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of blooming youth and honorable age; of those who look to be led nearer the acme of human attainments, and of those who demand our accordance in the great principles with which they are familiar.
The infant, but far-famed institution with which you are connected, demands the attention of such minds, so cultivated; for in this great republic thousands are looking to the WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY, as to a radiant point, from which should diverge, in all directions, the rays of deep literature and correct philosophy. Nor does the object that unites the society which I particularly address, claim too much when it calls into requisition the highest powers that grace the assembly—this object consisting in that wondrous art by which one mind is made to animate a thousand-by which one individual melts and moulds the spell-bound throng that hear him into his own manner of conceiving and purposes of acting.
This art, which is called ELOQUENCE, has been cultivated by the most highly endowed minds of which the history of our race speaks. It has achieved deeds at which the world wondered, and by which the destinies of nations were swayed. This art received more attention, and wrought greater feats, when Greece was young and vigorous, and when Rome was powerful and classic, than during the long chain of ages that has succeeded those illustrious periods.
And though a land of liberty furnishes the only soil in which eloquence can bud and bloom, it has never received an attention in the new world, proportioned to the measureless sway it is capable of exerting. In our times it seems to be too generally assumed that a speaker becomes eloquent as a season becomes fruitful, depending neither on the goodness of the seed deposited, nor on the skill and diligence of the cultivator; but on hidden causes entirely within the control of mysterious power. Or, on the other hand, the most arduous labor has been bestowed to furnish qualifications which nature alone can give; while those attainments which the most protracted life is not too long to make, have been expected to flow, unsought, from the hand of nature.
Now, that something may be contributed toward rightly directing efforts to accomplish this great object, permit me to glance at what belongs to nature, and what to art, in furnishing an orator.
When I affirm that the intonations of the voice, and the gesticu. lations of the speaker, depend on art only to correct what is wrong, I merely repeat what has often been insisted on by the greatest masters of rhetoric.
If he speaks the most eloquently who speaks the most naturally, then whatever makes his manner less natural, makes the orator less eloquent. Nature, then, so far as manner is concerned, furnishes the only correct standard of eloquence; whatever, therefore, adds to simple nature, or diminishes its powers, derogates from the standard of good speaking. Every attempt to improve nature embarrasses her; for if it be not entirely useless, because utterly inefficient, it must be positively injurious.
Is it, then, demanded why the prince of Grecian orators deemed himself unfit for the forum, until he had passed the mirror and seaside training? Why the master spirits of every age have insisted on the most rigid discipline for the future orator? The only correct answer is, that Demosthenes, in all this training, aimed not at improving nature, but at disenthralling her-not to make his gesticulations artificial, or less natural, but more accordant with nature-not to rise above nature, but to free her from that awkwardness induced by early embarrassment not to teach his voice when to rise, and when to fall, but to give it strength and clearness, by vigorous exercise. Indeed, the only legitimate object of all such training, is not to acquire what is right, but to remove what is wrong.
But who, among all the thousands destined to act as public speakers, have neither contracted unnatural habits, nor are yet in danger of contracting them? Here, then, is an imperious demand for rigid rules and skilful teachers.
Newton found it more difficult to unlearn the world what it had erroneously believed for a thousand years, than to teach it his vast system of truth, which is supported by the loftiest mathematical demonstration. And if we require rules and instructers in those branches which aim at improving native powers, much more do we need them where error threatens to embarrass these powers, and to unlearn that into which we have unfortunately blundered.
Indeed, if we inquire after the greatest obstacle with which the teacher of this art is called to contend, we are referred to his task of unlearning the future orator what he should never have learned.
But when the pupil has been prevented from falling into error, or when his acquired awkwardness has been removed, he has received from his instructer all that human skill can bestow. He might be furnished with a set of rules, with a view to assist nature-rules by which he should extend his arm, raise his voice, and place the emphasis; but if the corresponding feeling of his nature prompt not these, in vain are they performed mechanically: and if these feelings do prompt them, he can need no other prompter. Should a speaker turn his attention to the modulations of his voice, and to the motions of his hands, the feelings indispensable to proper tones and action will assuredly be wanting. For if the mind can attend to but one object at the same moment, and if it can feel no excitement from that to which it pays no attention, then, while it is intent on the manner of communicating, it can catch no inspiration from the matter communicated. And if the speaker's attention be divided between the manner and matter, the excitement his mind should feel from the latter, will, of course, be diminished in exact proportion as it attends to the former.
