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the variety and extent of his knowledge. It may truly be said of him as was remarked of Burke, take him on any subject you please, and he is ready to meet you. His memory is very tenacious. His style is elaborated with the greatest care and perfection. His sensibilities are very refined. His imagination is sparkling. His gestures in public speaking are graceful; the tones of his voice are sweet and melodious; and his whole manner elegant and persuasive. No one can listen to him without being moved, instructed, and delighted.
It has been well remarked of our distinguished orator, that, “As long as clear and logical reasoning wins the assent of the understanding, as long as true eloquence stirs the blood, as long as ease and grace of style approve themselves to the taste, so long will the compositions of Edward Everett be read and admired. He is, essentially, a rhetorician, and, unless France may furnish one or two exceptic the most accomplished
Whatever is requisite for rhetorical success, Mr. Everett possesses. To the most varied culture he adds an immense and various learning, a memory equally retentive and prompt, great facility and felicity of expression, a ready power of association, and a wit and humor which seem always to be ready when the occasion calls for them. No knight rode in the tournament arrayed in more glittering armor, or more dexterous in the use of his weapons. He has enough of imagination; he has the quick and kindling sensibilities without which there is no eloquence; and, above all, he shows a wonderfully quick perception of the state of mind in those whom he addresses. He seems to have more than a double share of nerves in his fingers' ends. If there be truth in animal magnetism, he ought to be one of the most impressible. He possesses that greatest of charms, an exquisite voice, – round, swelling, full of melody, particularly emotional; naturally grave, and with a touch almost of melancholy in some of its cadences, but, like all such emotional voices, admirably suited to the expression of humor, and of rising from a touching pathos into the most stirring, thrilling, and triumphant tones. There is such harmony between thought and style, manner and voice, that each gives force to the other, and all unite in one effect on the hearer.
From " Eminent Orators and Statesmen."
ER. WILLIAM MATTHEWS is the author of a number of interesting
books written in the style which makes the “Character” and
« Self Help” series of Samuel Smiles so valuable. No doubt «Oratory and Orators” (Chicago, 1879,) is his masterpiece, as it is certainly one of the most entertaining books of incident and anecdote in print.
THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF THE ORATOR
O ESTIMATE the degree in which the orator has influenced the world's history,
would be a difficult task. It would be hardly too much to say that, since the
dawn of civilization, the triumphs of the tongue have rivaled, if not surpassed, those of the sword. There is hardly any man, illiterate or educated, so destitute of sensibility that he is not charmed by the music of eloquent speech, even though it affect his senses rather than his mind and heart, and rouse his blood only as it is roused by the drums and trumpets of military bands. But when eloquence is something more than a trick of art, or a juggle with words; when it has a higher aim than to tickle the ear, or to charm the imagination as the sparkling eye and dazzling scales of the serpent enchant the hovering bird; when it has a higher inspiration than that which produces the (sounding brass and tinkling cymbal” of merely fascinating speech; when it is armed with the thunderbolt of powerful thought, and winged with lofty feeling; when the electric current of sympathy is established, and the orator sends upon it thrill after thrill of sentiment and emotion, vibrating and pulsating to the sensibilities of his hearers, as if their very heartstrings were held in the grasp of his trembling fingers; when it strips those to whom it is addressed of their independence, invests them with its own life, and makes them obedient to a strange nature, as the mighty ocean tides follow the path of the moon; when it divests men of their peculiar qualities and affections, and turns a vast multitude into one man, giving to them but one heart, one pulse, and one voice, and that an echo of the speaker's, – then, indeed, it becomes not only a delight, but a power, and a power greater than kings or military chieftains can command.
