Tacitus 56 - 120 64
Dialogues on Oratory (Causes of Corrupt Eloquence)
1 About Me 8
2 Education
3 Philosophy
4 Politics
5 News
6 Travel
7 Sports
8 Funding
Page Data
Body Pages 91.4 Time 1:16:10
Chapters 42
Pages per chapter 2.2
1 General introduction, with reasons for writing an account of following discourse 1.4 0.
2 persons engaged in dialogue; at first, Curiatius Maternus, Julius Secundus, & Marcus Aper 1.2 0.
3 Secundus endeavours to dissuade Maternus from thinking any more of dramatic composition 1.2 0.
4 Maternus gives his reasons for persisting .7 0.
5 Aper condemns his resolution, and, in point of utility, real happiness, fame & dignity, contends that oratorical profession is preferable to poetical 2.3 0.
6 2 0.
7 1.5 0.
8 He cites example of Eprius Marcellus & Crispus Vibius, who raised themselves by their eloquence to highest honours 1.9 0.
9 Poetical fame brings with it no advantage 2.4 0.
10 He exhorts Maternus to relinquish muses, & devote his whole to eloquence & business of bar 2.8 0.
11 Maternus defends his favourite studies; pleasures arising from poetry are in their nature innocent & sublime; fame is extensive & immortal. poet enjoys most delightful intercourse with his friends, whereas life of public orator is a state of warfare & anxiety 1.5 0.
12 1.9 0.
13 1.9 0.
14 Vipstanius Messala enters room. He finds his friends engaged in a controversy, & being an admirer of ancient eloquence, he advises Aper to adopt model of ancients in preference to plan of modern rhetoricians 1.5 0.
15 Hence a difference of opinion concerning merit of ancients & moderns. Messala, Secundus, & Maternus, profess themselves admirers of oratory that flourished in time of republic. Aper launches out against ancients, & gives preference to advocates of his own time. He desires to know who are to be accounted ancients 2.3 0.
16 1.7 0.
17 1.9 0.
18 Eloquence has various modes, all changing with conjuncture of times. But it is nature of men to praise past, and censure present. period when Cassius Severus flourished, is stated to be point of time at which men cease to be ancients; Cassius with good reason deviated from ancient manner 2 0.
19 1.8 0.
20 Defects of ancient eloquence: modern style more refined and elegant 1.6 0.
21 The character of Calvus, Cælius, Cæsar & Brutus, & also of Asinius Pollio, & Messala Corvinus 2.4 0.
22 praise & censure of Cicero 1.8 0.
23 The true rhetorical art consists in blending virtues of ancient oratory with beauties of modern style 2.1 0.
24 Maternus observes that there can be no dispute about superior reputation of ancient orators: he therefore calls upon Messala to take that point for granted, & proceed to an enquiry into causes that produced so great an alteration .9 0.
25 After some observations on eloquence of Calvus, Asinius Pollio, Cæsar, Cicero, & others, Messala praises Gracchus & Lucius Crassus, but censures Mæcenas, Gallio, & Cassius Severus 2 0.
26 2 0.
27 Maternus reminds Messala of true point in question; Messala proceeds to assign causes which occasioned decay of eloquence, such as dissipation of young men, inattention of their parents, ignorance of rhetorical professors, & total neglect of ancient discipline 1 0.
28 1.9 0.
29 1.5 0.
30 1.4 0.
31 2.4 0.
32 2.3 0.
33 1.7 0.
34 He proceeds to explain plan of study, & institutions, customs, & various arts, by which orators were formed in time of republic 2.2 0.
35 The defects & vices in new system of education. In this part of dialogue, sequel of Messala's discourse is lost, with whole of what was said by Secundus, & beginning of Maternus: supplement goes on from this place, distinguished by inverted commas [transcriber's note: not used], & sections marked with numerical figures 17.1 0.
1 Messala describes presumption of young advocates on their first appearance at bar; their want of legal knowledge, & absurd habits which they contracted in schools of rhetoricians .9 0.
2 Eloquence totally ruined by preceptors. Messala concludes with desiring Secundus & Maternus to assign reasons which have occurred to them .8 0.
3 .7 0.
4 Secundus gives his opinion. change of government produced a new mode of eloquence. orators under emperors endeavoured to be ingenious rather than natural. Seneca first who introduced a false taste, which still prevailed in reign of Vespasian 1.2 0.
5 .9 0.
6 2 0.
7 1.4 0.
8 Licinius Largus taught advocates of his time disgraceful art of hiring applauders by profession. This was bane of all true oratory, and, for that reason, Maternus was right in renouncing forum altogether 1.3 0.
9 .9 0.
10 Maternus acknowledges that he was disgusted by shameful practices that prevailed at bar, & therefore resolved to devote rest of his time to poetry & muses .9 0.
11 An apology for rhetoricians. praise of Quintilian. True eloquence died with Cicero 1.6 0.
12 1.2 0.
13 The loss of liberty was ruin of genuine oratory. Demosthenes flourished under a free government. original goes on from this place to end of dialogue 1.3 0.
14 1.2 0.
36 Eloquence flourishes most in times of public tumult. crimes of turbulent citizens supply orator with his best materials 2.6 0.
37 In time of republic, oratorical talents were necessary qualifications, & without them no man was deemed worthy of being advanced to magistracy 2.6 0.
38 The Roman orators were not confined in point of time; they might extend their speeches to what length they thought proper, and could even adjourn. Pompey abridged liberty of speech, & limited time 1.1 0.
39 very dress of advocates under emperors was prejudicial to eloquence 1.5 0.
40 True eloquence springs from vices of men, & never was known to exist under a calm & settled government 1.8 0.
41 Eloquence changes with times. Every age has its own peculiar advantages, & invidious comparisons are unnecessary 1.9 0.
42 Conclusion of dialogue .6 0.
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You have often enquired of me, my good friend, Justus Fabius [a], how and from what causes it has proceeded, that while ancient times display a race of great and splendid orators, the present age, dispirited, and without any claim to the praise of eloquence, has scarcely retained the name of an orator. By that appellation we now distinguish none but those who flourished in a former period. To the eminent of the present day, we give the title of speakers, pleaders, advocates, patrons, in short, every thing but orators.