Whatever degree of attention, therefore, is given to the manner, while speaking, just so much diminishes the excitement indispensable to a proper manner.
Nature, in the work that is entirely her own, scorns all the intermeddling of art. As well may we prescribe rules by which the sorrowing widow shall weep, as to fix those by which the orator shall be eloquent. In this work nature must be left alone, free and unfettered as the circumambient air we breathe; then will the thoughts that glow, the genius that flashes, brighten and vivify all her exterior powers.
But though to correct what is wrong is all that art can do as to the management of the voice, and the action of the speaker, it can do much more in furnishing his other qualifications.
He must have at his command LANGUAGE, and language was never the gift of nature. Nature undoubtedly has her signs by which her strong emotions may be unequivocally expressed. The motion
of the hand, the tone of the voice, the look of the eye, the features of the face, and the very limbs of the body, may all be eloquent of the struggling emotions within. These are the appropriate media through which heart communes with heart; but the most mighty and admirable instrument by which mind converses with mind-by which intellect acts on intellect, is language. The very constitution of human society evidently demanded this instrument. Without it the loftiest purposes of being must have remained unaccomplished. But though language did not originate in nature, though it was contrived by human genius, or given by a miracle from heaven, nature has evidently adopted it and made it her own. Did it not corruscate with the scintillations emitted by nature, it could never be that wonder-working instrument by which the bosoms of a thousand listeners are made to glow. Did not the ardent mind of the speaker embody itself in the words which he utters, they could never possess that magic power by which they have so often acted on minds of every habit, and of every capacity.
It is this dependence which the efficacy of language has on the inspiration of the mind, together with the sympathy which mind has with mind, through the appropriate medium, that gives one word in a sentence more power than any other of all the thousands that compose a language. Other words there may be, of nearly the same import, but just so much as their force and meaning differ from the right one, will they fail to carry the entire view of the speaker to the soul of the hearer. Nor is there a less powerful charm in the right members of a sentence, than in the words of which it is composed.
It is familiar to good taste, that so entirely may a sentence be finished, as that the smallest change in any of its members, would mar the beauty of its symmetry, and break the enchantment with which it acts. The same thing is equally true, and more important with respect to a whole discourse. Where an entire discourse is made to consist of one chain to which the sentences that compose it naturally connect themselves, it is known to act on the rational faculties with a power no less captivating than that with which a well-formed sentence acts on cultivated taste.
To use language with merely grammatical correctness, can give the speaker no claims to the orator's lofty prerogative. He must use it with enchanting sweetness, and with resistless force.
He must use it so as to convince, persuade, and overpower-with perspicuity, with energy, and with elegance.
As, then, language is the magic wand, the unparalleled instrument, by which the orator achieves all that is splendid in his art, what labor is too Herculean to acquire its richest treasures? In vain may he hope to acquire them without laborz for a mind not extensively acquainted with language, not imbued with its living spirit, and enriched with its highest attributes, can never select its best terms and combine them in the most forcible manner, during the arduous labor of public address, amid the flashes of genius and the goings forth of daring thought.
But to make the highest philological attainments, is far from completing the qualifications of a speaker. These furnish the channel of communication, but not the matter to be communicated. To that Vol. VII.- January, 1836.
versatility of mind, so important to an orator, a knowledge of nature through the various sciences is indispensable.
He is to accomplish three great purposes by becoming a man of science. He acquires materials for illustration, a knowledge of the various subjects he may be called to treat, and a vigor and expansion of his mental powers.
He should be a man of science, that from its vast storehouse he may draw materials for the purposes of illustration. Addressing men of every art and of every science, he should be able to avail himself of all the facts and truths which they furnish the literary world. That in which a man is deeply interested, and with which he is most familiar, is to him the most striking illustration of whatever may be inculcated. Hence, from the business followed, and the objects pursued by the various ranks of men, the orator should be qualified to collect materials for illustration, and so lay under contribution, to his great purpose, every object within the grasp of his thoughts and the compass of his research. He should be able to draw his com. parisons, and borrow his imagery from the deepest wonders of art, and the grandest scenes of nature—from the darkest chambers of mind, and the loftiest mount of science. Not only should he be able to arm himself with the materials for comparison and imagery, and for description, furnished by the newly created substances of chemistry, the wondrous laws of hydraulics, the mysterious operations of magnetism, the wonder-working electric fluid, and all the arts that compel material nature to execute human purposes; but he should be able to press into his service the spirit of the whirlwind and the torrent of the lightning; the growl of the ocean and the thunder of the heavens; the bloom of the rose and the beams of the morning, together with the deep feelings of kindred spirits and the bright flashes of lofty minds. When he has explored this broad field, in which mind was never capable of satiety, there await his bidding figures of every form, and flowers of every hue.
