Page images

country no man, thanks to the genius of our institutions, is precluded from delivering his sentiments with freedom upon any topic which it may be deemed expedient to consider, and the person who speaks well is sure never to miss applause, for by the aid of oratory useful truths are promulgated with effect. In order to succeed, however, natural abilities require the assistance of art. It is absurd to imagine that art imposes any fetters upon genius; she aids and directs it.

Opinions differ as to the value of the ancient rhetorical writers. Lord Macaulay, in his essay, "On the Athenian Orators," thought that the ancient writers upon the subject of oratory would afford us but little assistance. He says when they particularise they are generally trivial; and when they would generalise they became indistinct. He says that while Aristotle was a great philosopher he was without imagination, and that in Quintilian he can look for nothing but rhetoric, and rhetoric not of the highest order. Quintilian, undoubtedly, speaks coldly of Eschylus, while he warmly praises the plays of Euripides, and makes other erroneous judgments of the great classical writers of antiquity. With the merits of Cicero, every school-boy is familiar.

Longinus gives us no general rules. He gives us, however, many eloquent sentences, and Macaulay suggests very pertinently that "The Sublimities of Longinus" would be a better title for his treatise than "Longinus on the Sublime."

It may be doubted, however, whether any compositions which have ever been produced since the dawn of civilisation are equally perfect in their kind with the best orations of antiquity. From these the author has drawn freely.

Bare allusion is made to the history of oratory in other countries than those in which we have given an account of it. The small opportunity afforded for a display of senatorial or forensic oratory by the different governments of Germany has almost entirely checked its growth in that country, and the same remark is applicable to Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

The difficulty which the author has experienced in selecting representative orators has been very great. He is aware of the fact that many eloquent men are not included whose lives would prove interesting and instructive.

The author ventures to indulge the hope that the noble lives he has put on record will act like an inspiration to others, for one of the great lessons of biography is to show what man can do by the development of his latent talents, and in this way the lives of great men are useful as guides, helps, and incentives to others. The splendour and variety of the lives of distinguished men make it somewhat difficult to distinguish the portion of time which ought to be admitted into history, from that which should be given to biography. These two parts are so distinct and unlike that they cannot be confounded without great injury to both; either when the writer of biography obscures the portrait of an individual by a crowded picture of events, or when the historian allows unconnected narratives of the lives of men to break the thread of history. The author belives that the biographer never ought to introduce public events except so far as they are necessary to the illustration of character, and that' the historian should rarely digress in biographical particulars except as far as they contribute to the clearness of his narrative of occurrences.

The lives of the subjects of the following sketches cannot become too well known on account of the usefulness of their examples..

NEW YORK, July, 1896.

H. H.



[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

O trace the history of eloquence from its first rude. origin through the various ramifications of human genius; to mark the powers, the characters of the many orators, in the different ages of society, who have employed with success this fascinating art, would be a pleasing task. It would be instructive even to pursue the science as long as the records of civilised man permit, and to trace the progress of oratory from Pericles to the present time. But unfortunately the materials for such a critical investigation are few. The best effusions of oratory are but winged words. The music, the cadence, the action, with which they were graced, are lost, and even the substance of very few of the orations of antiquity are transmitted to us.

Not many of the orations of Demosthenes have outlived the depredations of time. It is a well known fact that Cicero, for many years, spoke almost daily in public, and yet a very small proportion of his numerous orations were committed to writing.

Oratory was, undoubtedly, studied and practised with considerable effect from almost the earliest periods. This


« PreviousContinue »