The enquiry is in its nature delicate; tending, if we are not able to contend with antiquity, to impeach our genius, and if we are not willing, to arraign our judgement. An answer to so nice a question is more than I should venture to undertake, were I to rely altogether upon myself: but it happens, that I am able to state the sentiments of men distinguished by their eloquence, such as it is in modern times; having, in the early part of my life, been present at their conversation on the very subject now before us. What I have to offer, will not be the result of my own thinking: it is the work of memory only; a mere recital of what fell from the most celebrated orators of their time: a set of men, who thought with subtilty, and expressed themselves with energy and precision; each, in his turn, assigning different but probable causes, at times insisting on the same, and, in the course of the debate, maintaining his own proper character, and the peculiar cast of his mind. What they said upon the occasion, I shall relate, as nearly as may be, in the style and manner of the several speakers, observing always the regular course and order of the controversy. For a controversy it certainly was, where the speakers of the present age did not want an advocate, who supported their cause with zeal, and, after treating antiquity with sufficient freedom, and even derision, assigned the palm of eloquence to the practisers of modern times.

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Curiatius Maternus [a] gave a public reading of his tragedy of Cato. On the following day a report prevailed, that the piece had given umbrage to the men in power. The author, it was said, had laboured to display his favourite character in the brightest colours; anxious for the fame of his hero, but regardless of himself. This soon became the topic of public conversation. Maternus received a visit from Marcus Aper [b] and Julius Secundus [c], both men of genius, and the first ornaments of the forum. I was, at that time, a constant attendant on those eminent men. I heard them, not only in their scenes of public business, but, feeling an inclination to the same studies, I followed them with all the ardour of youthful emulation. I was admitted to their private parties; I heard their debates, and the amusement of their social hours: I treasured up their wit, and their sentiments on the various topics which they had discussed in conversation. Respected as they were, it must, however, be acknowledged that they did not escape the malignity of criticism. It was objected to Secundus, that he had no command of words, no flow of language; and to Aper, that he was indebted for his fame, not to art or literature, but to the natural powers of a vigorous understanding. The truth is, the style of the former was remarkable for its purity; concise, yet free and copious; and the latter was sufficiently versed in all branches of general erudition. It might be said of him, that he despised literature, not that he wanted it. He thought, perhaps, that, by scorning the aid of letters, and by drawing altogether from his own fund, his fame would stand on a more solid foundation.
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We went together to pay our visit to Maternus. Upon entering his study, we found him with the tragedy, which he had read on the preceding day, lying before him. Secundus began: And are you then so little affected by the censure of malignant critics, as to persist in cherishing a tragedy which has given so much offence? Perhaps you are revising the piece, and, after retrenching certain passages, intend to send your Cato into the world, I will not say improved, but certainly less obnoxious. There lies the poem, said Maternus; you may, if you think proper, peruse it with all its imperfections on its head. If Cato has omitted any thing, Thyestes [a], at my next reading, shall atone for all deficiencies. I have formed the fable of a tragedy on that subject: the plan is warm in my imagination, and, that I may give my whole time to it, I now am eager to dispatch an edition of Cato. Marcus Aper interposed: And are you, indeed, so enamoured of your dramatic muse, as to renounce your oratorical character, and the honours of your profession, in order to sacrifice your time, I think it was lately to Medea, and now to Thyestes? Your friends, in the mean time, expect your patronage; the colonies [b] invoke your aid, and the municipal cities invite you to the bar. And surely the weight of so many causes may be deemed sufficient, without this new solicitude imposed upon you by Domitius [c] or Cato. And must you thus waste all your time, amusing yourself for ever with scenes of fictitious distress, and still labouring to add to the fables of Greece the incidents and characters of the Roman story?
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The sharpness of that reproof, replied Maternus, would, perhaps, have disconcerted me, if, by frequent repetition, it had not lost its sting. To differ on this subject is grown familiar to us both. Poetry, it seems, is to expect no quarter: you wage an incessant war against the followers of that pleasing art; and I, who am charged with deserting my clients, have yet every day the cause of poetry to defend. But we have now a fair opportunity, and I embrace it with pleasure, since we have a person present, of ability to decide between us; a judge, who will either lay me under an injunction to write no more verses, or, as I rather hope, encourage me, by his authority, to renounce for ever the dry employment of forensic causes (in which I have had my share of drudgery), that I may, for the future, be at leisure to cultivate the sublime and sacred eloquence of the tragic muse.
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Secundus desired to be heard: I am aware, he said, that Aper may refuse me as an umpire. Before he states his objections, let me follow the example of all fair and upright judges, who, in particular cases, when they feel a partiality for one of the contending parties, desire to be excused from hearing the cause. The friendship and habitual intercourse, which I have ever cultivated with Saleius Bassus [a], that excellent man, and no less excellent poet, are well known: and let me add, if poetry is to be arraigned, I know no client that can offer such handsome bribes.

