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PHILOSOPHY OF RHETORIC.
THE NATURE AND FOUNDATIONS OF ELOQUENCE.
Eloquence in the largest acceptation defined, its more general forms exhibited,
with their different objects, ends, and characters.
In speaking there is always some end proposed, or some effect which the speaker intends to produce in the hearer. The word eloquence in its greatest latitude denotes, “ That art or talent by which the discourse is adapted to its end."*
All the ends of speaking are reducible to four ; every speech being intended to enlighten the understanding, to please the imagination, to move the passions, or to influence the will."
Any one discourse admits only one of these ends as the principal. Nevertheless, in discoursing on a subject, many things may be introduced, which are more immediately and apparently directed to some of the other ends of speaking, and not to that which is the chief intent of the whole. But then these other and immediate ends are in effect but means, and must be rendered conducive to that which is the primary intention. Accordingly, the propriety or the impropriety of the introduction of such secondary ends, will always be inferred from their subservieńcy or want of subserviency to that end, which is, in respect of them, the ultimate. - For example, a discourse addressed to the understanding, and calculated to illustrate or evince some point purely speculative, may borrow aid from the imagination, and admit metaphor and comparison, but not the bolder and more striking
* “ Dicere secundum virtutem orationis. Scientia bene dicendi.” Quintilian. The word eloquence, in common conversation, is seldom used in such a comprehensive sense. I have, however, made choice of this definition on a double account: 1st, It exactly corresponds to Tully's idea of a perfect orator; " Optimus est orator qui dicendo animos audientium et docet, et delectat, et permovet.” 2dly, It is best adapted to the subject of these papers. See the note on page 14.
figures, as that called vision or fiction,* prosopopæia, and the like, which are not so much intended to elucidate a subject, as to excite admiration. Still less will it admit an address to the passions, which, as it never fails to disturb the operation of the intellectual faculty, must be regarded by every intelligent hearer as foreign at least, if not insidious. It is obvious, that either of these, far from being subservient to the main design, would distract the attention from it.
There is indeed one kind of address to the understanding, and only one, which, it may not be improper to observe, disdains all assistance whatever from the fancy. The address I mean is mathematical demonstration. As this doth not, like moral reasoning, admit degrees of evidence, its perfection in point of eloquence, if so uncommon an application of the term may be allowed, consists in perspicuity. Perspicuity here results entirely from propriety and simplicity of diction, and from accuracy of method, where the mind is regularly, step by step, conducted forwards in the same track, the attention no way diverted, nothing left to be supplied, no one unnecessary word or idea introduced.t On the contrary, an harangue framed for affecting the hearts or influencing the resolves of an assembly, needs greatly the assistance both of intellect and of imagination.
In general it may be asserted, that each preceding species, in the order above exhibited, is preparatory to the subsequent ; that each subsequent species is founded on the preceding ; and that thus they ascend in a regular progression. Knowledge, the object of the intellect, furnisheth materials for the fancy; the fancy culls, compounds, and, by her mimic art, disposes these materials so as to effect the passions ; the passions are the natural spurs to volition or action, and so need only to be rightly directed. This connexion and dependency will better appear from the following observations.
When a speaker addresses himself to the understanding, he proposes the instruction of his hearers, and that, either by explaining some doctrine unknown, or not distinctly comprehended by them, or by proving some position disbelieved or doubted by them. In other words, he proposes either to dispel ignorance or to vanquish error. In the one, his aim is their information; in the other, their conviction. Accordingly, the predominant quality of the former is perspicuity; of the latter, argument. By that we are made to know, by this to believe.
The imagination is addressed by exhibiting to it a lively and beautiful representation of a suitable object. As in this exhibition, the task of the orator may, in some sort, be said, like that of the painter, to consist in imitation, the merit of the work results entirely from these
* By vision or fiction is understood, that rhetorical figure of which Quintilian says, “Quas pavraoias Græci vocant, nos sanè visiones appellamus, per quas imagines rerum absentium ita repræsentantur animo, ut eas cernere oculis ac præsentes habere videamur.” 't Of this kind Euclid hath given us the most perfect models, which have not, I think, been sufficiently imitated by later mathematicians. In him you find the exactest arrangement inviolably observed, the properest and simplest, and by consequence, the plainest expressions constantly used, nothing deficient, nothing superfluous ; in brief, nothing which in more, or fewer, or other words, or words otherwise disposed, could have been better expressed.