The orator should also have a knowledge of science, because it is indispensable to qualify him for the subject on which he may be called to speak. Without knowledge commensurate to his subject, his wit might sparkle, his fancy paint, and his genius flash, but his arguments might never be invincible. How, for example, as a statesman, can he intelligently speak concerning a proposed improvement of a hydraulic, pneumatic, or geological character, without some scentific attainments? How, as a physician, on the causes and cures of diseases, without knowing the structure of the human frame, and the chemical properties of the proposed remedy? How, as a lawyer, without some acquaintance with the principles of those arts which the various causes be pleads may involve? Or how, as a preacher, without some comprehensive view of the natural sciences, to which the book he explains so constantly alludes?
But his mind should be fraught with scientific knowledge especially, because he needs the vigor and expansion obtained by acquiring such knowledge. The mental, like the corporeal powers, become vigorous in proportion as they are exercised. And, assuredly, we can need no new argument to prove that mental vigor, consisting in acuteness of perception, fixedness of attention, tenacity of memory, and vivacity of imagination, is to the orator an indispensable qualification, if he would be lastingly successful. Now, though mental vigor is nature's gift, its improvement is the fruit of making large scientific acquirements; for the arduous exercise of the mind, and the increasing strength of its powers, are well known to stand in the order of cause and effect.
And what intellectual labor could so thoroughly discipline the mind, as the acquiring of those sciences which require habits of the closest attention, and of strictly consecutive thought.
Mathematics, for instance, that intellectual cathartic, cannot fail to impart mental health and vigor. What mind can trace its endless golden chain, link by link, from almost nothing, out to infinity, and not learn to think in higher style ?
Held in communion with these pure and immutable truths, the mind loses its imbecility, and ascends to empire, over the dominion of nature. And having acquired an acuteness, which this most perfect of the sciences alone could render, the mind is prepared to be amplified, by ascending to the regions of astronomy. There, it accustoms itself to make worlds and systems the play ground of its thoughts—to take in, not only those bodies which creative power has stationed around the sun, but through our far-looking instruments, to wander over the very outskirts of Jehovah's dominion to make four hundred millions of worlds the field it explores. A mind thus employed cannot but grasp in its enlarged embrace the totality of the subject which it may discuss. Now what is affirmed of the improving influence of these two branches of science, on the mind, is no less true of the tendency of all other branches. For not only will our acquaintance with the beauty, order, and harmony of nature, be more accurate and extensive, as the range of our knowledge becomes broader, but the grasp of our intellectual powers will be proportionally strengthened.
All the phenomena of mind and matter are doubtless referrible to a few general principles; for, as our knowledge of nature has enlarged, the number of principles, under which we class its operations, has diminished, and the same result may be expected through all the progress of human knowledge, up to the utmost limit it is destined to reach.
Hence, by following nature into all her penetrable secrets, that mental power by which we generalize, is signally improved—that intellectual command, by which objects apparently various, are ordered into one class, under the same principle, is much extended.
And how important to the orator is the power rapidly to classify ---to trace particular truths to general truths—single acts and feelings to a broad and pervading principle, no elevated order of talent can be needful to show.
For every additional principle, on which science rests, with which the orator becomes acquainted, while it is another key to admit him to new intellectual treasures, and a magic power, by which another feature in the face of the universe is unveiled to him, is also a new accession of mental energy. And, indeed, the mind deeply acquainted with all these great principles, becomes itself the place within the limits of which the universe lies—a place in which revolve, in miniature, all the ages of time—a place in which are witnessed, in epitome, all the past and future operations of nature. Now, it is this com
grasp of nature which elevates intellect above the fogs of sense and passion, to that towering summit, ever bright with the eternal splendor of reason.