My business, replied Aper, is not with Saleius Bassus: let him, and all of his description, who, without talents for the bar, devote their time to the muses, pursue their favourite amusement without interruption. But Maternus must not think to escape in the crowd. I single him out from the rest, and since we are now before a competent judge, I call upon him to answer, how it happens, that a man of his talents, formed by nature to reach the heights of manly eloquence, can think of renouncing a profession, which not only serves to multiply friendships, but to support them with reputation: a profession, which enables us to conciliate the esteem of foreign nations, and (if we regard our own interest) lays open the road to the first honours of the state; a profession, which, besides the celebrity that it gives within the walls of Rome, spreads an illustrious name throughout this wide extent of the empire.

If it be wisdom to make the ornament and happiness of life the end and aim of our actions, what can be more advisable than to embrace an art, by which we are enabled to protect our friends; to defend the cause of strangers; and succour the distressed? Nor is this all: the eminent orator is a terror to his enemies: envy and malice tremble, while they hate him. Secure in his own strength, he knows how to ward off every danger. His own genius is his protection; a perpetual guard, that watches him; an invincible power, that shields him from his enemies.

In the calm seasons of life, the true use of oratory consists in the assistance which it affords to our fellow-citizens. We then behold the triumph of eloquence. Have we reason to be alarmed for ourselves, the sword and breast-plate are not a better defence in the heat of battle. It is at once a buckler to cover yourself [b] and a weapon to brandish against your enemy. Armed with this, you may appear with courage before the tribunals of justice, in the senate, and even in the presence of the prince. We lately saw [c] Eprius Marcellus arraigned before the fathers: in that moment, when the minds of the whole assembly were inflamed against him, what had he to oppose to the vehemence of his enemies, but that nervous eloquence which he possessed in so eminent a degree? Collected in himself, and looking terror to his enemies, he was more than a match for Helvidius Priscus; a man, no doubt, of consummate wisdom, but without that flow of eloquence, which springs from practice, and that skill in argument, which is necessary to manage a public debate. Such is the advantage of oratory: to enlarge upon it were superfluous. My friend Maternus will not dispute the point.

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I proceed to the pleasure arising from the exercise of eloquence; a pleasure which does not consist in the mere sensation of the moment, but is felt through life, repeated every day, and almost every hour. For let me ask, to a man of an ingenuous and liberal mind, who knows the relish of elegant enjoyments, what can yield such true delight, as a concourse of the most respectable characters crowding to his levee? How must it enhance his pleasure, when he reflects, that the visit is not paid to him because he is rich, and wants an heir [a], or is in possession of a public office, but purely as a compliment to superior talents, a mark of respect to a great and accomplished orator! The rich who have no issue, and the men in high rank and power, are his followers. Though he is still young, and probably destitute of fortune, all concur in paying their court to solicit his patronage for themselves, or to recommend their friends to his protection. In the most splendid fortune, in all the dignity and pride of power, is there any thing that can equal the heartfelt satisfaction of the able advocate, when he sees the most illustrious citizens, men respected for their years, and flourishing in the opinion of the public, yet paying their court to a rising genius, and, in the midst of wealth and grandeur, fairly owning, that they still want something superior to all their possessions? What shall be said of the attendants, that follow the young orator from the bar, and watch his motions to his own house? With what importance does he appear to the multitude! in the courts of judicature, with what veneration! When he rises to speak, the audience is hushed in mute attention; every eye is fixed on him alone; the crowd presses round him; he is master of their passions; they are swayed, impelled, directed, as he thinks proper. These are the fruits of eloquence, well known to all, and palpable to every common observer.

There are other pleasures more refined and secret, felt only by the initiated. When the orator, upon some great occasion, comes with a well-digested speech, conscious of his matter, and animated by his subject, his breast expands, and heaves with emotions unfelt before. In his joy there is a dignity suited to the weight and energy of the composition which he has prepared. Does he rise to hazard himself [b] in a sudden debate; he is alarmed for himself, but in that very alarm there is a mingle of pleasure, which predominates, till distress itself becomes delightful. The mind exults in the prompt exertion of its powers, and even glories in its rashness. The productions of genius, and those of the field, have this resemblance: many things are sown, and brought to maturity with toil and care; yet that, which grows from the wild vigour of nature, has the most grateful flavour.

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As to myself, if I may allude to my own feelings, the day on which I put on the manly gown [a], and even the days that followed, when, as a new man at Rome, born in a city that did not favour my pretensions [b], I rose in succession to the offices of quæstor, tribune, and prætor; those days, I say, did not awaken in my breast such exalted rapture, as when, in the course of my profession, I was called forth, with such talents as have fallen to my share, to defend the accused; to argue a question of law before the centumviri [c], or, in the presence of the prince, to plead for his freedmen, and the procurators appointed by himself. Upon those occasions I towered above all places of profit, and all preferment; I looked down on the dignities of tribune, prætor, and consul; I felt within myself, what neither the favour of the great, nor the wills and codicils [d] of the rich, can give, a vigour of mind, an inward energy, that springs from no external cause, but is altogether your own.

Look through the circle of the fine arts, survey the whole compass of the sciences, and tell me in what branch can the professors acquire a name to vie with the celebrity of a great and powerful orator. His fame does not depend on the opinion of thinking men, who attend to business and watch the administration of affairs; he is applauded by the youth of Rome, at least by such of them as are of a well-turned disposition, and hope to rise by honourable means. The eminent orator is the model which every parent recommends to his children. Even the common people [e] stand at gaze, as he passes by; they pronounce his name with pleasure, and point at him as the object of their admiration. The provinces resound with his praise. The strangers, who arrive from all parts, have heard of his genius; they wish to behold the man, and their curiosity is never at rest, till they have seen his person, and perused his countenance.

