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(6.35–6.95 A. D.)
JUINTILIAN, Cicero, and Aristotle are the three great classical au
thorities on oratory and everything which belongs to the artistic cox expression of thought through language. Both Cicero and Aristotle were philosophers, while no such dignity of intellect can be claimed for Quintilian, but he was a highly educated man, a keen observer, and a master of the subject of which he treats. If he is less philosophical than Cicero, he is more practical in his treatment of detail. It does not overestimate his importance to say that a knowledge of his views and maxims is indispensable to the student of oratory as an art.
He was born at Calagurris, in Spain, about 35 A. D. After completing his education at Rome, he returned to Spain as a teacher of oratory, but in 68 A. D. he located permanently in Rome, conducting a school of oratory there for more than twenty years. He died about 95 A. D. For a long time his "Institutes of Oratory » survived only in fragments, but in the fifteenth century an almost perfect copy was found «under a heap of long-neglected lumber » in an Italian monastery.
THE SECRET OF THE HIGHEST ELOQUENCE
Let the orator, whom I propose to form, be such a one as is characterized by the L definition of Marcus Cato, a good man skilled in speaking.
But the requisite which Cato has placed first in this definition, that an orator should be a good man, is naturally of more estimation and importance than the other. It is of importance that an orator should be good, because, should the power of speaking be a support to evil, nothing would be more pernicious than eloquence alike to public concerns and private, and I myself, who, as far as is in my power, strive to contribute something to the faculty of the orator, should deserve very ill of the world, since I should furnish arms, not for soldiers, but for robbers. May I not draw an argument from the condition of mankind ? Nature herself, in bestowing on man that which she seems to have granted him pre-eminently, and by which sbe appears to have distinguished us from all other animals, would have acted, not as a parent, but as a stepmother, if she had designed the faculty of speech to be the promoter of crime, the oppressor of innocence, and the enemy of truth; for it would have been better for us to have been born dumb, and to have been left destitute of reasoning powers, than to have received endowments from Providence only to turn them to the destruction of one another.
My judgment carries me still further; for I not only say that he who would answer my idea of an orator must be a good man, but that no man, unless he be good, can ever be an orator. To an orator discernment and prudence are necessary; but we can certainly not allow discernment to those, who, when the ways of virtue and vice are set before them, prefer to follow that of vice; nor can we allow them prudence, since they subject themselves, by the unforeseen consequences of their actions, often to the heaviest penalty of the law, and always to that of an evil conscience. But if it be not only truly said by the wise, but always justly believed by the vulgar, that no man is vicious who is not also foolish, a fool, assuredly, will never become an orator.
It is to be further considered that the mind cannot be in a condition for pursuing the most noble of studies, unless it be entirely free from vice; not only because there can be no communion of good and evil in the same breast, and to meditate at once on the best things and the worst is no more in the power of the same mind than it is possible for the same man to be at once virtuous and vicious; but also, because a mind intent on so arduous a study should be exempt from all other cares, even such as are unconnected with vice; for then, and then only, when it is free and master of itself, and when no other object harasses and distracts its attention, will it be able to keep in view the end to which it is devoted. But if an inordinate attention to an estate, a too anxious pursuit of wealth, indulgence in the pleasures of the chase, and the devotion of our days to public spectacles, rob our studies of much of our time (for whatever time is given to one thing is lost to another), what effect must we suppose that ambition, avarice, and envy will produce, whose excitements are so violent as even to disturb our sleep and our dreams ? Nothing, indeed, is so preoccupied, so unsettled, so torn and lacerated with such numerous and various passions as a bad mind; for when it intends evil, it is agitated with hope, care, and anxiety, and when it has attained the object of its wickedness, it is tormented with uneasiness, repentance, and the dread of every kind of punishment. Among such disquietudes, what place is there for study, or any rational pursuit ? No more certainly than there is for corn in a field overrun with thorns and brambles.
To enable us to sustain the toil of study, is not temperance necessary? What expectations are to be formed, then, from him who is abandoned to licentiousness and luxury? Is not the love of praise one of the greatest incitements to the pursuit of literature ? But can we suppose that the love of praise is an object of regard with the unprincipled ? Who does not know that a principal part of oratory consists in discoursing on justice and virtue? But will the unjust man and the vicious treat of such subjects with the respect that is due to them?
But though we should even concede a great part of the question, and grant, what can by no means be the case, that there is the same portion of ability, diligence, and attainments, in the worst man as in the best, which of the two, even under that supposition, will prove the better orator ? He, doubtless, who is the better man. The same person, therefore, can never be a bad man and a perfect orator, for that cannot be perfect to which something else is superior.
