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praises at second hand; and I am also inclined to believe that he had not heard the best effusions of our senatorial oratory. That he had never stood before the glorious torrent of Lord Chatham's eloquence, or witnessed the varied and enchanting flow of Mr. Burke's incomparable genius.

Granting however for the present Mr. Hume's conclusion to be just, there are many reasons why the exertions of antient genius should be almost exclusively directed to oratory. The ärt of printing had not given that facility to the diffusion of sentiment, which at present ex. ists. It was by oral effusions alone that the antients could hope to arrive at fame and distinc. tion. Their philosophers taught in this manner, and their statesmen openly deliberated in public assemblies. Even the history of Herodotus was recited at the Olympic games. The occasions too for the employment of eloquence were more frequent than with us. Every citizen of the free states of antiquity might address the assembly of the people upon any public occasion. The law was not a laborious study exclusively confined to those who are educated to the profession; and, as justice was ad.


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ministered generally on the vague and simple principles of natural equity, not according to forms, statutes, and precedents, any man might in a little time become completely acquainted with all that was necessary to accomplish him for a pleader. The science of the antients too was neither extensive nor profound, so that genius was not distracted by a variety of pursuits. From all these circumstances we cannot wonder that oratory was cultivated in the antient world with ardour and success.

But indeed I cannot in honesty and candour subscribe to the truth of Mr. Hume's position, that the antients were every thing, and that we are nothing in this art. Whether the antients excelled or not in extempore speaking, this at least we know, that the specimens of their eloquence which have been transmitted to us are studied compositions. Now to compare these with any unpremeditated effusion which we may happen to hear in the British şenate, is scarcely fair; and yet I declare I have heard speeches there which would not lose in a com, parison with the best of Cicero or Demosthenes. The vehement and impressive oratory of Mr. Fox, the wit and pathos of Mr. Sheridan; and

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the choice and polished elocution of Mr. Pitt, might vie with any thing to be found in these celebrated models of eloquence.

But we have even a fairer and more certain criterion. Let any unprejudiced critic compare those specimens which the masters of eloquence among ourselves have condescended to publish, with the productions of the antients, and let him determine for himself. I protest I find more genius and fancy, more knowledge of human nature, and a far greater proportion of wit, in the published speeches of Mr. Burke, than in any of the works of the antient orators;

; and if chaste and correct eloquence is what he requires, I can only advise him to hear the pre

I sent Chancellor of the Exchequer, * even when he speaks without premeditation; or to peruse a speech which was published some years ago by himself, or some of his friends, on the abo. lition of the slave trade.

I am not wishing to depreciate the antients, who certainly have cultivated eloquence with a success which could scarcely have been expected at so early a period; but I cannot endure that the merit of the moderns should be wantonly underrated, through a blind veneration for the excellent of former times. Rely upon it, there is no tbeatre more favourable for the exertions of eloquence than a British house of commons, nor any, where it has been more successfully studied or employed.

* This was written during Mr. Pitt's administration

The occasions, as I have just mentioned, were more frequent, for the exertion of eloquence, among the antients than among ourselves. Except a particular opportunity which a public meeting of the people may casually present, the only theatres of oratory are the parliament, the bar, and the pulpit. In the two former the orations are chiefly, if not altogether, extempore. In the latter the practice is at present almost exclusively confined to studied compositions.

In the remainder of this letter I shall endeavour to propose a few rules for parliamentary eloquence, and I shall also briefly consider the eloquence of the bar, which will include all that is to be offered on the subject of extempore oratory

1st. I should be sorry to discourage any young man of genius from attempting to speak in parliament;- but to use a parliamentary phrase, I would caution him against “ committing himself” too soon. A laugh once raised against a modest man perhaps disarms him for


Yet a young member must not be too fastidious. Mr. Gibbon, when he first entered the house of commons undoubtedly intended to speak; and I cannot doubt but if he could have subdued the first impulse of modesty, he would have spoken incomparably; but the fact was, that waiting too long for a fit occasion to display his talents, he sunk into utter indolence or despair; and thus the senate of Great Britain was deprived of a genius, which would probably have been its brightest ornament. Dr. Johnson (who was indeed an older man) felt more confidence in himself, and regretted that Lord North, at the solicitation of Mr. Thrale, had not afforded him an opportunity of displaying his talents. I have not a doubt but he would have acquitted himself admirably ; for the style of Dr. Johnson in conversation was as pointed, and nearly as correct as in his publications. Lord Chesterfield, who knew mankind, and the houses of parliament in particu

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