two sources ; dignity, as well in the subject or thing imitated, as in the manner of imitation; and resemblance, in the portrait or performance. Now the principal scope for this class being in narration and description, poetry, which is one mode of oratory, especially epic poetry, must be ranked under it. The effect of the dramatic, at least of tragedy, being upon the passions, the drama falls under another species, to be explained afterwards. But that kind of address of which I am now treating, attains the summit of perfection in the sublime, or those great and noble images, which, when in suitable colouring presented to the mind, do, as it were, distend the imagination with some vast conception, and quite ravish the soul.
The sublime, it may be urged, as it raiseth admiration, should be considered as one species of address to the passions. But this objection, when examined, will appear superficial. There are few words in any language (particularly such as relate to the operations and feelings of the mind) which are strictly univocal. Thus admiration, when persons are the object, is commonly used for a high degree of esteem ; but when otherwise applied, it denotes solely an internal taste. It is that pleasurable sensation which instantly arises on the perception of magnitude, or of whatever is great and stupendous in its kind. For there is a greatness in the degrees of quality in spiritual subjects, analogous to that which subsists in the degrees of quantity in material things. Accordingly, in all tongues, perhaps without exception, the ordinary terms, which are considered as literally expressive of the latter, are also used promiscuously to denote the former. Now admiration, when thus applied, doth not require to its production, as the passions generally do, any reflex view of motives or tendencies, or of any relation either to private interest, or to the good of others; and ought therefore to be numbered among those original feelings of the mind, which are denominated by some the reflex senses, being of the same class with a taste of beauty, an ear for music, or our moral sentiments. Now the immediate view of whatever is directed to the imagination (whether the subject be things inanimate or animal forms, whether characters, actions, incidents, or manners) terminates in the gratification of some internal taste; as a taste for the wonderful, the fair, the good; for elegance, for novelty, or for grandeur.
But it is evident, that this creative faculty, the fancy, frequently lends her aid in promoting still nobler ends. From her exuberant stores most of those tropes and figures are extracted, which, when properly employed, have such a marvellous efficacy in rousing the passions, and by some secret, sudden, and inexplicable association, awakening all the tenderest emotions of the heart. In this case, the address of the orator is not ultimately intended to astonish by the loftiness of his images, or to delight by the beauteous resemblance which his painting bears to nature ; nay, it will not permit the hearers even a moment's leisure for making the comparison, but as it were by some magical spell, hurries them, ere they are aware, into love, pity, grief, terror, desire, aversion, fury, or hatred. It therefore assumes the
denomination of pathetic,* which is the characteristic of the third species of discourse, that addressed to the passions.
Finally, as that kind, the most complex of all, which is calculated to influence the will, and persuade to a certain conduct, is in reality an artful mixture of that which proposes to convince the judgment, and that which interests the passions, its distinguishing excellency results from these two, the argumentative and the pathetic incorpo: rated together. These acting with united force, and, if I may so express myself, in concert, constitute that passionate eviction, that rehemence of contention, which is admirably fitted for persuasion, and hath always been regarded as the supreme qualification in an orator. It is this which bears down every obstacle, and procures the speaker an irresistible power over the thoughts and purposes of his audience. It is this which hath been so justly celebrated as giving one man an ascendant over others, superior even to what despotism itself can bestow ; since by the latter the more ignoble part only, the body and its members are enslaved; whereas from the dominion of the former, nothing is exempted, neither judgment nor affection, not even the inmost recesses, the most latent movements of the soul. What opposition is he not prepared to conquer, on whose arms reason hath conferred solidity and weight, and passion such a sharpness as enables them, in defiance of every obstruction, to open a speedy passage to the heart?
It is not however, every kind of pathos, which will give the orator so great an ascendency over the minds of his hearers. All pas
*I am sensible that this word is commonly used in a more limited sense, for that only which excites commiseration. Perhaps the word impassioned would answer better.