That I may not seem, however, like the writers of Socratic dialogues, to frame answers to suit my own purpose, let us admit that there exists a person so unmoved by the force of truth, as boldly to maintain that a bad man, possessed of the same portion of ability, application, and learning, as a good man, will be an equally good orator, and let us convince even such a person of his folly.
No man, certainly, will doubt that it is the object of all oratory, that what is stated to the judge may appear to him to be true and just; and which of the two, let me ask, will produce such a conviction with the greater ease, the good man or the bad ? A good man, doubtless, will speak of what is true and honest with greater frequency; but even if, from being influenced by some call of duty, he endeavors to support what is fallacious (a case which, as I shall show, may sometimes occur), he must still be heard with greater credit than a bad man. But with bad men, on the other hand, dissimulation sometimes fails, as well through their contempt for the opinion of mankind, as through their ignorance of what is right; hence they assert without modesty, and maintain their assertions without shame; and, in attempting what evidently cannot be accomplished, there appears in them a repulsive obstinacy and useless perseverance; for bad men, as well in their pleadings as in their lives, entertain dishonest expectations; and it often happens, that even when they speak the truth, belief is not accorded them, and the employment of advocates of such a character is regarded as a proof of the badness of a cause.
I must, however, notice those objections to my opinion, which appear to be clamored forth, as it were, by the general consent of the multitude. Was not then Demosthenes, they ask, a great orator? Yet we have heard that he was not a good man. Was not Cicero a great orator? Yet many have thrown censure upon his character. To such questions how shall I answer? Great displeasure is likely to be shown at any reply whatever; and the ears of my audience require first to be propitiated. The character of Demosthenes, let me say, does not appear to me deserving of such severe reprehension that I should believe all the calumnies that are heaped upon him by his enemies, especially when I read his excellent plans for the benefit of his country and the honorable termination of his life. Nor do I see that the feeling of an upright citizen was, in any respect, wanting to Cicero. As proofs of his integrity, may be mentioned his consulship, in which he conducted himself with so much honor; his honorable administration of his province; his refusal to be one of the twenty commissioners; and, during the civil wars, which fell with great severity on his times, his uprightness of mind, which was never swayed, either by hope or by fear, from adhering to the better party, or the supporters of the commonwealth. He is thought by some to have been deficient in courage, but he has given an excellent reply to this charge, when he says that he was timid, not in encountering dangers, but in taking precautions against them; an assertion of which he proved the truth at his death, to which he submitted with the noblest fortitude. But even should the height of virtue have been wanting to these eminent men, I shall reply to those who ask me whether they were orators, as the Stoics reply when they are asked whether Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus, were wise men; they say that they were great and deserving of veneration, but that they did not attain the highest excellence of which human nature is susceptible.
Pythagoras desired to be called, not wise, like those who preceded him, but a lover of wisdom. I, however, in speaking of Cicero, have often said, according to the common mode of speech, and shall continue to say, that he was a perfect ora. tor, as we term our friends, in ordinary discourse, good and prudent men, though such epithets can be justly given only to the perfectly wise. But when I have to speak precisely, and in conformity with the exactness of truth, I shall express myself as longing to see such an orator as he himself also longed to see; for though I acknowledge that Cicero stood at the head of eloquence, and that I can scarcely find a passage in his speeches to which anything can be added, however many I might find which I may imagine that he would have pruned (for the learned have in general been of opinion that he had numerous excellences and some faults, and he himself says that he had cut off most of his juvenile exuberance), yet, since he did not claim to himself, though he had no mean opinion of his merits, the praise of perfection, and since he might certainly have spoken better if a longer life had
been granted him, and a more tranquil season for composition, I may not unreasonably believe that the summit of excellence was not attained by him, to which, notwithstanding, no man made nearer approaches.
If I had thought otherwise, I might have maintained my opinion with still greater determination and freedom. Did Marcus Antonius declare that he had seen no man truly eloquent, though to be eloquent is much less than to be a per. fect orator; does Cicero himself say that he is still seeking for an orator, and merely conceives and imagines one; and shall I fear to say that in that portion of eternity which is yet to come, something may arise still more excellent than what has yet been seen? I take no advantage of the opinion of those who refuse to allow great merit to Cicero and Demosthenes even in eloquence; though Demosthenes, indeed, does not appear sufficiently near perfection even to Cicero himself, who says that he sometimes nods; nor does Cicero appear so to Brutus and Calvus, who certainiy find fault with his language even in addressing himself, or to either of the Asinii, who attack the blemishes in his style with virulence in various places.
