Billeder på siden

terature, no pomp of erudition; he seldom quotes, but rather produces the ideas of other men in his own words, contrary to the fashionable practice of cloathing our own thoughts in the peculiar phraseology of books. In point of wit, I do not think either of them deficient, though they are prudent in the use of it. Mr. Fox seldom descends from the earnestness and dignity of his declamation to light or trivial remarks; and yet Mr. Pitt's oratory is not disgraced by that elegant irony, that polished ridicule, in which he sometimes indulges himself and his hearers. The candid of all parties agree in allowing to Mr. Pitt the happiest choice of words that graces any senator in either house; but I confess I was surprized to find the editor of Bellendenenus attribute, in unqualified terms, this excellence to Mr. Fox. The style of Mr. Pitt is in general so correct, that the auditor is almost induced to fancy he hears the studied composition of some masterly writer. The language of Mr. Fox is indeed generally forcible and expressive, but it is by no means so elegant, select, and harmonious, as that of his more finished rival. If fluency be a mark

of genius, in this too Mr. Pitt has the advan. tage. His words flow rapidly, but easily, without difficulty or hesitation ; on the contrary, Mr. Fox frequently hesitates, sometimes recals his words, and seems dubious which to make choice of; and though a very rapid speaker, his rapidity appears rather the effect of passion than imagination. With respect to manner, Mr. Pitt at first appears to have greatly the advantage; but Mr. Fox compensates in vivacity for his want of elegance, and though less graceful, is perhaps more interesting than Mr. Pitt. Mr. Pitt's voice is a full tenor, and his modulation is harmonious. Mr. Fox's is a treble, and his enunciation is affected by an occasional lisp. He soon teaches us, however, to forget these defects. His is both the language and the expression of nature, and without gratify. ing the eye, or charming the ear of his audi. tors, he commands their affections.

“ Such appears to me to be the general character of each of these distinguished speakers. I have seen each of them occasionally bear away the palm from his competitor, and I have observed each fall greatly below the standard of his own merit, when defending a bad cause; a decisive proof that ingenuity and command of words will not alone form an orator, but that there must be a good foundation of truth and argument; or the most splendid harangue is but blossom without fruit; a mere shadow of eloquence without substance or effect."


Eloquence of the Pulpit.

MY DEAR JOHN, In this country there is only one department of eloquence which admits of a precomposed discourse, and that is the eloquence of the pulpit. I have formerly remarked that we have reason to believe the antients frequently, if not generally, composed their public orations before-hand, and recited them either from memory or from notes; and all those orations which were pronounced in the rhetorical schools, either as exercises, or displays of talent, were composed with great study and care. I have observed that the French advocates, before the Revolution, were also in the habit of committing all their pleadings to writing. But in our senate, and at our bar, where skilful debaters are of more value and weight than mere declaimers, where argument has more force than ornament, such a practice would be ridiculed as formal and pedantic.

The practice therefore of precomposing a popular address, is with us confined almost exclusively to the pulpit. The principles which have been already advanced on the subject of didactic composition, and also relative to the parts of a discourse, will almost all apply to what is called a Sermon, which you see literally means a discourse, from the Latin Sermo.

Whatever there is peculiar to this form of composition will appear further, if we take a short view of the origin and progress of pulpit eloquence.

In the primitive church, from the earliest period, a custom prevailed, which may indeed be ultimately traced to the Jewish, though the time of its introduction into the latter is not clearly ascertained. One of the most distin. guished members of the congregation (usually the bishop or presbyter) read a portion of scripture, selected for the service of the day, and proceeded with a general explanation or ex. position of what had been read, concluding with a practical exhortation. These exhorta

a tions were brief and unadorned, and were some

« ForrigeFortsæt »