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This order or arrangement one of the fathers of the art affirms to be the very order of nature." This mode of addressing an audience (says he) is dictated by nature herself; that we should say something introductory, that we should next explain the subject, that we should proceed to the proof or argument, either in confirmation of our own allegation, or in refuting what our adversary urges to the contrary; lastly, that we should conclude by a peroration;"* the meaning of which last word implies that it should be something conciliatory.
To these Dr. Blair adds, before the peroration "the pathetic parts;" but this arrangement seems chiefly applicable to a sermon. It has been represented as a trick with some popular preachers to say something pathetic immediately before the conclusion of their sermon to make the audience weep; but such orators, if indeed they are orators, are not to be imitated. When a person remarked to Swift that a Sermon which they had just heard" was very moving," he replied, "Yes, I am sorry for it, for the man is my friend."
But I have a more general reason for rejecting this arrangement of Dr. Blair. The pathetic is a quality rather than a part of a discourse, and it may be applica ble to any part, frequently to the narrative as much as any other, though I will admit that it is introduced with most effect towards the conclusion, for the orator should seem to warm as he advances; but still to prescribe that whatever is pathetic in an oration should be introduced in a particular place, would be to bind genius down to mechanical rules; and what an audience always expected would soon cease to have effect.
It will not be necessary to be very diffuse in treating of the several parts of an oration. I shall therefore pro
* "Ut aliquid ante rem dicamus, deinde ut rem exponamus: post ut eam probemus, nostris præsidiis confirmandis, contrariis refutandis; deinde ut concludamus, atque ita peroremus. Hoc dicendi genus natura ipsa præscribit."....De. Or. 1. 3. c. 13.
ceed in the order I have laid down, and first to the exordium.
This part of every discourse, as Cicero observes, is certainly founded on nature and common sense. Was any man to address his superior, whom he did not know, he would not begin his suit abruptly, without knowing whether the party addressed was well affected to him, but would endeavour first to render him propitious to what he was going to advance. Thus, in the beginning of an oration, we should endeavour to render our hearers well disposed, both to the speaker and the subject.
The introduction, says Cicero, must make the hearers docile or tractable; that is, it must render them attentive to what is to be said; but if the subject is of sufficient importance to interest the hearers, or concerns them in a particular manner, it may sometimes be omitted. The critics distinguish two kinds of introductions, one of which they call principium, and the other insinuatio. The first is a plain explication of the ora tor's motives; the second is adopted when the judges are supposed to be not well affected towards the orator or his client, and then he must endeavour to remove all prejudices, in order that his discourse may have its full effect; of this kind we have an instance in Cicero's oration against Milo, and one still better in his oration against the Agrarian law.
An introduction, says Cicero, should not be taken from common-place topics, and such as may be applied with equal propriety to a number of different subjects; as that "a desire of happiness is the desire of all men." It should indeed be immediately connected with the sucject, and lead, but not abruptly, to it. The beginning of the first letter of Junius I have always considered as a beautiful exordium.
"The submission of a free people to the executive authority of government, is no more than a compliance with laws, which they themselves have enacted. While the national honour is firmly maintained abroad, and while justice is impartially administered at home, the obedience of the subject will be voluntary, cheerful, and
I might almost say unlimited. A generous nation is grateful even for the preservation of its rights, and willingly extends the respect due to the office of a good prince into an affection for his person. Loyalty, in the heart and understanding of an Englishman, is a rational attachment to the guardian of the laws. Prejudices and passion have sometimes carried it to a criminal length; and whatever foreigners may imagine, we know that Englishmen have erred as much in a mistaken zeal for particular persons and families, as they ever did in defence of what they thought most dear and interesting to themselves. It naturally fills us with resentment to see such a temper insulted and abused."
The style of an exordium should be clear and correct. At first an audience are generally attentive to the speaker, and when they are not warmed with the discourse or subject, are more disposed to criticism. All appearance of art or inflated language must then be avoided; for in an introduction nothing hurts more than ostentation. On this account an appearance of modesty has always been thought requisite in an exordium.* Most men entertain too high an opinion of themselves to be pleased with those who assume any thing of an overbearing appearance; wherefore be cautious never to promise too much at first, for if your argument proves dull after you have raised expectation, the hearers will feel disappointment, and will consequently be displeased instead of conciliated. Every public speaker should bear in his mind the artful demeanor of the wise Ulysses in the contest with Ajax, as described in the 13th book of Ovid's Metamorphoses.....
"Donec Laertius. heros
"Atque commendatio tacite si nos infirmos & impares, &c......Est enim naturalis favor pro laborantibus; & Judex religiosus libentur patronem audit quem justiciæ suæ minimum timet."....QUINCT. 1. 4. c. 1.
Sustulit ad proceres; expectatoque resolvit
"A murmur from the multitude, "Or somewhat like a stifled shout ensued..... Till from his seat arose Laertes' son, "Look'd down awhile, and paus'd ere he begun; "Then to th' expecting audience rais'd his look, "And not without prepar'd attention spoke : "Soft was his tone, and sober was his face; "Action his words, and words his action grace. "If Heaven, great chiefs, had heard our common prayer, "These arms had caus'd no quarrel for an heir, "Still great Achilles had his own possess'd, "And we with great Achilles had been bless'd."
In your introduction never anticipate any thing that would be more properly introduced afterwards; this takes away the grace of novelty, and the force of what should follow.
Lastly, The introduction should bear a proportion both in length and kind to the discourse. Dr. Blair remarks, that a long introduction before a short discourse is as improper as a large portico before a small house; it must also be proportionate in kind, for as a finely adorned portico before a mean building, so is a flowery introduction to a flat discourse. Learned men have generally found the greatest difficulty in making introductions; for it is not easy to be plain and simple without being somewhat dry and uninteresting.
The second part is the narrative or explication. Narrative is chiefly necessary for popular assemblies, and for the bar, to state those circumstances which ought to be well understood. In sermons the word explication is used; it serves the same purpose as the narration, and in these is justly reckoned among the most difficult parts of a discourse.
In narration all superfluous circumstances must be omitted, and the best way is to represent things in a picturesque manner. Of this we have an excellent example in Swift's Essay on the Fates of Clergymen; the style should be simple but elegant. In a sermon the same rule must be observed. The explication should be clear, concise, and correct; the language plain but elegant. You must observe what light the context throws upon your discourse, and consider in what it differs from similar subjects.
The third part of a discourse is the statement or division of the argument. This generally follows the narrative, though sometimes it as properly goes before it. Some critics have been of opinion that a formal division of orations is unnecessary and improper, as it checks the passions, and breaks the unity of a discourse; but, in truth, it is only a faulty division that breaks the unity a proper division is not only consistent with unity, but even renders it more conspicuous. It also allows a resting-place to the mind, where it can reflect on what has been said, and look forward to what is to come: according to Quinctilian, it is like a man travelling upon a road which is marked with stones at every mile end; this makes his journey seem shorter than if he was always uncertain how far he had to go. It however depends upon the occasion, the subject, and the taste of the orator, whether any formal division should be proposed or not. In cases where it is adopted the following rules are recommended by writers on rhetoric....
Ist. In a good discourse the heads should be distinct, and none of them included in another.
2dly. The divisions should be ranged in their natural order; you should first begin with the most simple, and then proceed to things of greater importance.
3dly. They should exhaust the subject, otherwise the division is imperfect. You must therefore consider into what parts or divisions the subject most naturally resolves itself.