The French philosopher, D'Alembert, goes so far as to say of eloquence that, " the prodigies which it often works, in the hands of a single man, upon an entire nation, are, perhaps, the most shining testimony of the superiority of one man over another »; and Emerson expresses a similar opinion when he says that eloquence is " the appropriate organ of the highest personal energy." As there is no effort of the human mind which demands a rarer combination of faculties than does oratory in its loftiest flights, so there is no human effort which is rewarded with more immediate or more dazzling triumphs. The philosopher in his closet, the statesman in his cabinet, the general in the tented field, may produce more lasting effects upon human affairs; but their influence is both more slowly felt, and less intoxicating from the ascendancy it confers. The orator is not compelled to wait through long and weary years to reap the reward of his labors. His triumphs are instantaneous; they follow his efforts as the thunder peal follows the lightning's ilash. While he is in the very act of forming his sentences, his triumph is reflected from the countenances of his hearers, and is sounded from their lips. To stand up before a vast assembly composed of men of the most various callings, views, passions, and prejudices, and mold them at will; to play upon their hearts and minds as a master upon the keys of a piano; to convince their understandings by the logic, and to thrill their feelings by the art, of the orator; to see every eye watching his face, and every ear intent on the words that drop from his lips; to see indifference changed to breathless interest, and aversion to rapturous enthusiasm; to hear thunders of applause at the close of every period; to see the whole assembly animated by the feelings which in him are burning and struggling for utterance; and to think that all this is the creation of the moment, and has sprung instantaneously from his fiery brain and the inspiration imparted to it by the circumstances of the hour;- this, perhaps, is the greatest triumph of which the human mind is capable, and that in which its divinity is most signally revealed.
The history of every country and of every age teems with the miracles wrought by this necromantic power. Eloquence, as every schoolboy knows, was the master spirit of both the great nations of antiquity, - Greece and Rome. It was not the fieets of Attica, thougb mighty, nor the valor of her troops, though unconquerable, that directed her destinies, but the words and gestures of the men who had the genius and the skill to move, to concentrate, and to direct the energies and passions of a whole people, as though they were but one person. When the commons of Rome were bowed down to the dust beneath the load of debts which they owed their patrician creditors. it was the agonizing appeals of an old man in rags, pale and famishing, with haggard beard and hair, who told the citizens that he had fought in eight-and-twenty battles, and yet had been imprisoned for a debt with usurious interest, which he was compelled to contract, but could not pay, that caused a change of the laws, and a restoration to liberty of those who had been enslaved by their creditors. It was not, as it has been well said, the fate of Lucretia, but the gesture of Brutus waving abroad her bloody knife, and his long hidden soul bursting forth in terrible denunciation, that drove out the Tarquines from Rome, overthrew the throne, and established the republic. It was a father's cries and prayers for vengeance, as he rushed from the dead body of Virginia, appealing to his countrymen, that roused the legions of the Tusculan camp to seize upon the Sacred Mount, and achieve another freedom. And when the Roman empire was the world, and trophies from every people hung in her capitol, the orator, whether in the senate or in the comitia, shook oracles of the fate of nations from the folds of his mantle. Plutarch tells us that Thucydides, when Archidamus, King of Sparta, asked him which was the best wrestler, Pericles or he, replied: «When I throw him, he says he was never down, and persuades the very spectators to believe him.» The Athenian populace, roused by the burning words of Demosthenes, started up with one accord and one cry to march upon Philip; and the Macedonian monarch said of the orator who had baffled him, on hearing a report of one of his orations: “Had I been there, he would have persuaded me to take up arms against myself.” We are told that such was the force of Cicero's oratory that it not only confounded the audacious Catiline, and silenced the eloquent Hortensius; not only deprived Curio of all power of recollection, when he rose to oppose that great master of enchanting rhetoric; but even made Cæsar tremble, and, changing his determined purpose, acquit the man he had resolved to condemn. It was not till the two champions of ancient liberty, Demosthenes and Cicero, were silenced, that the triumph of despotism in Greece and Rome was complete. The fatal blow to Athenian greatness was the defeat by Antipater, which drove Demosthenes to exile and to death; the deadly stroke at Roman freedom was that which smote off the head of Tully at Caieta.
E ARE told that when Mirabeau arose in the National Assembly and deliv
ered one of those fiery speeches which, in their union of reason and pas
sion, so remind us of Demosthenes, he trod the tribune with the supreme authority of a master, and the imperial air of a king. As he proceeded with this barangue his frame dilated; his face was wrinkled and contorted; he roared, he stamped; his hair whitened with foam; his whole system was seized with an electric irritability, and writhed as under an almost preternatural agitation. The effect of his eloquence, which was of the grandest and most impressive kind, abounding in bold images, striking metaphors, and sudden, natural bursts, the creation of the moment, was greatly increased by his “hideously magnificent aspect, »
-- the massive frame, the features full of pock-holes and blotches, the eagle eye that dismayed with a look, the voice of thunder that dared a reply, the hair that waved like a lion's mane. The ruling spirit of the French Revolution, he did, while be lived, more than any other man, «to guide the whirlwind and direct the storm » of that political and social crisis. When the clergy and the nobles obeyed the royal mandate that the National Assembly should disperse, and the commons remained, hesitating, uncertain, almost in consternation, it was his voice that hurled defiance at the king, and inspired the Tiers-État with courage. When he cried out to the astonished emissary of Louis: “Slave, go tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and that we will depart only at the point of the bayonet ! the words sounded like a thunder-clap to all Europe, and from the moment the bondage of the nation was broken and the fate of despotism sealed. Startling the critics of the Academy by his bold, straightforward style of oratory, so opposed to the stiff, conventional manner of the day, he showed them that there was “a power of life in his rude and startling language; that the most commonplace ideas could be endowed with electric power; and, had he not died prematurely, he might, perhaps, have dissuaded France from plunging into the gulf of anarchy, and shown a genius for reconstruction only inferior to that which he had displayed as a destroyer.