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I have already mentioned Eprius Marcellus and Crispus Vibius [a]. I cite living examples, in preference to the names of a former day. Those two illustrious persons, I will be bold to say, are not less known in the remotest parts of the empire, than they are at Capua, or Vercellæ [b], where, we are told, they both were born. And to what is their extensive fame to be attributed? Not surely to their immoderate riches. Three hundred thousand sesterces cannot give the fame of genius. Their eloquence may be said to have built up their fortunes; and, indeed, such is the power, I might say the inspiration, of eloquence, that in every age we have examples of men, who by their talents raised themselves to the summit of their ambition.

But I waive all former instances. The two, whom I have mentioned, are not recorded in history, nor are we to glean an imperfect knowledge of them from tradition; they are every day before our eyes. They have risen from low beginnings; but the more abject their origin, and the more sordid the poverty, in which they set out, their success rises in proportion, and affords a striking proof of what I have advanced; since it is apparent, that, without birth or fortune, neither of them recommended by his moral character, and one of them deformed in his person, they have, notwithstanding all disadvantages, made themselves, for a series of years, the first men in the state. They began their career in the forum, and, as long as they chose to pursue that road of ambition, they flourished in the highest reputation; they are now at the head of the commonwealth, the ministers who direct and govern, and so high in favour with the prince, that the respect, with which he receives them, is little short of veneration.

The truth is, Vespasian [c], now in the vale of years, but always open to the voice of truth, clearly sees that the rest of his favourites derive all their lustre from the favours, which his munificence has bestowed; but with Marcellus and Crispus the case is different: they carry into the cabinet, what no prince can give, and no subject can receive. Compared with the advantages which those men possess, what are family-pictures, statues, busts, and titles of honour? They are things of a perishable nature, yet not without their value. Marcellus and Vibius know how to estimate them, as they do wealth and honours; and wealth and honours are advantages against which you will easily find men that declaim, but none that in their hearts despise them. Hence it is, that in the houses of all who have distinguished themselves in the career of eloquence, we see titles, statues, and splendid ornaments, the reward of talents, and, at all times, the decorations of the great and powerful orator.

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But to come to the point, from which we started: poetry, to which my friend Maternus wishes to dedicate all his time, has none of these advantages. It confers no dignity, nor does it serve any useful purpose. It is attended with some pleasure, but it is the pleasure of a moment, springing from vain applause, and bringing with it no solid advantage. What I have said, and am going to add, may probably, my good friend Maternus, be unwelcome to your ear; and yet I must take the liberty to ask you, if Agamemnon [a] or Jason speaks in your piece with dignity of language, what useful consequence follows from it? What client has been defended? Who confesses an obligation? In that whole audience, who returns to his own house with a grateful heart? Our friend Saleius Bassus [b] is, beyond all question, a poet of eminence, or, to use a warmer expression, he has the god within him: but who attends his levee? who seeks his patronage, or follows in his train? Should he himself, or his intimate friend, or his near relation, happen to be involved in a troublesome litigation, what course do you imagine he would take? He would, most probably, apply to his friend, Secundus; or to you, Maternus; not because you are a poet, nor yet to obtain a copy of verses from you; of those he has a sufficient stock at home, elegant, it must be owned, and exquisite in the kind. But after all his labour and waste of genius, what is his reward?

When in the course of a year, after toiling day and night, he has brought a single poem to perfection, he is obliged to solicit his friends and exert his interest, in order to bring together an audience [c], so obliging as to hear a recital of the piece. Nor can this be done without expence. A room must be hired, a stage or pulpit must be erected; benches must be arranged, and hand-bills distributed throughout the city. What if the reading succeeds to the height of his wishes? Pass but a day or two, and the whole harvest of praise and admiration fades away, like a flower that withers in its bloom, and never ripens into fruit. By the event, however flattering, he gains no friend, he obtains no patronage, nor does a single person go away impressed with the idea of an obligation conferred upon him. The poet has been heard with applause; he has been received with acclamations; and he has enjoyed a short-lived transport.

Bassus, it is true, has lately received from Vespasian a present of fifty thousand sesterces. Upon that occasion, we all admired the generosity of the prince. To deserve so distinguished a proof of the sovereign's esteem is, no doubt, highly honourable; but is it not still more honourable, if your circumstances require it, to serve yourself by your talents? to cultivate your genius, for your own advantage? and to owe every thing to your own industry, indebted to the bounty of no man whatever? It must not be forgotten, that the poet, who would produce any thing truly excellent in the kind, must bid farewell to the conversation of his friends; he must renounce, not only the pleasures of Rome, but also the duties of social life; he must retire from the world; as the poets say, "to groves and grottos every muse's son." In other words, he must condemn himself to a sequestered life in the gloom of solitude.

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The love of fame, it seems, is the passion that inspires the poet's genius: but even in this respect, is he so amply paid as to rival in any degree the professors of the persuasive arts? As to the indifferent poet, men leave him to his own [a] mediocrity: the real genius moves in a narrow circle. Let there be a reading of a poem by the ablest master of his art: will the fame of his performance reach all quarters, I will not say of the empire, but of Rome only? Among the strangers who arrive from Spain, from Asia, or from Gaul, who enquires [b] after Saleius Bassus? Should it happen that there is one, who thinks, of him; his curiosity is soon satisfied; he passes on, content with a transient view, as if he had seen a picture or a statue.

