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· HAVING read your Lucubrations of the 10th instant, I cannot but entirely agree with you
your notions of the scarcity of men who can either read or speak. For my part, I have lived these thirty years in the world, and yet have observed but a very few who could do either in any tolerable manner ; among which few you must understand that I reckon myself. How far eloquence set off with the proper ornaments of voice and gesture will prevail over the passions, and how cold and unaffecting the best oration in the world would be without them, there are two remarkable instances in the case of Ligarius and that of Milo. Cæsar had condemned Ligarius. He came indeed to hear what might be said; but, thinking himself his own master, resolved not to be biassed by any thing Cicero could say in his behalf: but in this he was mistaken ; for when the orator began to speak, the hero is moved, he is vanquished, and at length the criminal absolved. It must be observed, that this famous orator was less renowned for his courage than his eloquence ; for though he came, at another time, prepared to defend Milo with one of the best orations that antiquity has produced, yet being seized with a sudden fear, by seeing some armed men surrounding the Forum, he faltered in his speech, and became unable to exert that irresistible force and beauty of action which would have saved his client, and for want of which he was condemned to banishment. As the success the former of these orations met with appears chiefly owing to the life and graceful manner with which it was recited (for some there are who think it may be read without transport), so the latter seems to have failed of success for no other reason but because the orator was
not in a condition to set it off with those ornaments. It must be confessed, that artful sound will with the crowd prevail even more than sense ; but those who are masters of both will ever gain the admiration of all their hearers : and there is, I think, a very natural account to be given of this matter ; for the sensation of the head and heart are caused in each of these parts by the outward organs of the eye and ear : that, therefore, which is conveyed to the understanding and passions by only one of these organs, will not affect us so much as that which is transmitted through both*. I cannot but think your charge is just against a great part of the learned clergy of Great-Britain, who deliver the most excellent discourses with such coldness and indifference, that it is no great wonder the unintelligent many of their congregations fall asleep. Thus it happens that their orations meet with a quite contrary fate to that of Demosthenes you mentioned; for as that lost much of its beauty and force by being repeated to the magistrates of Rhodes without the winning action of that great orator, so the performances of these gentlemen never appear with so little grace, and to so much disadvantage, as when delivered by themselves from the pulpit. Hippocrates' being sent for to a patient in this city, and having felt his pulse, inquired into the symptoms of his distemper; and finding that it proceeded in great measure for want of sleep, advises his patient, with an air of gravity, to be carried to church to hear a sermon, not doubting but that it would dispose him for the rest he wanted. If some of the rules Horace gives for the theatre were (not improperly) applied to our pulpits, we should not hear a sermon prescribed as a good opiate.
* See Tat. No. 66. and notes : No. 68. ad fin. and No. 72.
y • C'est un conte, que l'on attribue à diverses personnes, et qui, à mon avis, vient originairement de Rabelais
. Voici ce que dit cet Auteur, liv. i. chap. 41. Gargantua ne pouvoit dormir en quelque façon qu'il se mit. Dont lui dit le moine ; je ne dors jamais à mon aise si non quand je suis à sermon, &c. Je vous supplie commençons vous et moi les sept psaumes, pour voir si tantot ne serez endormi. L'invention plut très bien à Gargantua, et commençant le premier psaume, sur le pointe de Beatiquorum, s'endormirent et l'un et l'autre. On sait que ce conte est de tous les tems et de tous les païs.' Le Nouvelliste Philosophe.
