« AnteriorContinuar »
own, and whose literary course pretty Pharaohs and Ptolomies, Antiochi, nearly coincided with his own in point and Arsacides! And these vast sucof time, surmounted all competition, cessions of time distinguished and figand in that amphitheatre became the ured by the uproars wbicb revolve at Protagonistæ. These were Jeremy their inaugurations-by the drums and Taylor and Sir Thomas Brown ; who, tramplings rolling overhead upon the if not absolutely the foremost in the chambers of forgotten dead-tbe treaccomplishments of art, were, un- pidations of time and mortality vexdoubtedly, the richest, the most daz- ing, at secular intervals, the everlastzling, and, with, reference to their ing Sabbaths of the grave !--Show us, matter, the most captivating of all oh pedant, such another strain from rhetoricians. In them first, and, per- the oratory of Greece or Rome ! haps, (if we except occasional passages We will not, however, attempt a desin the German John Paul Richter,) in cant upon the merits of Sir T. Brown, them only, are the two opposite forces after the admirable one by Mr. Coleof eloquent passion and rhetorical ridge : and as to Jeremy Taylor, we fancy brought into an exquisite équi- would as readily undertake to put a librium, approaching, receding-at- belt about the ocean as to charactetracting, repelling-blending, separat rize him adequately within the space ing-chasing and chased, as in a fugue, at our command. One remarkable and again lost in a delightful interfu- characteristic of his style is the eversion, so as to create a middle species lasting strife and Auctuation between of composition, more various and sti - his rhetoric and his eloquence, which mulating to the understanding than maintain their alternations with a force pure eloquence, more gratifying to the and inevitable recurrence, like the sysaffections than naked rhetoric. Un- tole and diastole—the contraction and der this one circumstance of coinci- expansion—of some living organ. For dence, in other respects their minds this characteristic he was indebted in were of the most opposite tempera-' mixed proportions to his own peculiar ment : Sir Thomas Brown deep, style of understanding, and the nature tranquil, and majestic as Milton, si- of his subject. Where the underlently premeditating, and “disclosing standing is not active and teeming, but his golden couplets," as under some possessed by a few vast and powerful genial instinct of incubation : Jeremy ideas, (which was the case of Milton,) Taylor, restless, fervid, aspiring, scat- there the funds of a varied rhetoric tering abroad a prodigality of life, not are wanting. On the other hand, unfolding but creating, with the ener where the understanding is all alive gy, and the “myriad-mindedness," with the subtlety of distinctions, and of Shakspeare. Where, but in Sir nourished (as Jeremy Taylor's was) T. B., shall one hope to find music so by casuistical divinity, the variety and Miltonic, an intonation of such solemn opulence of the rhetoric is apt to be chords as are struck in the following oppressive. But this tendency, in the opening bar of a passage in the Urn- case of Taylor, was happily checked burial—"Now, since these bones and balanced by the commanding pashave rested quietly in the grave, under sion, intensity, and solemnity of his the drums and tramplings of three exalted theme, which gave a final conquests,” &c.—What a melodious unity to the tumultuous motions of his ascent as of a prelude to some impas- intellect. The only very obvious desioned requiem breathing from the fects of J. Taylor were in the mepomps of earth, and from the sancti- chanical part of his art, in the mere ties of the grave! What a fluctus technique ; he writes like one who nedecumanus of rhetoric ! Time ex
ver revises, nor tries the effect upon pounded, not by generations of centu- his ear of his periods as musical ries, but by the vast periods of con- wholes; and in the syntax and conquests and dynasties; by cycles of nexion of the parts secms to have
been habitually careless of slight a fine oath ejaculated by a dissepting blemishes.