In what I have advanced, let me not be misunderstood: I do not mean to deter such as are not blessed with the gift of oratory, from the practice of their favourite art, if it serves to fill up their time, and gain a degree of reputation. I am an admirer of eloquence [c]; I hold it venerable, and even sacred, in all its shapes, and every mode of composition. The pathetic of tragedy, of which you, Maternus, are so great a master; the majesty of the epic, the gaiety of the lyric muse; the wanton elegy, the keen iambic, and the pointed epigram; all have their charms; and Eloquence, whatever may be the subject which she chooses to adorn, is with me the sublimest faculty, the queen of all the arts and sciences. But this, Maternus, is no apology for you, whose conduct is so extraordinary, that, though formed by nature to reach the summit of perfection [d], you choose to wander into devious paths, and rest contented with an humble station in the vale beneath.

Were you a native of Greece, where to exhibit in the public games [e] is an honourable employment; and if the gods had bestowed upon you the force and sinew of the athletic Nicostratus [f]; do you imagine that I could look tamely on, and see that amazing vigour waste itself away in nothing better than the frivolous art of darting the javelin, or throwing the coit? To drop the allusion, I summon you from the theatre and public recitals to the business of the forum, to the tribunals of justice, to scenes of real contention, to a conflict worthy of your abilities. You cannot decline the challenge, for you are left without an excuse. You cannot say, with a number of others, that the profession of poetry is safer than that of the public orator; since you have ventured, in a tragedy written with spirit, to display the ardour of a bold and towering genius.

And for whom have you provoked so many enemies? Not for a friend; that would have had alleviating circumstances. You undertook the cause of Cato, and for him committed yourself. You cannot plead, by way of apology, the duty of an advocate, or the sudden effusion of sentiment in the heat and hurry of an unpremeditated speech. Your plan was settled; a great historical personage was your hero, and you chose him, because what falls from so distinguished a character, falls from a height that gives it additional weight. I am aware of your answer: you will say, it was that very circumstance that ensured the success of your piece; the sentiments were received with sympathetic rapture: the room echoed with applause, and hence your fame throughout the city of Rome. Then let us hear no more of your love of quiet and a state of security: you have voluntarily courted danger. For myself, I am content with controversies of a private nature, and the incidents of the present day. If, hurried beyond the bounds of prudence, I should happen, on any occasion, to grate the ears of men in power, the zeal of an advocate, in the service of his client, will excuse the honest freedom of speech, and, perhaps, be deemed a proof of integrity.

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Aper went through his argument, according to his custom, with warmth and vehemence. He delivered the whole with a peremptory tone and an eager eye. As soon as he finished, I am prepared, said Maternus smiling, to exhibit a charge against the professors of oratory, which may, perhaps, counterbalance the praise so lavishly bestowed upon them by my friend. In the course of what he said, I was not surprised to see him going out of his way, to lay poor poetry prostrate at his feet. He has, indeed, shewn some kindness to such as are not blessed with oratorical talents. He has passed an act of indulgence in their favour, and they, it seems, are allowed to pursue their favourite studies. For my part, I will not say that I think myself wholly unqualified for the eloquence of the bar. It may be true, that I have some kind of talent for that profession; but the tragic muse affords superior pleasure. My first attempt was in the reign of Nero, in opposition to the extravagant claims of the prince [a], and in defiance of the domineering spirit of Vatinius [b], that pernicious favourite, by whose coarse buffoonery the muses were every day disgraced, I might say, most impiously prophaned. The portion of fame, whatever it be, that I have acquired since that time, is to be attributed, not to the speeches which I made in the forum, but to the power of dramatic composition. I have, therefore, resolved to take my leave of the bar for ever. The homage of visitors, the train of attendants, and the multitude of clients, which glitter so much in the eyes of my friend, have no attraction for me. I regard them as I do pictures, and busts, and statues of brass; things, which indeed are in my family, but they came unlooked for, without my stir, or so much as a wish on my part. In my humble station, I find that innocence is a better shield than oratory. For the last I shall have no occasion, unless I find it necessary, on some future occasion, to exert myself in the just defence of an injured friend.
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But woods, and groves [a], and solitary places, have not escaped the satyrical vein of my friend. To me they afford sensations of a pure delight. It is there I enjoy the pleasures of a poetic imagination; and among those pleasures it is not the least, that they are pursued far from the noise and bustle of the world, without a client to besiege my doors, and not a criminal to distress me with the tears of affliction. Free from those distractions, the poet retires to scenes of solitude, where peace and innocence reside. In those haunts of contemplation, he has his pleasing visions. He treads on consecrated ground. It was there that Eloquence first grew up, and there she reared her temple. In those retreats she first adorned herself with those graces, which have made mankind enamoured of her charms; and there she filled the hearts of the wise and good with joy and inspiration. Oracles first spoke in woods and sacred groves. As to the species of oratory, which practises for lucre, or with views of ambition; that sanguinary eloquence [b] now so much in vogue: it is of modern growth, the offspring of corrupt manners, and degenerate times; or rather, as my friend _Aper_ expressed it, it is a _weapon_ in the hands of ill-designing men.

The early and more happy period of the world, or, as we poets call it, the golden age, was the æra of true eloquence. Crimes and orators were then unknown. Poetry spoke in harmonious numbers, not to varnish evil deeds, but to praise the virtuous, and celebrate the friends of human kind. This was the poet's office. The inspired train enjoyed the highest honours; they held commerce with the gods; they partook of the ambrosial feast: they were at once the messengers and interpreters of the supreme command. They ranked on earth with legislators, heroes, and demigods. In that bright assembly we find no orator, no pleader of causes. We read of Orpheus [c], of Linus, and, if we choose to mount still higher, we can add the name of Apollo himself. This may seem a flight of fancy. Aper will treat it as mere romance, and fabulous history: but he will not deny, that the veneration paid to Homer, with the consent of posterity, is at least equal to the honours obtained by Demosthenes. He must likewise admit, that the fame of Sophocles and Euripides is not confined within narrower limits than that of Lysias [d] or Hyperides. To come home to our own country, there are at this day more who dispute the excellence of Cicero than of Virgil. Among the orations of Asinius or Messala [e], is there one that can vie with the Medea of Ovid, or the Thyestes of Varius?

