« PředchozíPokračovat »
fluence of the schoolboy habit of reading in a different key and tone from that of conversation ; and it affords greater scope for 'expression in tones, looks, and gesture.
It were much to be wished, that all public speakers would deliver their thoughts and sentiments, either from memory, er'immediate conception : for, beside that there is an artifacial uniformity, which almost always distinguishes reading from speaking; the fixed posture, and the bending of the head, which reading requires, are inconsistent with the freedom, ease, and variety of just elocution.
But, if this is too much to be expected, especially from Preacliers, who have so much to compose, and are so often called upon to speak in public; it is however extremely desirable, that they should make themselves so well acquainted with their discourse, as to be able, with a single glance of the eye, to take in several clauses or the whole of a sentence *.
I have only to add, that after the utmost pains have been taken to acquire a just elocution, and this with the greatest success, there is some difficulty in carrying the art of speaking out of the school, or chamber, to the bar, the senate, or the pulpit. A young man, who has been accustomed to perform frequent exercises in this art in private, cannot easily persuade himself, when he appears before the public, to consider the business he has to perform in any other light, than as a trial of skill, and a display of oratory. Hence the character of an Orator is often treated with ridicule, sometimes with contempt. We are pleased with the easy and graceful movements, which the true gentleman has acquired by having learned to dance; but we are offended by the coxcomb, who is always exhibiting his formal dancing-bow, and minuet-step. So we admire the manly eloquence and noble ardour of the Senator employed in the cause of justice and freedom; the quick recollection, the ingenious reasoning, and the ready declamation of the accomplished Barrister; and the dignified simplicity and unaffected energy of the Sacred Instructor ; but when, in any one of these capacities, a mau so far forgets the ends and degrades the consequence of his profession, as to set himself forth under the character of a
* See Dean Swift's advice on this head, in his Letter to a young Clergyman.
Spouter, and to parade it in the ears of the vulgar with all the pomp of artificial eloquence, though the unskilful may gaze and applaud, the judicious cannot but be grieved and disgusted. . Avail yourself, then, of your skill in the Art of Speaking, but always employ your powers of elocution with caution and modesty; remembering, that though it be desirable to be admired as an eminent Orator, it is of much more importance to be respected as an able Lawyer, a useful Preacher, or a wise and upright Statesman.
ON READING WORKS OF TASTE,
Ma ta magis quam multorum lectione formanda mens, et ducendus est color.Queuille
READING can be considered as a mere amusement, only by the most vulgar, or the most frivolous part of mankind. Every one, whom natural good sense and a liberal education have qualified to form a judgment upon the subject, will acknowledge, that it is capable of being applied to an endless variety of useful purposes. This is, indeed, sufficiently evident, without any studied proof, from the nature of the thing. For, what is reading, but a method of conferring with men who in every age have been most distinguished by their genius and learning, of becoming acquainted with the result
of their mature reflections, and of contemplating at leisure the finished productions of their inventive powers ? From such an intercourse, conducted with a moderate share of caution and judgment, it must be impossible not to derive innumerable advantages.
The principal uses of reading may perhaps not improperly he referred to two objects, the improvement of the understanding, and the exercise of imagination : whence books may he distinguished by two leading characters, Instructive and Interesting; and will be divided into two classes, Works of Knowledge, and Works of Taste.
Between the two kinds of reading, whieh books, thus classed, afford, there is one characteristic difference. In works which are merely intended to communicate knowledge, writing is made use of only as a vehicle of instruction; and therefore nothing farther is necessary, or perhaps desira able, than that they should express the facts, or truths, which they are intended to teach, with perfect perspicuity of conception, arrangement, and diction. But in works of taste, the writing itself becomes a principal object of attention, as a representation of nature, more or less accurate, according to the powers which the writer possesses of expressing in language the conceptions of his own imagination. This representation cannot, indeed, be called an initation of nature, in the same strict and literal sense in which the term is applied to a picture ; because words are not natural copies, but arbitrary signs of things : but it produces an effect upon the imagination and feelings of the reader, similar to that which is produced by the art of painting. It was doubtless for this reason, that Aristotle defined poetry an imitative art.
These circumstances render THE READING OF WORKS OF TASTE a subject of disquisition, or of precept; not less extensive than that of writings intended for the communicas tion of knowledge; and on account of it's influence upon the state of the mind, it may perhaps be justly asserted to be not less important. It is the design of this Essay, briefly to represent the Benefits which are to be expected from this kind of reading ; and to suggest certain RULES for conducting it in the most advantageous manner.
The agreeable EMPLOYMENT, which reading works of taste affords the active faculties of the mind, is it's first and most obvious effect.
The productions of genius, whether written in narrative, descriptive, or dramatic form, agree in the general character of presenting before the mind of the reader certain objects, which awaken his attention, exercise his fancy, and interest his feelings. Those scenes in nature, that, from causes which it is the business of philosophy to explore, are adapted to excite in the spectator agreeable perceptions and emotions; may, by the aid of language, be exhibited in colours less vivid indeed thạn those of nature, but sufficiently bright, to make a strong impression upon the imagination. A similar effect
will be produced by the representation of buman characters and aetions, but with a superior degree of force, og account of the superiority of animated to inanimate nature, and on ac• count of the peculiar interest, wbich men naturally take in whatever concerns their own species. These are rich and spacious fields, from which genius may collect materials for it's various productions, without hazard of exhausting their treasures. The ancients, numerous as their works of fancy are, were capable of enriching them with an endless variety of imagery, sentiment, and language. That strict adherence to nature, which good sense and correct taste obliged them to observe, produced indeed such a general resemblance, as must always be found among disciples of the same school : and sometimes we find them copying with too much servility the works of other artists. But there were few among them, who were not able to collect, from the common magazine of nature, stores before unnoticed ; and to adorn their works, not only with new decorations of language, but with original conceptions. And, notwithstanding the complaint of indo, lence and dulness, that the topics of description, and even of fiction, are exhausted ; Genius still sometimes asserts her claims, and proves that the variety of her productions, like that of the operations of nature, is without limit. *Hence they who are conversant with works of genius and taste find a variety in their sources of entertainment, in some measure proportioned to the extent of their acquaintance with languages. The industrious scholar, who has, with many a weary step, so far won his way through the rugged path of grammatical studies, as to have acquired a competent knowledge of the ancient Greek and Roman languages, is arrived at a fertile and well-cultivated plain, every where adorned with the fairest flowers, and enriched with the choicest fruits.
a The writings of the ancients abound with excellent productions in every interesting kind of composition. There is no pleasing affection of the mind, which may not, in these invaluable remains of antiquity, find ample scope for grati. fication. The Epic Muse, whether she appears in the mar jestic simplicity of Homer, or in the finished elegance of Virgil, presents before the delighted imagination an endless variety of grand and beautiful objects, interesting actions, and characters strongly marked, which it is impossible to con