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a becoming fervour, and with the most agreeable graces of voice and gesture?
We are told that the great Latin orator very much impaired his health by this laterum contentio, this vehemence of action with which he used to deliver himself. The Greek orator was likewise so very famous for this particular in rhetoric, that one of his antagonists, whom he had banished from Athens, reading over the oration which had procured his banishment, and seeing his friends admire it, could not forbear asking them, if they were so much affected by the bare reading of it, how much more they would have been alarmed, had they heard him actually throwing out such a storm of eloquence?
How cold and dead a figure in comparison of these two great men, does an orator often make at the British bar, holding up his head, with the most insipid serenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down to his middle? The truth of it is, there is often nothing more ridiculous than the gestures of an English speaker. You see some of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of paper that has nothing written on it; you may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining of it, and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think he was cheapening a beaver, when perhaps he is talking of the fate of the British nation. member when I was a young man and used to frequent Westminster-Hall, there was a counsel
lor who never pleaded without a piece of packthread in his hand, which he used to twist about a thumb or a finger all the while he was speaking: the Wags.
of those days used to call it the thread of his discourse, for he was not able to utter a word without it. One of his clients who was more merry than wise, stole it from him one day in the midst of his pleading; but he had better have let it alone, for he lost his cause by his jest.
I have all along acknowledged myself to be a dumb man, and therefore may be thought a very improper person to give rules for oratory; but I believe every one will agree with me in this, that we ought either to lay aside all kinds of gesture (which seems to be very suitable to the genius of our nation,) or at least to make use of such only as are graceful and expressive.
No. 408. WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18.
Decet affectus animi neque se nimium erigere, nec subjacere serviliter.
We should keep our passions from being exalted above
measure, or servilely depressed.
• I HAVE always been a very great lover of your speculations, as well in regard to the subject as to your manner of treating it. Human nature I always thought the most useful object of human reason, and to make the consideration of it pleasant and entertaining, I always thought the best employment of human wit; other parts of philosophy may perhaps make us wiser, but this not only answers that end, but makes us better too. Hence it was that the oracle pronounced Socrates the wisest of all men living, because he judiciously made choice of human
nature for the object of his thoughts; an inquiry into which as much exceeds all other learning, as it is of more consequence to adjust the true nature and measures of right and wrong, than to settle the distance of the planets, and compute the times of their circumvolutions.
One good effect that will immediately arise from a near observation of human nature, is, that we shall cease to wonder at those actions which men are used to reckon wholly unaccountable; for as nothing is produced without a cause, so, by observing
the nature and course of the passions, we shall be able to trace every action from its first conception to its death: we shall no more admire at the proceedings of Catiline or Tiberius, when we know the one was actuated by a cruel jealousy, the other by a furious ambition; for the actions of men follow their passions as naturally as light does heat, or as any other effect flows from its cause; reason must be employed in adjusting the passions, but they must never remain the principles of action.
6. The strange and absurd variety that is so apparent in men's actions, shows plainly they can never proceed immediately from reason; so pure a fountain emits no such troubled waters; they must necessarily arise from the passions, which are to the mind as the winds to a ship, they only can move it, and they too often destroy it: if fair and gentle, they guide it into the harbour; if contrary and furious, they overset it in the waves: in the same manner is the mind assisted or endangered by the passions; reason must then take the place of pilot, and can never fail of securing her charge, if she be not wanting to herself; the strength of the passions will never be accepted as an excuse for complyi with them; they were designed for subjection, and if a man suffers then to get the upper hand, he then betrays the liberty of his own soul.
As nature has framed the several species of beings as it were in a chain, so man seems to be placed as the middle link between angels and brutes. Hence he participates both of flesh and spirit by an admirable tie, which in him occasions perpetual war of passions; and as a man inclines to the angelic or brute part of his constitution, he is then denominated good or bad, virtuous or wicked: if love, mercy, and good nature prevail, they speak him of the angel; if hatred, cruelty, and envy predominate, they declare his kindred to the brute. Hence it was that some of the ancients imagined, that as men in this life inclined more to the angel or the brute, so after their death they should transmigrate into the one or the other, and it would be no unpleasant notion to consider the several species of brutes, into which we may imagine that tyrants, misers, the proud, malicious, and ill-natured, might be changed.
• As a consequence of this original, all passions are in all men, but appear not in all; constitution, education, custom of the country, reason, and the like causes, may improve or abate the strength of
them; but still the seeds remain which are ever ready to sprout forth upon the least encouragement. I have heard a story of a good religious man, who having been bred with the milk of a goat, was very modest in public, by a careful refection he made on his actions, but he frequently had an hour in secret, wherein he had his frisks and capers: and, if we had an opportunity of examining the retirement of the strictest philosophers, no doubt but we should find perpetual returns of those passions they so artfully conceal from the public. I remember Machiavel observes, that every state should entertain a perpetual jealousy of its neighbours, that so it should never be unprovided when an emergency happens; in like manner should the reason be perpetually on its guard against the passions, and never suffer them to carry on any design that. may
be destructive of its security; yet, at the same time, it must be careful, that it don't so far break their strength as to render them contemptible, and consequently itself unguarded.
• The understanding being of itself too slow and lazy to exert itself into action, it is necessary it should be put into motion by the gentle gales of the passions, which may preserve it from stagnating and corruption; for they are as necessary to the health of the mind, as the circulation of the animal spirits is to the health of the body; they keep it in life, and strength, and vigour; nor is it possible for the mind to perform its offices without their assistance. These motions are given us with our being; they are little spirits that are born and die with us; to some they are mild, easy, and gentle; to others, wayward and