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If we now consider the happy condition of the true poet, and that easy commerce in which he passes his time, need we fear to compare his situation with that of the boasted orator, who leads a life of anxiety, oppressed by business, and overwhelmed with care? But it is said, his contention, his toil and danger, are steps to the consulship. How much more eligible was the soft retreat in which Virgil [a] passed his days, loved by the prince, and honoured by the people! To prove this the letters of Augustus are still extant; and the people, we know, hearing in the theatre some verses of that divine poet [b], when he himself was present, rose in a body, and paid him every mark of homage, with a degree of veneration nothing short of what they usually offered to the emperor.

Even in our own times, will any man say, that Secundus Pomponius [c], in point of dignity or extent of fame, is inferior to Domitius Afer [d]? But Vibius and Marcellus have been cited as bright examples: and yet, in their elevation what is there to be coveted? Is it to be deemed an advantage to those ministers, that they are feared by numbers, and live in fear themselves? They are courted for their favours, and the men, who obtain their suit, retire with ingratitude, pleased with their success, yet hating to be obliged. Can we suppose that the man is happy, who by his artifices has wriggled himself into favour, and yet is never thought by his master sufficiently pliant, nor by the people sufficiently free? And after all, what is the amount of all his boasted power? The emperor's freedmen have enjoyed the same. But as Virgil sweetly sings, Me let the sacred muses lead to their soft retreats, their living fountains, and melodious groves, where I may dwell remote from care, master of myself, and under no necessity of doing every day what my heart condemns. Let me no more be seen at the wrangling bar, a pale and anxious candidate for precarious fame; and let neither the tumult of visitors crowding to my levee, nor the eager haste of officious freedmen, disturb my morning rest. Let me live free from solicitude, a stranger to the art of promising legacies [e], in order to buy the friendship of the great; and when nature shall give the signal to retire, may I possess no more than may be safely bequeathed to such friends as I shall think proper. At my funeral let no token of sorrow be seen, no pompous mockery of woe. Crown [f] me with chaplets; strew flowers on my grave, and let my friends erect no vain memorial, to tell where my remains are lodged.

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Maternus finished with an air of enthusiasm, that seemed to lift him above himself. In that moment [a], Vipstanius Messala entered the room. From the attention that appeared in every countenance, he concluded that some important business was the subject of debate. I am afraid, said he, that I break in upon you at an unseasonable time. You have some secret to discuss, or, perhaps, a consultation upon your hands. Far from it, replied Secundus; I wish you had come sooner. You would have had the pleasure of hearing an eloquent discourse from our friend Aper, who has been endeavouring to persuade Maternus to dedicate all his time to the business of the bar, and to give the whole man to his profession. The answer of Maternus would have entertained you: he has been defending his art, and but this moment closed an animated speech, that held more of the poetical than the oratorical character.

I should have been happy, replied Messala, to have heard both my friends. It is, however, some compensation for the loss, that I find men of their talents, instead of giving all their time to the little subtleties and knotty points of the forum, extending their views to liberal science, and those questions of taste, which enlarge the mind, and furnish it with ideas drawn from the treasures of polite erudition. Enquiries of this kind afford improvement not only to those who enter into the discussion, but to all who have the happiness of being present at the debate. It is in consequence of this refined and elegant way of thinking, that you, Secundus, have gained so much applause, by the life of Julius Asiaticus [b], with which you have lately obliged the world. From that specimen, we are taught to expect other productions of equal beauty from the same hand. In like manner, I see with pleasure, that our friend Aper loves to enliven his imagination with topics of controversy, and still lays out his leisure in questions of the schools [c], not, indeed, in imitation of the ancient orators, but in the true taste of our modern rhetoricians.

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I am not surprised, returned Aper, at that stroke of raillery. It is not enough for Messala, that the oratory of ancient times engrosses all his admiration; he must have his fling at the moderns. Our talents and our studies are sure to feel the sallies of his pleasantry [a]. I have often heard you, my friend Messala, in the same humour. According to you, the present age has not a single orator to boast of, though your own eloquence, and that of your brother, are sufficient to refute the charge. But you assert roundly, and maintain your proposition with an air of confidence. You know how high you stand, and while in your general censure of the age you include yourself, the smallest tincture of malignity cannot be supposed to mingle in a decision, which denies to your own genius, what by common consent is allowed to be your undoubted right.

I have as yet, replied Messala, seen no reason to make me retract my opinion; nor do I believe, that my two friends here, or even you yourself (though you sometimes affect a different tone), can seriously maintain the opposite doctrine. The decline of eloquence is too apparent. The causes which have contributed to it, merit a serious enquiry. I shall be obliged to you, my friends, for a fair solution of the question. I have often reflected upon the subject; but what seems to others a full answer, with me serves only to increase the difficulty. What has happened at Rome, I perceive to have been the case in Greece. The modern orators of that country, such as the priest [b] Nicetes, and others who, like him, stun the schools of Mytelene and Ephesus [c], are fallen to a greater distance from Æschines and Demosthenes, than Afer and Africanus [d], or you, my friends, from Tully or Asinius Pollio.