minister of Cambridge, who, when Jeremy Taylor* died in a few years appealing for the confirmation of his after the Restoration. Sir Thomas words to the grandeur of man's naBrown, though at that time nearly 30 ture, swore-By this and by the other, years removed from the first surrepti- and at length, " By the Iliad, by the tious edition of his Religio Medici, Odyssey”-as the climax, in a long lingered a little longer. But, when bead-roll of speciosa miracula, which both were gone, it may be truly af- he had apostrophized as monuments of firmed that the great oracles of rheto- human power. As to Foster, he has ric were finally silenced. South and been prevented from preaching by a Barrow, indeed, were brilliant dialec- complaint affecting the throat; but, ticians in different styles; but, after judging from the quality of his celeTillotson, with his meagre intellect, brated Essays, he could never have his low key of feeling, and the smug figured as a truly splendid rhetorician; and scanty draperies of his style, had for the imagery and ornamental parts announced a new era,-English divi- of his Essays have evidently not nity ceased to be the racy vineyard grown up in the loom, and concurthat it had been in ages of ferment and rently with the texture of the thoughts, struggle. Like the soil of Sicily, but have been separately added after(vide Sir H. Dary's Agricultural wards, as so much embroidery or Chemistry,) it was exhausted forever fringe. by the tilth and rank fertility of its Politics, mean time, however infegolden youth.
rior in any shape to religion, as Since then, great passions and high ally of real eloquence, might yet, eithinking have either disappeared from ther when barbed by an interest of inliterature altogether, or thrown them- tense personality, or on the very selves into poetic forms which, with opposite footing of an interest comthe privilege of a masquerade, are prehensively national, have irritated allowed to assume the spirit of past the growth of rhetoric such as the ages, and to speak in a key unknown spirit of the times allowed. In one to the general literature. At all conspicuous instance it did so; but events, no pulpit oratory of a rhetori- generally it had little effect, cal cast, for upwards of a century, has It was not until the reign of Queen been able to support itself, when Anne that the qualities and style of stripped of the aids of voice and ac- Parliamentary eloquence were submittion. Robert Hall and Edward Irv- ted to public judgment ; this was on ing, when printed, exhibit only the occasion of the trial of Dr. Sacherespasms of weakness. Nor do we re- rel, which was managed by members member one memorable burst of rhe. of the House of Commons. The toric in the pulpit eloquence of the Whigs, however, of that æra had no last 150 years, with the exception of distinguished speakers. On the Tory
* In retracing the history of English rhetoric, it may strike the reader that we have made some capital omissions. But in these he will find we have been governed by sufficient reasons. Shakspeare is no doubt a rhetorician, majorum gentium ; but he is so much more, that scarcely an instance is to be found of his rhetoric which does not pass by fits into a higher ele. nient of eloquence or poetry. The first and the last acts, for instance, of The Two Noble Kinsmen, which, in point of composition, is perhaps the most superb work in the language, and beyond all doubt from the loom of Shakspeare, would have been the most gorgeous rhetoric, had they vot happened to be something far better. The supplications of the widowed Queens to Theseus, the invocations of their tutelar divinities by Palamon and Arcile, the death of Arcite, &c. are finished in a more elaborate style of excellence than any other almost of Shakspeare's most felicitous scenes. In their first intention, they were perhaps merely rhetorical; but the furnace of composition has transmuted their substance. Indeed, specimens of mere rhetoric would be better sought in some of the other great dramatists, who are under a less fatal necessity of turning everything they touch into the pure gold of poetry. Two other writers, with great original capacities for rhetoric, we have omitted in our list froin separate considerations: we mean Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Bacon.
upon the graces of nature. rently nually in the same tone of falsetto and
side, St. John (Lord Bolingbroke) cian, in so far as he seemed to have was the most accomplished person in more artifice; but this was only in the house. His style may be easily the sonorous rotundity of his periods, collected from his writings, which which were cast in a monotonous have all the air of baving been dieta- mould; for in other respects he would ted without premeditation; and the have been keenly alive to the ridicule effect of so much showy and fluent of rhetoric in a First Lord of the declamation, combined with the graces Treasury. of his manner and person, may be in All these persons, whatever might ferred from the deep impression which be their other differences, agreed in they seem to have left upon Lord this—that they were no jugglers, but Chesterfield, himself so accomplished really were that which they appeared a judge, and so familiar with the to be, and never struggled for distinchighest efforts of the