Page images

"thought they saw the thunder, which demolished "so many cities, fly from her oratory.

"[m] With a calm and serene aspect, he (Lewis "XIV.) formed those thunderbolts which were "heard throughout the world, and those which still "remain to be hurled."

[n] Pour comble de prosperité,
Il espère (l'impie) revivre en sa postérité :
Et d'enfans à sa table une riante troupe
Semble boire avec lui la joie à pleine coupe.


"The wretch, more prosp'rous still,

Hopes to revive in his posterity:

"Fancies his children are conversing with him, "And, flush'd with joy, smile o'er the flowing "bowls."

Before I conclude this article, I must observe in general, [o] that Figures ought to be applied with great discernment and prudence. They are like seasoning to an oration; they raise the style, make us quit the vulgar and common way of speaking, prevent the distaste which a tiresome uniformity would occa sion; but then they must be employed sparingly, and with discretion; for, if they are used too often, they lose the grace of variety, in which their principal merit consists; and the more they shine, the more they disgust and tire, from a vicious affectation, which shews they are not natural, but far-fetched, with too much care, and, as it were, forced in.

It is not necessary to observe, that some Figures are so common and trivial, they have lost all their beauty,

[m] Pelisson. [n] Racine.

[o] Una in re maximè utilis, ut quotidiani & semper eodem modo formati sermonis fastidium levet, & nos à vulgari dicendi genere defendat. Quo si quis parcè, & cum res poscet, utetur, velut asperso quodam condimento, jucundior erit.

At qui nimiùm affectaverit, ipsam illam gratiam varietatis amittet... Nam & secretæ, & extra vulgarem usum positæ, ideoque magis nobiles; ut novitate aurem excitant, ita copiâ satiant: nec se obvias fuisse dicenti, sed conquisitas, & ex omnibus latebris extractas congestasque declarant. Qint. 1. 9. c. 3.


especially when they are too long. [p] Miserum est exturbari fortunis omnibus: miserius est injuriá. Acerbum est. . . acerbius. Calamitosum est. . calamitosius. Funestum est. . . funestius. Indignum est, indignius. Luctuosum est. . . luctuosius. Horribile est,, . horribilius. The auditor anticipates the answer, and is tired of this burden of a song always in the same strain. The same may be observed of the other Figure, which is still more tedious. [g] Qui sunt qui fædera sæpe ruperunt? Carthaginienses. Qui sunt qui in Italia crudele bellum gesserunt? Carthaginienses. Qui sunt, &c.



I HERE give that name to a certain care which the orator must take not to offend the delicacy of those before or of whom he is speaking; and the studied and artful turns which he employs to express some things, that would otherwise appear harsh and offensive. I call this oratorial Precautions, because it contains an art and address, certainly essential to rhetoric, and for that reason deserves the attention of youth. Some examples will render the thing

more obvious.

Chrysogonus, Sylla's freedman, was in such credit with his master (who was then absolute in the commonwealth), that no lawyer durst plead against him in behalf of Roscius. Cicero only, though very young, had the courage to undertake so delicate a cause. [r] He is very careful throughout the whole speech to observe in several places, that Sylla was a stranger to all the villainies of his freedman; that great industry had been used to conceal them from him; that those who could have informed him of them, were denied all access to him; that, on the whole, it was not surprising, [P] Pro. Quint. n. 95: [r] Pro Rosc. n. 21, 22, 25, 91, [9] Cornif. I. 4. that

c 3

110, 127.

that [s] Sylla, who alone had the care of re-establishing and governing the commonwealth, should not know or neglect several things, since a great many escaped the knowledge and attention of Jupiter himself in the government of the universe. It is very obvious, that such Precautions were absolutely necessary.

Cicero, in his pleading, called Divinatio in Verrem, is obliged to shew, that he is fitter to plead against Verres than Cecilius. [t] Such a cause was to be managed with great address and conduct, to avoid giving offence; for self-praise is always odious, especially when it turns on wit and eloquence. After Cicero had proved, that Cecilius had none of the qualifications necessary for a cause of so much importance, he is far from ascribing them to himself: so gross a vanity would have set every body against him.. [u] He says only, that he had laboured all his life to acquire them; and that if he was not able to succeed, notwithstanding his great pains and industry, it is not surprising that Cecilius, who never had any idea of this noble profession, should be absolutely incapable of it.