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You have started an important question, said Secundus, and who so able to discuss it as yourself? Your talents are equal to the difficulty; your acquisitions in literature are known to be extensive, and you have considered the subject. I have no objection, replied Messala: my ideas are at your service, upon condition that, as I go on, you will assist me with the lights of your understanding. For two of us I can venture to answer, said Maternus: whatever you omit, or rather, what you leave for us to glean after you, we shall be ready to add to your observations. As to our friend Aper, you have told us, that he is apt to differ from you upon this point, and even now I see him preparing to give battle. He will not tamely bear to see us joined in a league in favour of antiquity.

Certainly not, replied Aper, nor shall the present age, unheard and undefended, be degraded by a conspiracy. But before you sound to arms, I wish to know, who are to be reckoned among the ancients? At what point of time [a] do you fix your favourite æra? When you talk to me of antiquity, I carry my view to the first ages of the world, and see before me Ulysses and Nestor, who flourished little less than [b] thirteen hundred years ago. Your retrospect, it seems, goes no farther back than to Demosthenes and Hyperides; men who lived in the times of Philip and Alexander, and indeed survived them both. The interval, between Demosthenes and the present age, is little more than [c] four hundred years; a space of time, which, with a view to the duration of human life, may be called long; but, as a portion of that immense tract of time which includes the different ages of the world, it shrinks into nothing, and seems to be but yesterday. For if it be true, as Cicero says in his treatise called Hortensius, that the great and genuine year is that period in which the heavenly bodies revolve to the station from which their source began; and if this grand rotation of the whole planetary system requires no less than twelve thousand nine hundred and fifty-four years [d] of our computation, it follows that Demosthenes, your boasted ancient, becomes a modern, and even our contemporary; nay, that he lived in the same year with ourselves; I had almost said, in the same month [e].

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But I am in haste to pass to our Roman orators. Menenius Agrippa [a] may fairly be deemed an ancient. I take it, however, that he is not the person, whom you mean to oppose to the professors of modern eloquence. The æra, which you have in view, is that of [b] Cicero and Cæsar; of Cælius [c] and Calvus; of Brutus [d], Asinius, and Messala. Those are the men, whom you place in the front of hour line; but for what reason they are to be classed with the ancients, and not, as I think they ought to be, with the moderns, I am still to learn. To begin with Cicero; he, according to the account of Tiro, his freedman, was put to death on the seventh of the ides of December, during the consulship of Hirtius and Pansa [e], who, we know, were both cut off in the course of the year, and left their office vacant for Augustus and Quintus Pedius. Count from that time six and fifty years to complete the reign of Augustus; three and twenty for that of Tiberius, four for Caligula, eight and twenty for Claudius and Nero, one for Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, and finally six from the accession of Vespasian to the present year of our felicity, we shall have from the death of Cicero a period of about [f] one hundred and twenty years, which may be considered as the term allotted to the life of man. I myself remember to have seen in Britain a soldier far advanced in years, who averred that he carried arms in that very battle [g] in which his countrymen sought to drive Julius Cæsar back from their coast. If this veteran, who served in the defence of his country against Cæsar's invasion, had been brought a prisoner to Rome; or, if his own inclination, or any other accident in the course of things, had conducted him thither, he might have heard, not only Cæsar and Cicero, but even ourselves in some of our public speeches.

In the late public largess [h] you will acknowledge that you saw several old men, who assured us that they had received more than once, the like distribution from Augustus himself. If that be so, might not those persons have heard Corvinus [i] and Asinius? Corvinus, we all know, lived through half the reign of Augustus, and Asinius almost to the end. How then are we to ascertain the just boundaries of a century? They are not to be varied at pleasure, so as to place some orators in a remote, and others in a recent period, while people are still living, who heard them all, and may, therefore, with good reason rank them as contemporaries.

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From what I have said, I assume it as a clear position, that the glory, whatever it be, that accrued to the age in which those orators lived, is not confined to that particular period, but reaches down to the present time, and may more properly be said to belong to us, than to Servius Galba [a], or to Carbo [b], and others of the same or more ancient date. Of that whole race of orators, I may freely say, that their manner cannot now be relished. Their language is coarse, and their composition rough, uncouth, and harsh; and yet your Calvus [c], your Cælius, and even your favourite Cicero, condescend to follow that inelegant style. It were to be wished that they had not thought such models worthy of imitation. I mean to speak my mind with freedom; but before I proceed, it will be necessary to make a preliminary observation, and it is this: Eloquence has no settled form: at different times it puts on a new garb, and changes with the manners and the taste of the age. Thus we find, that Gracchus [d], compared with the elder Cato [e], is full and copious; but, in his turn, yields to Crassus [f], an orator more polished, more correct, and florid. Cicero rises superior to both; more animated, more harmonious and sublime. He is followed by Corvinus [g], who has all the softer graces; a sweet flexibility in his style, and a curious felicity in the choice of his words. Which was the greatest orator, is not the question.

The use I make of these examples, is to prove that eloquence does not always wear the same dress, but, even among your celebrated ancients, has its different modes of persuasion. And be it remembered, that what differs is not always the worst. Yet such is the malignity of the human mind, that what has the sanction of antiquity is always admired; what is present, is sure to be condemned. Can we doubt that there have been critics, who were better pleased with Appius Cæcus [h] than with Cato? Cicero had his adversaries [i]: it was objected to him, that his style was redundant, turgid, never compressed, void of precision, and destitute of Attic elegance. We all have read the letters of Calvus and Brutus to your famous orator. In the course of that correspondence, we plainly see what was Cicero's opinion of those eminent men. The former [k] appeared to him cold and languid; the latter [l], disjointed, loose, and negligent. On the other hand, we know what they thought in return: Calvus did not hesitate to say, that Cicero was diffuse luxuriant to a fault, and florid without vigour. Brutus, in express terms, says, he was weakened into length, and wanted sinew. If you ask my opinion, each of them had reason on his side. I shall hereafter examine them separately. My business at present, is not in the detail: I speak of them in general terms.