age of Mr. Pultions which did not naturally belong teney and Lord Chatham. With two to them. But next upon the roll exceptions, indeed, to be noticed pre- comes forward an absolute charlatan sently, Lord Bolingbroke came the -a charlatan the most accomplished nearest of all Parliamentary orators who that can ever have figured upon só have been particularly recorded, to intellectual a stage. This was Sherithe ideal of a fine rhetorician. It was dan-a mocking-bird through the enno disadvantage to him that he was tire scale, from the highest to the shallow, being so luminous and trans- lowest note of the gamut ; in fact, to parent; and the splendor of his peri- borrow a coarse word, the mere imodic diction, with his fine delivery, personation of humbug. Even as a compensated his defect in imagery. wit, he has been long known to be a Sir Robert Walpole was another Lord wholesale plagiarist ; and the expoLondonderry ; like him, an excellent sures of his kind biographer, Mr. statesman, and a first-rate leader of Moore, exhibit him in that line as the House of Commons, but in other the most bide-bound and sterile of respects a plain unpretending man; performers, lying perdue through a and, like Lord Londonderry," he had whole evening for a casual opportuthe reputation of a blockhead with all nity, or by miserable stratagem creeminent blockheads, and of a man of ating an artificial one, for exploding talents with those who were them- some poor starveling jest; and, in selves truly such. “When I was fact, sacrificing to this petty ambition, very young,” says Burke, “a general in a degree never before heard of, fashion told me I was to admire sorne the ease and dignity of his life. But of the writings against that minister; it is in the character of a rhetorical a little more maturity taught me as orator that he, and his friends in his much to despise them.” Lord Mans- behalf, have put forward the hollowfield, “the fluent Murray," was, or est pretensions. In the course of the would have been, but for the conden- Hastings trial, üpon the concerns of sation of law, another Bolingbroke. paralytic Begums, and ancient Ran“ How sweet an Ovid was in Murray nies, bags that, if ever actually exlost !” says Pope ; and, if the com- isting, were no more to us and our parison were suggested with any stu- British sympathies, than we to Hecudied propriety, it ascribes to Lord ba, did Mr. Sheridan make his capital Mansfield the talents of a first-rate exhibition. The real value of his rhetorician. Lord Chatham had no speech was never at any time misaprhetoric at all, any more than Charles preciated by the judicious ; for his Fox of the next generation : both attempts at the grand, the pathetic, were too fervent, too Demosthenic, and the sentimental, had been contiand threw themselves too
horrible fustian. Burke, however, came nearer to the idea of a rhetori- who was the most double-minded
person in the world, cloaked his con- vastly improved by one slight alteratempt in hyperbolical flattery; and tion, viz. omitting the two first words, all the unbappy people, who have and reading it as a conundrum. Consince written lives of Burke, adopt sidered as rhetoric, it is evidently fitthe whole for mere gospel truth. Ex- ted “ to make a horse sick ;" but, as actly in the same vein of tumid inan a conundrum in the Lady's Magazine, ity, is the speech which Mr. Sheridan we contend that it would have great puts into the mouth of Rolla the Pe- success. rurian. This the reader may chance How it aggravates the disgust with to have heard upon the stage; or, in which these paste-diamonds are now default of that good luck, we present viewed, to remember that they were him with the following fragrant twad- paraded in the presence of Edmund dle from one of the Begummiads, Burke-nay, (credite posteri!) in which has been enshrined in the jealous rivalry of his genuine and praises (si quid sua carmina possunt) priceless jewels. Irresistibly one is of many worthy critics ; the subject reroinded of the dancing efforts of is Filial Piety. Filial piety,” (Mr. Lady Blarney and Miss Carolina WilSheridan said) « it was impossible by helmina Skeggs, against the native words to describe, but description by grace of the Vicar of Wakefield's fawords was unnecessary. It was that mily :-" The ladies of the town duty which they all felt and under- strove hard to be equally easy, but stood, and which required not the without success. They swam, sprawlpowers of language to explain. It ed, languished, and frisked; but all was in truth more properly to be call- would not do. The gazers, indeed, ed a principle than a duty. It re owned that it was fine ; but neighbor quired not the aid of memory; it Flamborough observed, that Miss Lineeded not the exercise of the under- vy's feet seemed as pat to the music standing; it awaited not the slow de- as its echo.” Of Goldsmith it was liberations of reason; it flowed spon- said, in his epitaph,-Nil tetigit quod taneously from the fountain of our ornavit : of the Drury-Lane feelings; it was involuntary in our rhetorician it might be said with equal natures ; it was a quality of our being, truth, Nil tetigit quod non fuco innate and coeval with life, which, adulteravit. But avaunt, Birmingthough afterwards cherished as a pas- ham ! let us speak of a great man. sion, was independent of