« ZurückWeiter »
moment, and upon which instruction is both necessary and useful. By disposition, as a part of the oratorial art, I mean order in general in the whole of a discourse or any kind of composition, be it what it will. As to the parts of which a single speech or oration consists, they will be afterwards considered. Before I proceed to explain or point out the way to attain good order, I would just mention a few of its excellencies.
Ist. Good order in a discourse gives light, and makes it easily understood. If things are thrown together with out method, each of them will be less understood, and then joint influence in leading to a conclusion will not be perceived. It is a noble expression of Horace, who calls it lucidos ordo, clear order. It is common to say,
when we hear a confused discourse. " It had neither head nor tail, I could not understand what he would be at." (2) Order is necessary to force as well as light; this indeed is a necessary consequence of the other, for we shall never be persuaded by what we do not understand. Very often the force of reasoning depends upon the united influence of several distinct propositions. If they are ranged in a just order, they will all have their effect and support one another; if otherwise, it will be like a number of men attempting to raise a weight, and one pulling at one time and another at another, which will do just nothing; but if all exert their power at once, it will be easily overcome.
Third. Order is also necessary for assisting memory. Order is necessary even in a discourse that is to have a transient effect; but if any thing is intended to produce a lasting conviction, and to have a daily influence, it is still more necessary when things are disposed in a proper order, the same concatenation that is in the discourse takes place in the memory, so that when one thing is remembered, it immediately brings to rememberance what has an easy and obvious connexion with it. The association of idea linked together by any tie is very remarkable in our constitution, and is supposed to take place from some impression made upon the brain. If we have seen two persons but
once, and seen them both at the same time only, or at the same place only, the remembrance of the one can hardly be separated from the other. I may also illus- . trate the subject by another plain instance. Suppose I desire a person going to the city to do two or three things
them to an engraver
for me that are wholly unconnected, as to deliver a letter to one person-to visit a friend of mine, and to bring me notice how he is to buy a certain book for me if he can find it--and to see whether any ship be to sail to Bri. tain soon, it is
very possible he may remember some of them, and forget the others; but if I desire him to buy
; me a dozen of silver
carry to put my name upon them, and get a case to put them in, if he remembers one article it is likely he will remember all of them. It is one of the best evidences that a dis. course has been composed with distinctness and accuracy, if after you go away you can remember a good deal of it; but there are sometimes discourses which are pompous and declamatory,and which you hear with pleasure, and some sort of approbation, but if you attempt to recollect the truths advanced, or the arguments in support of them, there is not a trace of them to be found.
Fourth. Order conduce's also very much to beauty. Order is never omitted, when men give the principles of beauty, and confusion is disgustful just on its own account, whatever the nature of the confused things may be; If y you were to see a vast heap of fine furniture, of different kinds, lying in confusion, you could neither perceive half so distinctly what was there, nor could it at all have such an effect, as if every thing was disposed in a just order, and placed where it ought to stand; nay, a much smaller quantity, elegantly disposed, would exceed in grandeur of appearance chief of the most costly things in nature.
Fifth. Order is also necessary to brevity. A confused discourse is almost never short, and is always filled with repetitions. It is with thought, in this respect, as with things visible : for to return to the former similitude. A confused heap of goods or furniture fills much more room than when it is ranged and classed in its proper order, and every thing carried to its proper place.
Having shewn the excellence of precision and method, let us next try to explain what it is, and that I
have some regard to method while I am speaking of the very subject, I shall take it in three lights. (1st) There must be an attention to order in the disposition of the whole piece. Whatever the parts be in themselves, they have also a relation to one another, and to the whole body (if I may speak so) that they are to compose. Eve-; ry work, be it what it will, history, epic poem, dramatic
poem, oratory, epistle, or essay, is to be considered as a whole, and a clearness of judgment in point of method will decide the place and proportion of the several parts of which they are composed. The loosest essay, or where form is least professed or studied, ought yet to have some shape as a whole, and we may say of it, that it begins abruptly or ends abruptly, or some of the parts are misplaced. There are often to be seen pieces in which good things are said, and well said and have only this fault, that they are unseasonable and out of place. Horace says, in his art of poetry, what is equally applicable to every sort of composition. “Donique sit quod vis simplex duntaxat et unum" and shortly after, só In felix ope. ris summa, quia porere totum nesciet.”
