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fectually broken, the timorous vassal will still be uppermost: the habit of subjection continually overawes and beats down his genius. · For, according to HOMER,
“ Jove fix'd it certain, that whatever day
“ Thus, we are told, the cases, in which dwarfs are kept, not only prevent the future growth of those who are inclosed in them, but diminish what bulk they already have, by too close constriction of their parts. So slavery, be it never so easy, yet is slavery still, and may deservedly be called the prison of the soul, and the public dungeon.
In the same section of the Treatise on the Sublime, from which the above extract is taken, we find a beautiful and just picture of the happy influence of a free government, which Longinus considers as “the Nurse of true Genius. Great writers," he adds, “ will be found only in this sort of government, with which they flourish and triumph, or decline and die. Liberty produces fine sentiments in men of genius : it invigorates their hopes, excites an honorable emulation, and inspires an ambition and thirst of excelling ; and, what is more, in free states there are prizes to be gained, which are worth contending for. Thus the natural faculties of the orators are sharpened and polished by continual practice; and the liberty of their thoughts, as is reasonable to expect, shines out conspicuously in the liberty of their debates*."
It is with some difficulty that I restrain myself from copying the whole section, in the latter part of which the moral causes of the corruption of genius, and of the decay of sublimity, are accurately described. But I beg leave to recommend it to the attention of every tutor; and I hope that honest zeal will prompt him to infuse its spirit into his pupils, and to impress upon their minds this important truth, That the faculties of the soul can never be
completely invigorated or improved, and that genius cannot exert itself or rise to the true sublime, where virtue is neglected, and the morals are depraved.
The design of the present Introduction to the study and practice of Eloquence being to point out the chief obstacles to its progress and the principal causes of its decline, it is enough to have traced its most memorable revolutions in ancient Greece and Rome, without plunging into the darkness of ignorance and barbarism, which overspread Europe for so many ages after. The dawn or revival of letters is commonly dated from the beginning of the sixteenth century; but though Italy and France may boast of having taken the lead in various works of taste and genius, yet neither of them produced a Demosthenes or a CICERO. This honor was reserved for England, whose sons, animated by the spirit of liberty, rose to the utmost heights of oratorical eminence, and have regularly consigned the elevated post to their successors for a longer period than ever before had been known in the history of Man. It was not however till the close of the seventeenth century, after domestic tyrants had been expelled, and the pride of foreign enemies humbled in the dust ;-after proper checks had been imposed on the abuse of royal authority, and the rights and privileges of the people distinctly ascertained ; that the freedom of the press and the still more uncontrolled freedom of speech in parliament gave to British Eloquence that fire, energy, and grandeur for which it has ever since been so justly admired and distinguished.
If we take a view of Cicero's highly finished gallery of oratorical portraits, and, after doing ample justice to the painter's exquisite art, come to consider the small collection of proper subjects that he discovered worthy of notice from the beginning to the termination of the Roman republic, we shall be astonished to find the first twenty or thirty years of British liberty producing a far greater num
ber of illustrious orators than the eminent Historian of Eloquence, with all his accuracy of research and his ardent zeal for the honor of his country, could discover in its most brilliant annals for a series of five centuries. In the short reigns of King WILLIAM and Queen Anne, we may proudly mention the names of a Somers, a Holt, an Ashley, a MONTAGUE, a Harley, a St. John, a CONINGSBY, a Jekyl, and many of their cotemporaries, whose speeches and whose writings may be opposed, without the least dread of inferiority, to any of those so highly extolled by the Roman panegyrist. Let us select two of them, SOMERS and BOLINGBROKE, men of opposite parties, opposite principies, opposite character—but, alike admired for their genius and their talents.
With regard to the first of these, we cannot do greater justice to his memory than by repeating one of Mr. WalPOLE's remarks, that “ all the traditional accounts of Lord SOMERS, the historians of the last age and its best authors, represent him as the most incorrupt lawyer and the honestest statesman ; as a master-orator, a genius of the finest taste, and as a patriot of the noblest and most extensive views ; as a man who dispensed blessings by his life, and planned them for posterity.” His eloquence was often exerted in stemming the tide of faction, and in promoting the real interests of his country, but was never displayed with greater vigour and dignity than in repelling the malignant attacks of his political enemies. In the year 1701, when the Tories, at that time the superior party in the House of Commons, seemed determined upon aiming an irrecoverable blow at the heads of their antagonists, and selected Lord Somers and three more of his noble colleagues, as the objects of their fury, he desired to be heard in his own defence, during the debates which preceded the ultimate resolution on this subject. The request could not be denied; and his Lordship, having been admitted within the bar, entered into so masterly a defence of his conduct, that, had the question been immediately put, it was believed he would have been acquitted by a great majority. But the ardor of honest conviction being suffered to cool, other considerations finally prevailed, and the vote of impeachment was carried by a division of 198 against 188. An address to the King for the removal of Lord Somers, OXFORD, PORTLAND, and Halifax, from his Majesty's presence and councils soon followed; but all this was only a temporary triumph. Violent altercations took place between both Houses, which ended in the dismissal of the impeachment by the Lords; and before the end of the year, the Great Seal was restored to Lord SOMERS, whose clearness of head and incorruptibility of heart rendered him most deserving of it.
Mr. Belsham gives us in a few words a very faithful sketch of the character of Lord BOLINGBROKE, whom he represents as possessed of abilities of the first order of manners the most captivating, and of eloquence the most commanding; by which he acquired and maintained a surprising ascendancy over the opinions of all his political associates*. But his portrait at full length by the Earl of CHESTERFIELD is much better adapted to our purpose, because it was drawn with a view of animating a favorite son to the study of the highest and most shining species of oratory
“ I have sent you,” says this great master of the art which he recommends, “ Lord Bolingbroke's book t, which he published about a year ago. I desire that you will read it over and over again, with particular attention to the style, and to all those beauties of oratory with which it is adorned. Till I read that book, I confess I did not know all the extent and powers of the English language. Lord BOLINGBROKE has both a tongue and a pen to persuade : his manner of speaking, in private
* Introduction to vol. 11. Iistory of England.
conversation, is full as elegant as his writings : whatever subject he either speaks or writes upon, he adorns it with the most splendid eloquence-not a studied or labored eloquence, but such a flowing happiness of diction, which (from the care perhaps at first) is become so habitual to him, that even his most familiar conversations, if taken down in writing, would bear the press without the least correction either as to method or style. If his conduct, in the former part of his life, had been equal to all his natural and acquired talents, he would most justly have merited the epithet of all-accomplished. He is himself sensible of his past errors : those violent passions which seduced him in his youth, have now subsided by age; and, take him as he is now, the character of all-accomplished is more his due than any man's I ever knew in my life.
“ But he has been a most mortifying instance of the violence of human passions, and of the weakness of the most exalted human reason. His virtues and his vices, his reason and his passions, did not blend themselves by a gradation of tints, but formed a shining and sudden contrast-here the darkest, there the most splendid colors ; and both rendered more shining from their proximity, Impetuosity, excess, and almost extravagancy, characterized not only his passions, but even his senses. His youth was distinguished by all the tumult and storm of pleasures, in which he most licentiously triumphed, disdaining all decorum. His fine imagination has often been heated and exhausted with his body, in celebrating and deifying the prostitute of the night; and his convivial joys were pushed to all the extravagancy of the frantic Bacchanals. Those passions were interrupted but by a stronger,—Ambition. The former impaired both his constitution and his character; but the latter destroyed both his character and his reputation.