our mental All hail to Edmund Burke, the supowers ; it was earlier than all intel- preme writer of his century, the man ligence in our souls; it displayed it- of the largest and finest understandself in the earliest impulses of the ing! Upon that word, understanding, heart, and was an emotion of fondness we lay a stress : for oh ! ye immortal that returned in smiles of gratitude donkeys, who have written “ about the affectionate solicitudes, the tender him and about him,” with what an anxieties, the endearing attentions ex obstinate stupidity have ye brayed perienced before memory began, but away for one third of a century about which were not less dear for not be- that which ye are pleased to call his ing remembered. It was the sacra « fancy.” Fancy in your throats, ye ment of nature in our hearts, by which miserable twaddlers ! as if Edmund the union of the parent and child was Burke were the man to play with his seated and rendered perfect in the fancy, for the purpose of separable orcommunity of love; and which, nament. He was a man of fancy in strengthening and ripening with life, no other sense than as Lord Bacon was acquired vigor from the understand- so, and Jeremy Taylor, and as all ing, and was most lively and active large and discursive thinkers are and when most wanted.”—Now we put it must be : that is to say, the fancy to any candid reader, whether the which he had in common with all above Birmingham ware might not be mankind, and very probably in no emi
nent degree, in him was urged into its greater chance for being already unusual activity under the necessities familiar to the reader, upon two conof his capacious understanding. His siderations ; first, that it has all the great and peculiar distinction was that appearance of being finished with the he viewed all objects of the under- most studied regard to effect; and standing under more relations than secondly, for an interesting anecdote other men, and under more complex connected with it, wbich we have nerelations. According to the inultipli- ver seen in print, but for which we city of these relations, a man is said bave better authority than could be to have a large understanding ; ac- produced perhaps for most of those cording to their subtlety, a fine one ; which are. The anecdote is, that and in an angelic understanding, all Burke, conversing with Dr. Lawrence things would appear to be related to and another gentleman on the literary all. Now, to apprehend and detect value of his own writings, declared moral relations, or to pursue them that the particular passage in the ensteadily, is a process absolutely im- tire range of his works which had cost possible without the intervention of him the most labor, and upon which, physical analogies. To say, there- as tried by a certain canon of his own, fore, that a man is a great thinker, or his labor seemed to himself to have a fine thinker, is but another expres- been the most successful, was the folsion for saying that he has a schema- lowing : tizing (or, to use a plainer but less After an introductory paragraph accurate expression, a figurative) un which may be thus abridged—“ The derstanding. In that sense, and for crown has considered me after long that purpose, Burke is figurative : but service. The crown has paid the understood, as he has been under. Duke of Bedford by advance. He stood by the long-eared race of his cri- has had a long for any service tics, not as thinking in and by his which he may perform hereafter. He figures, but as deliberately laying is secure, and long may he be secure, them on by way of enamel or after in his advance, whether he performs ornainent,—not as incarnating, but any services or not. His grants are simply as dressing his thoughts in im- engrafted on the public law of Euagery,-so understood, he is not the rope, covered with the awful hoar of Burke of reality, but a poor fictitious innumerable ages. They are guarded Burke, modelled after the poverty of by the sacred rule of prescription. conception which belongs to his cri- The learned professors of the Rights tics.
of Man, however, regard prescription It is true, however, that in some not as a title to bar all other claimrare cases, Burke did indulge himself but as a bar against the possessor and in a pure rhetorician's use of fancy; proprietor. They hold an immemoconsciously and profusely lavishing his rial possession to be no more than an ornaments for mere purposes of effect. aggravated injustice." Then follows Such a case occurs, for instance, in the passage in question : that admirable picture of the degra “ Such are their ideas ; such their dation of Europe, where he repre- religion ; and such their law.
But as sents the different crowned heads as to our country and our race, as long bidding against each other at Basle as the well-compacted structure of our for the favor and countenance of Re- church and state, the sanctuary, the gicide. Others of the same kind holy of holies of that ancient law, dethere are in his brilliant letter on the fended by reverence, defended by Duke of Bedford's attack upon him power, a fortress at once and a temple in the House of Lords : and one of (Templum in modum arcis*), shall these we shall here cite, disregarding stand inviolate on the brow of the
* Tacitus of tho Temple of Jerusalem. 37 ATHENEUM, VOL. 2, 3d series.