TRIUMPHS OF PULPIT ELOQUENCE
rith the triumphs of sacred oratory it would be easy to fill a volume.
Not to go back to the days of John the Baptist, or to those of Paul and Peter,
whose words are the very flame breath of the Almighty, - not even to the days of Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed, who, when, like another Elijah, or John the Baptist risen from the dead, he reappeared among his townsmen of Antioch, after the austerities in the desert to which his disgust at their licentiousness had driven him, denounced their bacchanalian orgies in words that made their cheeks tingle, and sent them panic-stricken to their homes,— who is not familiar with the miracles which Christian eloquence has wrought in modern times ? Who has forgotten the story of «the priest, patriot, martyr," Savonarola, crying ever more to the people of Florence, «Heu! fuge crudelas terras, fuge littus avarum ! » Who is ignorant of the mighty changes, ecclesiastic and political, produced by the blunt. words of Latimer, the fiery appeals of Wycliffe, the stern denunciations of Knox ? Or what ruler of men ever subjugated them more effectually by his sceptre than Chalmers, who gave law from his pulpit for thirty years; who hushed the frivolity of the modern Babylon, and melted the souls of the French philosophers in a halfknown tongue; who drew tears from dukes and duchesses, and made princes of the blood and bishops start to their feet, and break out into rounds of the wildest applause?
What cultivated man needs to be told of the sweet persuasion that dwelt upon the tongue of the swan of Cambray, the alternating religious joy and terror inspired by the silvery cadence and polished phrase of Massillon, or the resistless conviction that followed the argumentative strategy of Bourdaloue,- a mode of attack upon error and sin which was so illustrative of the imperatoria virtus of Quintilian, that the great Condé cried out once, as the Jesuit mounted the pulpit, «Silence Messierss, voici l'ennemi ! » What schoolboy is not familiar with the religious terror with which, in bis oraisons funebres, the Demosthenes of the pulpit,” Bossuet, thrilled the breasts of seigneurs and princesses, and even the breast of that king before whom other kings trembled and knelt, when, taking for his text the words, “Be wise, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, ye judges of the earth!” he unveiled to his auditors the awful reality of God the Lord of all empires, the chastiser of princes, reigning above the heavens, making and unmaking kingdoms, principalities, and powers; or again, with the fire of a lyric poet and the zeal of a prophet, called on nations, princes, nobles, and warriors, to come to the foot of the catafalque which strove to raise to heaven a magnificent testimony of the nothingness of man! At the beginning of his discourses, the action of the eagle of Meaux, we are told, was dignified and reserved ; he confined himself to the notes before him. Gradually «he warmed with his theme; the contagion of his enthusiasm seized his hearers; he watched their rising emotion; the rooted glances of a thousand eyes filled him with a sort of divine frenzy; his notes became a burden and a hindrance; with impetuous ardor he abandoned himself to the inspiration of the moment; with the eyes of the soul he watched the swelling hearts of his hearers; their concentrated emotions became his own; he felt within himself the collected might of the orators and martyrs whose collected essence, by long and repeated communion, he had absorbed into himself; from Aight to fight he ascended, until, with unflagging energy, he towered straight upwards, and dragged the rapt contemplation of his audience along with him in its ethereal flight.” At such times, says the Abbé Le Dieu, it seemed as though the heavens were open, and celestial joys were about to descend upon these trembling souls, like tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost. At other times, heads bowed down with humiliation, or pale upturned faces and streaming eyes, lips parted with broken ejaculations of despair, silently testified that the spirit of repentance had breathed on many a hardened heart. All the foregoing are selections from “Oratory and Orators,” by William Matthews, LL. D.
By permission of the publishers, Scott, Foreman & Co., Chicago.
Successors to S. C. Griggs & Co.