Si vis me flere, dolendum est
HOR. Ars Poet. 10%. If you would have me weep, begin the strain. FRANCIS. • A man must himself express some concern and affection in delivering his discourse, if he expects his auditory should interest themselves in what he proposes. For otherwise, notwithstanding the dignity and importance of the subject he treats of; notwithstanding the weight and argument of the discourse itself; yet too many will say,
Male si mandata loquéris,
Hor. Ars Poet. 104. But if, unmov'd, you act not what you say, I'll sleep, or laugh the lifeless theme away. • If there be a deficiency in the speaker, there will not be a sufficient attention and regard paid to the thing spoken : but, Mr. Bickerstaff, you know that as too little action is cold, so too much is fulsome. Some indeed may think themselves accomplished speakers, for no other reason than because they can be loud and noisy; for surely Stentor? must have some design in his vociferations. But, dear Mr. Bickerstaff, convince them, that as harsh and irregular sound is not harmony, so neither is banging a cushion, oratory: and therefore, in my humble opinion, a certain divine a of the first order, whom I allow otherwise to be a great man, would do well to leave this off; for I think his sermons would be more persuasive if he gave his auditory less disturbance. Though I cannot say that this action would be wholly improper to a profane oration ; yet I think, in a religious assembly, it gives a man too warlike, or perhaps too theatrical, a figure to be suitable to a Christian congregation. I am, Sir, London, Sept. 15, 1709.
z. On doit se souvenir que ce Stentor est toujours le Sacheverel, qui par ses prédications cherchoit à emouvoir le peuple, et à causer du trouble dans l'état. Le N. P.
Your humble servant, &c.'
The most learned and ingenious Mr. Rosehat is also pleased to write to me on this subject.
* I READ with great pleasure in the Tatler of Saturday last the conversation upon eloquence : permit me to hint to you one thing the great Roman orator observes upon this subject : Caput enim arbitrabatur oratoris, (he quotes Menedemus, an Athenian, ut ipsis apud quos ageret talis qualem ipse optaret videretur ; id fieri vitæ dignitate. (Tull. de Orat.) It is the first rule in oratory, that a man must appear such as he would persuade others to be; and that can be accomplished only by the force of his life. I believe it might be of great service to let our public orators know, that an unnatural gravity, or an unbecoming levity in their behaviour out of the pulpit, will take very much from the force of their eloquence in it. Excuse another scrap of Latin ; it is from one of the fathers. I think it will appear a just observation to all, as it may have authority with some :
Bishop Burnet. 'Je ne sais si pour plaire aux tous, et pour montrer l'impartialité de ses jugemens, l'auteur n'auroit point ici en vue le Dr. Burnet, évêque de Salisbury, qui prêchoit de méditation, et par consequent le faisoit toujours avec un grand feu. Le Nouv. Phil.
Qui autem docent tantùm, nec faciunt, ipsi præceptis suis detrahunt pondus : quis enim obtemperet, cum ipsi præceptores doceant non obtemperare? Those who teach, but do not act agreeably to the instructions they give to others, take away all weight from their doctrine: for who will obey the precepts they inculcate, if they themselves teach us by their practice to disobey them ? • I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
JONATHAN ROSEHAT. · P.S. You were complaining in that paper that the clergy of Great Britain had not yet learned to speak : a very great defect indeed; and therefore I shall think myself a well-deserver of the church, in recommending all the dumb clergy to the famous speaking doctor at Kensington'. This ingenious gentleman, out of compassion to those of a bad utterance, has placed his whole study in the new modelling the organs of voice ; which art he has so far advanced, as to be able even to make a good orator of a pair of bellows. He lately exhibited a specimen of his skill in this way, of which I was informed by the worthy gentlemen then present; who
b Dr. Jonathan Swift was probably the author of this letter and P. S. They might have been parts of his essay on · Eloquence and Action,' thrown into this form by Steele.
c After what has been said in preceding notes, it seems but fair to ob serve that the person here alluded to might not be really ridiculous, although actually ridiculed. He was perhaps very serviceable in assisting people to surmount various impediments of speech ; or he might practise very laudably an ingenious and useful art which had been discovered about half a century before, and teach deaf and dumb people to read and speak, See an account of this discovery, and of the dispute about the honour of its invention, between Dr. Wallis and Dr. Holder, in the Biogr. Brit. art. Wallis, notes A A and B B; and in a little volume, by a parent whose son had experienced the utility of this art, under the title of Vox Oculis Subjecta, published in 1783, svo. C.
The famous speaking doctor,' here ridiculed, was James Ford, who professed the art of curing stammering, and removing other impediments in the speech;' and taught foreigners the pronunciation of the English language. His advertisements occur in the newspapers of 1710. N.