« AnteriorContinuar »
dream of. Its usefulness is universal: there is nothing to which it cannot be applied. The gentleman who spoke last referred to the remarks of an ancient writer in favour of the Printing Press: let me cite the remarks of an equally great modern writer* in favour of the Steam Engine.
“It has become,” he says, “a thing stupendous, “ alike for its force and its flexibility; for the “ prodigious power which it can exert, and the “ ease, and precision, and ductility with which it “ can be varied, distributed, and applied. The “ trunk of an elephant, that can pick up a pin, or “ rend an oak, is as nothing to it. It can engrave “ a seal, and crush obdurate masses of metal “ before it; draw out, without breakinę, a thread " as fine as a gossamer, and lift up a ship of war “ like a bauble in the air. It can embroider “ muslin, and forge anchors; cut steel into rib“ bons, and iinpel loaded vessels against the fury “ of the winds and waves."
I will now leave the question in your hands.
See LORD JEFFREY's Essays, vol. iv. p. 551.
HUNE's Essay ON - THE LIBERTY OF THE
PRESS, vol. i. p. 9.
pp. 59. 245, 246. 539. SYDNEY TAYLOR'S WORKS, p. 122. BECKMAN'S HISTORY OF INVENTIONS.
* Lord Jeffrey.
QUESTION X. Which does the most to make the Orator-Know
ledge, Nature, or Art ?
OPENER. — Sir, Oratory has done so much for the cause of human progress and enlightenment, and the masters of Oratory have always been held so high in the world, that the question which I have had the honour to propose cannot fail to be both interesting and instructive to us.
I seek to know whether the Orator owes his power and success to his Knowledge, to his Natural genius, or to his study of the Art of speech? Decision upon this point will clearly be of use to us; for, as we decide, so we shall act.
I am of opinion that the Orator owes most to Nature. I think the gift of speech is as much a talent as the gift of music or any other talent with which a man is born. Experience is the ground on which I build my belief. How often do you see a man who knows a subject thoroughly, and yet cannot say five consecutive words upon it: whilst, on the other hand, how frequently do you find that a man, only slightly versed in the same topic, will make you a striking speech upon it, full of wit, grace, and eloquence! That the power of speech is a gift of Nature, is proverbial : and, in my opinion, justly so; for observation continually shows us that even in early youth, when knowledge is scanty, the faculty is often strikingly developed; whilst in the maturity of manly age, when knowledge is full, and (as far as earth can make it so) complete, the faculty is frequently altogether absent.
And as to Art: How very common and numerous are the instances where, after instructing a young man in elocution, till he has practised as long (and almost as painfully) as Demosthenes, he stammers and stutters so dreadfully if he have a sentence or two to say, that you feel quite a pain and pity for him; whilst, on the contrary, you continually find that men who have never been taught the Art of Speech at all, become accomplished and striking Orators!
These instances seem to me quite sufficient to prove that Oratory is a natural, and not an acquired power.
SECOND SPEAKER.–Our friend who has opened this debate, has spoken so very slightingly of the Art of speech, that I feel (although the humblest, champion of the cause) obliged to venture a word or two in its defence. In my opinion it is Art to which the Orator is
mainly indebted for his success. I take as an instance of the value of Art, the case of Demosthenes. This great Orator, the greatest that the world has ever seen, was originally so vile a speaker, that his audiences hissed him from their presence. Now he had genius, for a greater mind never existed: and Knowledge, for he had been instructed by the wisest philosophers: but being deficient in Art, he was so graceless and unpleas. ing that men would not listen to him. When however he devoted himself to the study of the Art, he conquered his defects, and won not merely contemporary applause (which is the total meed of most orators), but the applause and admiration of the whole world until now. The next greatest Orator we know of, Cicero, is another example of the truth of my argument. His devotion to the Art is so well known as to need no evidence in proof: the compilation of his great work De Oratore is evidence enough, at all events. And how wonderful was his success! Other instances as striking, if not so illustrious, might be cited without end, were it necessary: but these will suffice. They will suffice to show you that as oratory is most successful when the Art of oratory is most cultivated, it must be to Art that the success is mainly owing.
THIRD SPEAKER. — Sir, I am of opinion that
it is neither to Nature nor to Art that the success of an Orator is owing, but to Knowledge. Were the object of oratory to astonish and dazzle the hearer with fine figures of rhetoric, and graceful streams or overpowering torrents of thought, then I might accord the palm to Genius. Or were the object of human speech to delight the ear with inellifluous cadences, and charm the eye with pleasing action and expression, then I should say that the power of oratory is in Art. But these are not the ends which oratory has in view : they are only the means. The sole proper object of all oratory is truth, persuasion, conviction. He therefore who is master of his subject, who has the most thorough Knowledge of it, must be the best, because the most effective, speaker, after all.
Take three different men; a man of plain practical Knowledge, a man of lofty Genius, and a man of consummate Art; and give them a subject to debate. You will find, that whilst the man of Genius thrills and delights you with his eloquence, whilst the man of Art enchants you with his elegance of action and delivery, the man of Knowledge is the one who in the end convinces you.
Genius without Knowledge is dazzling, but useless; Art without Knowledge is empty and vain; but Knowledge, without either Art or Genius, can still be of service to truth, and still acquire respect from all men.