Let us grant, however, what Nature herself by no means brings to pass, that a bad man has been found endowed with consummate eloquence. I should, nevertheless, refuse to concede to him the name of orator, as I should not allow the merit of fortitude to all who have been active in the field, because fortitude cannot be conceived as unaccompanied with virtue. Has not he who is employed to defend causes need of integrity which covetousness cannot pervert, or partiality corrupt, or terror abash, and shall we honor the traitor, the renegade, the prevaricator, with the sacred name of orator? And if that quality, which is commonly called goodness, is found even in moderate pleaders, why should not that great orator, who has not yet appeared, but who may hereafter appear, be as consummate in goodness as in eloquence? It is not a plodder in the forum, or a mercenary pleader, or, to use no stronger term, a not unprofitable advocate (such as he whom they generally term a causidicus), that I desire to form, but a man who, being possessed of the highest natural genius, stores his mind thoroughly with the most valuable kinds of knowledge; a man sent by the gods to do honor to the world, and such as no preceding age has known; a man in every way eminent and excellent, a thinker of the best thoughts and a speaker of the best language. For such a man's ability how small a scope will there be in the defense of innocence or the repression of guilt in the forum, or in supporting truth against falsehood in litigations about money? He will appear great, indeed, even in such inferior employments, but his powers will shine with the highest lustre on greater occasions, when the counsels of the senate are to be directed, and the people to be guided from error into rectitude. Is it not such an orator that Virgil appears to have imagined, representing him as a calmer of the populace in a sedition, when they were hurling firebrands and stones ?
<< Tum pietate gravem et meritis si forte virum quem
Conspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adstant,
( Then if perchance a sage they see, rever'd
For piety and worth, they hush their noise,
We see that he first makes him a good man, and then adds that he is skilled in speaking:
« Ille regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet,»
Would not the orator whom I am trying to form, too, if he were in the field of battle, and his soldiers required to be encouraged to engage, draw the materials for an exhortation from the most profound precepts of philosophy ? for how could all the terrors of toil, pain, and even death, be banished from their breasts, unless vivid feelings of piety, fortitude, and honor be substituted in their place ? He, doubtless, will best implant such feelings in the breasts of others who has first implanted them in his own; for simulation, however guarded it be, always betrays itself, nor was there ever such power of eloquence in any man that he would not falter and hesitate whenever his words were at variance with his thoughts. But a bad man must, of necessity, utter words at variance with his thoughts; while to good men, on the contrary, a virtuous sincerity of language will never be wanting, nor (for good men will also be wise) a power of producing the most excellent thoughts, which, though they may be destitute of showy charms, will be sufficiently adorned by their own natural qualities, since whatever is said with honest feeling will also be said with eloquence.
Let youth, therefore, or rather let all of us, of every age (for no time is too late for resolving on what is right), direct our whole faculties, and our whole exertions, to this object; and perhaps to some it may be granted to attain it; for if nature does not interdict a man from being good, or from being eloquent, why should not some one among mankind be able to attain eminence in both goodness and eloquence? And why should not each hope that he himself may be the fortunate aspirant ? If our powers of mind are insufficient to reach the summit, yet in proportion to the advances that we make towards it will be our improvement in both eloquence and virtue. At least, let the notion be wholly banished from our thoughts, that perfect eloquence, the noblest of human attainments, can be united with a vicious character of mind. Talent in speaking, if it fall to the lot of the vicious, must be regarded as being itself a vice, since it makes those more mischievous with whom it allies itself.
ON NATURAL ORATORY
MUST observe that some think there is no natural eloquence but such as is of a character with the language of ordinary conversation, the language in which
we address our friends, wives, children, and servants, and which is intended only to express our thoughts, and requires no foreign or elaborate ornament; they say that all that is superadded to such language is mere affectation, and vain ostentation of style, at variance with truth, and invented only with a view to a display of words, to which, they assert, the only office attributed by nature is to be instrumental in expressing our thoughts; comparing an eloquent and brilliant style to the bodies of athletes, which, though they are rendered stouter by exercise, and by regularity of diet, are yet not in a natural condition, or in conformity with that appearance which has been assigned to man. Of what profit is it, they ask, to clothe our thoughts in circumlocution and metaphor, that is, in words unnecessarily numerous, and in unnatural words, when everything has its peculiar term appropriated to it? They contend that the most ancient speakers were most in conformity with nature; and that there subsequently arose others, with a greater resemblance to the poets, who showed (less openly, indeed, than the poets, but after the same fashion) that they regarded departures from truth and nature as merits. In this argument there is certainly some foundation of truth, and accordingly we ought not to depart so far as some speakers do from exact and ordinary language. Yet if