens of eloquence that ancient or modern times. have recorded....
"It has been usual for a candidate who declines, to take his leave by a letter to the sheriffs; but I received your trust in the face of day, and in the face of day! accept your dismission. I am not.....I am not at all
ashamed to look upon you; nor can my presence dis-, compose the order of business here. I humbly and respectfully take my leave of the sheriffs, the candidates, and the electors, wishing heartily that the choice may be for the best, at a time which calls, if ever time did call, for the service that is not nominal. It is no plaything you are about. I tremble when I consider the trust I have presumed to ask. I confided perhaps too much in my intentions. They were really fair and upright; and I am bold to say, that I ask no ill thing for you, when, on parting from this place, I pray, that whoever you choose to succeed me, may resemble me exactly in all things, excepting my abilities to serve, and my fortune to please you."