Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

If a multitude of rules could quicken the progress of the
mind in any useful or elegant pursuit, there is no talent
which would have been sooner carried to perfection than
that of Eloquence, because there is none for the improve-
ment of which Art has furnished us with so great a va-
riety, or rather with so endless a detail of instructions.
But we find, on the contrary, that the continually increas-
ing number of rhetorical systems, and of critical observa-
tions, has a greater tendency to retard than to accelerate
the career of genius ; and that, even in the present boasted
age of reason and refinement, the accomplished orator is
as uncommon and extraordinary a character, as in the days
of Pericles and DEMOSTHENES, when

“ resistless Eloquence
“ Wielded at will the fierce Democracy,
“ Shook th' arsenal, and fulmin'd o'er Greeces

To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.”
At the close of that brilliant period, which produced so
many illustrious candidates for the palm of excellence in
every species of composition, the decline of oratory was
first owing to pedantry, affectation, and false taste ;-to the
subtilties of ARISTOTLE and his microscopic views of lan-
guage ;-to the profusion of artificial ornaments, which
DEMETRIUS PHALEREUS introduced in the room of beau-
tiful simplicity and natural grandeur ;-to the critic who

VOL. I.

B

chained down to earth the soaring pinion of genius, and to the popular speaker, who gave a wrong bias to public opinion in favour of the dazzling allurements of novelty.

Let it not be supposed that I am insensible of the merit of ARISTOTIE, whose acuteness, solidity, and accuracy have seldom been equalled, and never surpassed by any other writer. I view with peculiar admiration his grand outline of Natural History, as well as the immense materials which he collected with unwearied industry, and which he arranged with exquisite judgment, in the execution of his plan. Had he only reduced into proper order all the scattered knowledge of his time on such a variety of subjects, we should feel ourselves under very great obligations to him ; but the richness of his own fund far surpassed all that he could borrow from others; and though, in the amazing number of his original experiments and practical observations, we find some which have not been confirmed in later ages, yet it must be acknowledged that they served as useful guides to succeding inquirers into the animal and vegetable kingdoms.

But the information and assistance which Students in Natural History derived from the researches of ARISTOTLE, have been more than counterbalanced by the pernicious effects of his other writings on the Art of Poetry, on Rhetoric, on Logic, and Metaphysics, which have puzzled the world ever since, and have really done far greater in- " jury to polite literature, to philosophy, and eloquence, than all the dreadful ravages of the Goths and Vandals. These could only destroy some of the noblest incentives to emulation, the books, the records, the precious monuments of antiquity ; but were unable to cramp and fetter the powers of the mind which produced such works. The darkness spread by the barbarians, was temporary ; but the twilight of false learning, or rather the spirit of subtile disquisition, which found its way into the schools with the works of ARISTOTLE, gave rise to a more lasting and more in

« EelmineJätka »