This judgement in planning the whole will particularIy enable a person to determine both as to the place and proportion of the different parts, whether they be not only good in themselves, but fit to be introduced in such a work, and it will also (if I may speak so) give a colour to the whole composition. The necessity of order in the whole structure of a piece shows, that the rule is good which is given by some, that an orator, before he begins his discourse, should concentrate the subject as it were, and reduce it to one single proposition, either expressed, or at least conceived in his mind. Every thing should grow out of this as its root, if it be in another principle to be explained; or refer to this as its end, if it be a point to be gained by persuasion. Having thus stated the point clearly to be handled, it will afford a sort of criterion whether any thing adduced is proper or improper. It will suggest the topics that are just and suitable, as well as enable us to reject whatever is in substance improper, or in size disproportionate to the design. Agreeably to this principle, I think that not only the subject of a single discourse should be reduceable to one proposition, but the general divisions or principal heads should not be many in number. A great number of general heads both burdens the memory, and breaks the unity of the subject, and carries the idea of several little discourses joined together or to follow after one another.
2d. Order is necessary in the subdivisions of a subject, or the way of stating and marshelling of the several portions of any general head. This is applicable to all kinds of composition, and all kinds of oratory, sermons,
law pleadings, speeches. There is always a division of the parts, as well as of the whole, either expressed formally and numerically, or supposed, though suppressed. And it is as much here as any where, that the confusion of inaccurate writers and speakers appears. It is always necessary to have some notion of the whole of a piece, and the large divisions, being more bulky, to speak, disposition in them is more easily perceived, but in the smaller, both their order and size are in danger of being less attended to. Observe, therefore, that to be accurate and just, the subdivisions of any composition, such I mean as are (for example) introduced in a numerical se. ries, 1, 2, 3, &c. Should have the following properties. (1) They should be clear and plain. Every thing indeed should be clear, as far as he can make it, but precision and distinctness should especially appear in the subdivisions, just as the bounding lines of countries in a map. For this reason the first part of a subdivision should be hke a short definition, and when it can be done, it is but expressed in a single term; for example, in giving the character of a man of
learning, I may propose to speak of his genius, his erudition, his industry, or application.
(2) They should be truely distinct; that is, every body should perceive that they are really different from one another, not in phrase or word only, but in sentiment. If you praise a man first for his judgment, and then for his understanding; they are either altogether or so nearly the same, or so nearly allied, as not to require distinction. I have heard a minister on John xvii. 11. Holy. Father, &c. in showing how God keeps his people, says, (1) He keeps their feet. He shall keep thy feet from falling. (2) He keeps their way. Thou shalt keep him. in all his ways. Now, it is plain that these are not two different things, but two metaphors for the same thing. This indeed was faulty also in another respect; for a metaphor ought not to make a division at all.
(3) Subdivisions should be necessary; that is to say, taking the word in the loose and popular sense, the subject should seem to demand them, to multiply divisions, even where they may be made really distinct, is tedious, and disgustful, unless where they are of use and importance to our clearly comprehending the meaning, or feeling the force of what is said. If a person in the map of a country should give a different colour to every three
miles, though the equality of the proportion would make the division clear enough, yet it would appear disgustingly superfluous. In writing the history of an eminent person's life, to divide it into spaces of ten years, perhaps would make the view of the whole more exact; but to divide it into single years or months would be finical and disagreeable. The increase of divisions leads almost unavoidably into tediousness.
(4) Subdivisions should be co-ordinate; that is to say, those that go on in a series, 1, 2, 3, &c. should be as near as possible
similar, or of the same kind, this rule is transgressed when either the things mentioned are wholly different in kind, or when they include one another. This will be well perceived, if we consider how a man would describe a sensible subject, a country, for example; New Jersey contains (1) Middlesex, (2) Somerset county, (3) the townships of Princton, (4) Morris county. So if one, in describing the character of a real christian, should say, faith, holiness, charity, justice, temperance, patience, this would not do, because holiness includes justice, &c. When, therefore, it seems necessary to mention different particulars, that cannot be made co-ordinate, they should be made subordinate.
(5) Subdivisions should be complete, and exhaust the subject. This indeed is common to all divisions, but is of most importance here, where it is most neglected. It
be said, perhaps, how can we propose to exhaust any subject ? By making the divisions suitable, particularly in point of comprehension, to the nature of the subject; as an example, and to make use of the image before introduced of giving an account of a country. I may say, the province of New Jersey consists of two parts, East and West Jersey. If I say it consists of the counties of Somerset, &c. I must continue till I have enumerated all the counties, otherwise the division is not complete. In the same manner in public speaking, or any other composition, whatever division is made it is not legitimate, if it does not include or exhaust the whole subject, which may be done let it be ever so great. For example: true religion may be divided various ways, so as to include the whole. I may say, that it consists of our duty to God and man, and divide the last into two subordinate heads, our neighbour and ourselves or I may say, that it consists of faith and practice or that it consists of two