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LECTURES ON RHETORIC.
A PROPER acquaintance with the circle of liberal arts is requisite to the study of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. To extend the knowledge of them must be the first care of those who wish, either to write with reputation, or so to express themselves in public, as to command attention. Among the ancients it was an essential principle, that the orator ought to be conversant in every department of learning. No art indeed can be contrived which can stamp merit on a composition, rich or splendid in expression, but barren or erroneous in sentiment. Oratory, it is true, has often been disgraced by attempts to establish a false criterion of its value. Writers have endeavoured to supply want of matter by graces of composition; and courted the temporary applause of the ignorant instead of the lasting approbation of the discerning. But such imposture must be short and transitory. The body and substance of any valuable composition must be formed of knowledge and science. Rhetoric completes the structure, and adds the polish; but firm and sclid bodies only are able to receive it.
What is requisite for the study of Rhetoric and Beiles Lettres?-What must be the first care?-What was an essential principle among the ancients?-What cannot art do?-How has oratory been disgraced?-What have writers attempted to do?-What will be the result of such imposture?-Of what must the body and substance of any valuable composition be formed?-What does rhetoric do?--What bodies only are able to receive it?
Among the learned it has long been a contested, and remains still an undecided question, whether nature or art contribute most toward excellence in writing and discourse. Various may be the opinions with respect to the manner, in which art can most effectually furnish aid for such a purpose; and it were presumption to assert, that rhetorical rules, how just soever, are sufficient to form an orator. Private application and study, supposing natural genius to be favourable, are certainly superior to any system of public instruction. But, though rules and instructions cannot effect every thing which is requisite, they may be of considerable use. If they cannot inspire genius, they can give it direction and assistance. If they cannot make barrenness fruitful, they can correct redundancy. They present proper models for imitation; they point out the principal beauties which ought to be studied, and the chief faults which ought to be avoided, and consequently, tend to enlighten taste, and to conduct genius from unnatural deviations into its proper channel. Though they are incapable of producing great excellencies, they may at least serve to prevent considerable mistakes.
In the education of youth, no object has appeared more important to wise men in every age, than to excite in them an early relish for the entertainments of taste. From these to the discharge of the higher and more important duties of life the transition is natural -and easy. Of those minds which have this elegant and liberal turn, the most pleasing hopes may be enter
What question has been long contested among the learned? What opinions may be various?-What would be presumption to assert?-What is superior to any system of instruction?-Are rules and instructions of any use? -Of what use are they ?
In the education of youth what has been an important object?-How is the transition from this to the discharge of the more important duties of life?-Of whom may
tained. On the contrary, entire insensibility to eloquence, poetry, or any of the fine arts, may justly be considered as a bad symptom in youth; and supposes them inclined to low gratifications, or capable of being engaged only in the common pursuits of life.
Improvement of taste seems to be more or less connected with every good and virtuous disposition. By giving frequent exercises to the tender and humane passions, a cultivated taste increases sensibility; yet, at the same time, it tends to soften the more violent and angry emotions.
Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
These polished arts have humaniz'd mankind,
Poetry, eloquence, and history, continually exhibit to our view those elevated sentiments and high examples, which tend to nourish in our minds public spirit, love of glory, contempt of external fortune, and admiration of every thing truly great, noble, and illustrious.
pleasing hopes be entertained?-What may be considered a bad symptom in youth ?-What does it suppose them?
What is improvement of taste more or less connected. with? What is said of poetry, eloquence, and history?
TASTE is "the power of receiving pleasure or pain from the beauties or deformities of nature and of art." It is a faculty common in some degree to all men. Through the circle of human nature, nothing is more general, than the relish of beauty of one kind or other; of what is orderly, proportioned, grand, harmonious, new, or sprightly. Nor does there prevail less generally a disrelish of whatever is gross, disproportioned, disorderly, and discordant. In children the rudiments of taste appear very early in a thousand instances; in their partiality for regular bodies, their fondness for pictures and statues, and their warm attachment to whatever is new or astonishing. The most stupid peasants receive pleasure from tales and ballads, and are delighted with the beautiful appearances of nature in the earth and heavens. Even in the deserts of America, where human nature appears in its most uncultivated state, the savages have their ornaments of dress, their war and their death songs, their harangues and their orators. The principles of taste must therefore be deeply founded in the human mind. To have some discernment of beauty is no less essential to man, than to possess the attributes of speech and reason.
Though no human being can be entirely devoid of this faculty, yet it is possessed in very different degrees. In some men only faint glimmerings of taste are visible; the beauties which they relish are of the
What is the subject of this lecture?-What is taste?Is it common to all men?--What do men relish ?-What do they disrelish?-How do the rudiments of taste appear in children ?-How does taste appear in peasants?How in savages?-What must we conclude therefore?
How is this faculty possessed among men?