When he pleaded for Flaccus, he was to invalidate the testimony of several Greeks, who had sworn against his client. To do this the more effectually, he attempts to depreciate the nation itself, as not over-scrupulous in matters of veracity and sincerity. He does not begin abruptly with so harsh a charge. At first, he sets apart, as it were, a real number of worthy persons, who are far from being carried away with the blind passion of some of their countrymen. He afterwards gives great encomiumns to the whole nation, highly magnifying their genius, abilities, politeness, their taste for arts, and their marvellous talent for eloquence; but he adds, that the Greeks

[5] N. 131.

[1] Intelligo quàm scopuloso difficilique in loco verser. Nam cùm omnis arrogantia odiosa est, tum illa ingenii atque eloquentiæ multò molestissima, n. 36,

[u] Fortasse dices: Quid? Ergo hæc in te sunt omnia? Utinam quidem essent! veruntamen ut esse possent, magno studio mihi à pueritiâ est elaboratum, n. 40.

never piqued themselves upon being exact or sincere in giving evidence. [r] Veruntamen hoc dico de toto genere Græcorum: tribuo illis literas ; do multarum artium disciplinam; non adimo sermonis leporem, ingeniorum acumen, dicendi copiam; denique etiam, si qua sibi alia sumunt, non repugno: testimoniorum religionem & fidem nunquam ista natio coluit, totiusque hujusce rei quæ sit vis, quæ auctoritas, quod pondus, ignorant. "But let me give the "Greeks their due praise. I allow them to be learn"ed, perfectly skilled in many of the arts; I do not "refuse them an elegance of style, a penetration of genius, or a facility of speaking. Nay, if there be any other merit they are willing to claim, I will not "refuse it; but that nation was never remarkable for "integrity in giving their testimony. They are tototally ignorant of the force, the weight, and the "authority of an oath."

We know Cicero chiefly excelled in moving the passions, and that he often drew tears from the eyes of his auditors, by the soft and affecting discourse he put into the mouths of his clients, in the conclusion of his pleadings. The greatness of soul and noble pride upon which Milo valued himself, deprived his advocate of so powerful a resource. [y] But Cicero had the art of making even his courage of service towards gaining the favour of the judges; and he himself assumed the character of a petitioner, which he could not give to his client.

The inviolable respect which children owe to their parents, even when they treat them with rigour and injustice, makes some conjunctures very difficult, in which they are obliged to speak against their parents; and it is on these occasions that true rhetoric furnishes turns, and artful strokes, which give to paternal authority whatever is its due, without losing any of the advantages of the cause. [] It must then be incul

[blocks in formation]

cated, that nothing but indispensible necessity can force, from the mouths of children, complaints which their hearts would suppress; and that even through those complaints, not only a fund of respect may be discovered, but one of love and tenderness also. A fine example of this precept may be seen in the pleading for Cluentius, whom his mother treated with unheard-of cruelty.

[a] The rule I have now touched upon regards every inferior, who has any just pretensions against a superior, whom he ought to respect and honour.

There are some occasions where interest or decency will not permit us to explain ourselves in express terms [6], but in which we would, at the same time, insinuate to the judge some things we dare not speak openly. A son, for example, cannot gain his suit without discovering a crime of which his father is guilty. [c] The things themselves, says Quintilian, must leaď the judge insensibly to guess at what the parties are unwilling to declare; that, every other motive being laid aside, he may be forced, as it were, to sce the only one which remains; and which the respect for a father hinders him from discovering. And then, the son's speech being suspended and interrupted from time to time, as it were by a forced silence, and a warm sense of tenderness, must explain the violence he does himself, to prevent his letting words drop, which the force of truth would seemingly extort from him. By this, the judge is inclined to enquire after that inexpressible something, which he would not perhaps have believed, had it been discovered to him; but which he now is fully convinced of, from the belief that he has discovered it by his own enquiry.

am caritas præterea causa sit nobis justa sic dicendi; neque id moderatè tantùm faciamus, sed etiam necessariò. Quint. l. 11. c. 1.

[a] N. 12, & 17.

[b] In quo per quandam suspicionem, quod non dicimus, accipi volumus. Quint. I. 9. c. 2.

[c] Res ipsa perducant judicem

ad suspicionem, & amoliamur cœtera, ut hoc solum supersit: in quo multum etiam affectus juvant, & interrupta silentio dictio, & cunctationes. Sic enim fiet, ut judex quærat illud nescio quid, quod ipse fortasse non crederet, si audiret; & ei, quod à se inventum existimat, credat. Ibid.


« PreviousContinue »