† This animated reasoning the Greek rhetoricians termed čelvoons, which, from signifving the principal excellency in an orator, came at length to denote oratory itself. And as vehemence and eloquence became synonymous, the latter, suitably to this way of thinking, was sometimes defined the art of persuasion. But that this definition is defective, appears even from their own wriungy, since in a consistency with it, their rhetorics could have comprehended those orations called demonstratire, the design of which was not to persuade, but to please. Yet it is easy to discover the origin of this defect, and that both from the nature of the thing, and from the customs which obtained among both Grecks and Romans. First, from the nature of the thing, for to persuade presupposes in some degree, and therefore may be understood to imply, all the other talents of an orator, to enlighten, to evince, to paint, to astonish, to in. flame: but this doth not hold inversely; one may explain with clearness, and prove with energy, who is incapable of the sublime, the pathetic, and the vehement; besides, this power of persuasion, or, as Cicero calls it, “posse voluntates hominum impellere quo velis, unde velis, deducere," as it makes a man master of his hearers, is the most considerable in respect of consequences. Secondly, from ancient customs. All their public orations were ranked under three classes, the demonstrative, the judiciary, and the deliberative. In the two last it was impossible to rise to eminence, without that important talent, the power of persuasion. These were in much more frequent use than the first, and withal the surest means of advancing both the fortune and the fame of the orator; for as on the judiciary the lives and estates of private persons depended, on the deliberative hung the resolves of senates, the fate of kingdoms, nay of the most renowned republics the world ever knew. Consequently, to excel in these, must have been the direct road to riches, honours, and preferment. No wonder then that persuasion should almost wholly engross the rhetorician's notice.
sions are not alike capable of producing this effect. Some are naturally inert and torpid ; they deject the mind, and indispose it for enterprise. Of this kind are sorrow, fear, shame, humility. Others on the contrary, elevate the soul, and stimulate to action. Such are hope, patriotism, ambition, emulation, anger. These, with the greatest facility, are made to concur in direction with arguments exciting to resolution and activity; and are, consequently, the fittest for producing, what, for want of a better term in our language, I shall henceforth denominate the vehement. There is, besides, an intermediate kind of passions, which do not so congenially and directly either restrain us from acting, or incite us to act; but, by the art of the speaker, can in an oblique manner, be made conducive to either. Such are joy, love, esteem, compassion. Nevertheless, all these kinds may find a place in suasory discourses, or such as are intended to operate on the will. The first is properest for dissuading ; the second, as hath been already hinted, for persuading ; the third, is equally accommodated to both.
· Guided by the above reflections, we may easily trace that connexion in the various forms of eloquence, which was remarked on distinguishing them by their several objects. The imagination is charmed by a finished picture, wherein even drapery and ornament are not neglected ; for here the end is pleasure. Would we penetrate farther, and agitate the soul, we must exhibit only some vivid *strokes, some expressive features, not decorated as for show, (all ostentation being both despicable and hurtful here,) but such as appear the natural exposition of those bright and deep impressions, made by the subject upon the speaker's mind ; for here the end is not pleasure, but emotion. Would we not only touch the heart, but win it entirely to co-operate with our views, those affecting lineaments must be so interwoven with our argument, as that, from the passion excited, our reasoning may derive importance, and so be fitted for commanding attention ; and by the justness of the reasoning, the passion may be more deeply rooted and enforced ; and that thus, both may be made to conspire in effectuating that persuasion which is the end proposed. For here, if I may adopt the schoolmen's language, we do not argue to gain barely the assent of the understanding, but, which is infinitely more important, the consent of the will.*
To prevent mistakes, it will not be beside my purpose further to remark, that several of the terms above explained, are sometimes used by rhetoricians and critics in a much larger and more vague signification, than has been given them here. Sublimity and vehemence, in particular, are often confounded, the latter being considered a species of the former. In this manner, has this subject been treated by that great master, Longinus, whose acceptation of the term sublime, is extremely indefinite, importing an eminent degree of almost any excellence of speech, of whatever kind. Doubtless, if things themselves be understood, it does not seem material
* This subordination is beautifully and concisely expressed by Hersan in Rollin. “Je conclus que la veritable eloquence est celle qui persuade ; qu'elle ne persuade ordinairement qu'en touchant; qu'elle ne touche que par des choses et par des idées palpables."