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The æra of ancient oratory is, I think, extended by its admirers no farther back than the time of Cassius Severus [a]. He, they tell us, was the first who dared to deviate from the plain and simple style of his predecessors. I admit the fact. He departed from the established forms, not through want of genius, or of learning, but guided by his own good sense and superior judgement. He saw that the public ear was formed to a new manner; and eloquence, he knew, was to find new approaches to the heart. In the early periods of the commonwealth, a rough unpolished people might well be satisfied with the tedious length of unskilful speeches, at a time when to make an harangue that took up the whole day, was the orator's highest praise. The prolix exordium, wasting itself in feeble preparation; the circumstantial narration, the ostentatious division of the argument under different heads, and the thousand proofs and logical distinctions, with whatever else is contained in the dry precepts of Hermagoras [b] and Apollodorus, were in that rude period received with universal applause. To finish the picture, if your ancient orator could glean a little from the common places of philosophy, and interweave a few shreds and patches with the thread of his discourse, he was extolled to the very skies. Nor can this be matter of wonder: the maxims of the schools had not been divulged; they came with an air of novelty. Even among the orators themselves, there were but few who had any tincture of philosophy. Nor had they learned the rules of art from the teachers of eloquence.

In the present age, the tenets of philosophy and the precepts of rhetoric are no longer a secret. The lowest of our popular assemblies are now, I will not say fully instructed, but certainly acquainted with the elements of literature. The orator, by consequence, finds himself obliged to seek new avenues to the heart, and new graces to embellish his discourse, that he may not offend fastidious ears, especially before a tribunal where the judge is no longer bound by precedent, but determines according to his will and pleasure; not, as formerly, observing the measure of time allowed to the advocate, but taking upon himself to prescribe the limits. Nor is this all: the judge, at present, will not condescend to wait till the orator, in his own way, opens his case; but, of his own authority, reminds him of the point in question, and, if he wanders, calls him back from his digression, not without a hint that the court wishes to dispatch.

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Who, at this time, would bear to hear an advocate introducing himself with a tedious preface about the infirmities of his constitution? Yet that is the threadbare exordium of Corvinus. We have five books against Verres [a]. Who can endure that vast redundance? Who can listen to those endless arguments upon points of form, and cavilling exceptions [b], which we find in the orations of the same celebrated advocate for Marcus Tullius [c] and Aulus Cæcina? Our modern judges are able to anticipate the argument. Their quickness goes before the speaker. If not struck with the vivacity of his manner, the elegance of his sentiments, and the glowing colours of his descriptions, they soon grow weary of the flat insipid discourse. Even in the lowest class of life, there is now a relish for rich and splendid ornament. Their taste requires the gay, the florid, and the brilliant. The unpolished style of antiquity would now succeed as ill at the bar, as the modern actor who should attempt to copy the deportment of Roscius [d], or Ambivius Turpio. Even the young men who are preparing for the career of eloquence, and, for that purpose, attend the forum and the tribunals of justice, have now a nice discriminating taste. They expect to have their imaginations pleased. They wish to carry home some bright illustration, some splendid passage, that deserves to be remembered. What has struck their fancy, they communicate to each other: and in their letters, the glittering thought, given with sententious brevity, the poetical allusion that enlivened the discourse, and the dazzling imagery, are sure to be transmitted to their respective colonies and provinces. The ornaments of poetic diction are now required, not, indeed, copied from the rude obsolete style of Accius [e] and Pacuvius, but embellished with the graces of Horace, Virgil, and [f] Lucan. The public judgement has raised a demand for harmonious periods, and, in compliance with the taste of the age, our orators grow every day more polished and adorned. Let it not be said that what we gain in refinement, we lose in strength. Are the temples, raised by our modern architects, of a weaker structure, because they are not formed with shapeless stones, but with the magnificence of polished marble, and decorations of the richest gilding?
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Shall I fairly own to you the impression which I generally receive from the ancient orators? They make me laugh, or lull me to sleep. Nor is this the case only, when I read the orations of Canutus [a], Arrius, Furnius, Toranius and others of the same school, or rather, the same infirmary [b]; an emaciated sickly race of orators; without sinew, colour, or proportion. But what shall be said of your admired Calvus [c]? He, I think, has left no less than one and twenty volumes: in the whole collection, there is not more than one or two short orations, that can pretend to perfection in the kind. Upon this point there is no difference of opinion. Who now reads his declamations against Asitius or Drusus? His speeches against Vatinius are in the hands of the curious, particularly the second, which must be allowed to be a masterpiece. The language is elegant; the sentiments are striking, and the ear is satisfied with the roundness of the periods. In this specimen we see that he had an idea of just composition, but his genius was not equal to his judgement. The orations of Cælius, though upon the whole defective, are not without their beauties. Some passages are highly finished. In those we acknowledge, the nice touches of modern elegance. In general, however, the coarse expression, the halting period, and the vulgarity of the sentiments, have too much of the leaven of antiquity.

If Cælius [d] is still admired, it is not, I believe, in any of those parts that bear the mark of a rude illiterate age. With regard to Julius Cæsar [e], engaged as he was in projects of vast ambition, we may forgive him the want of that perfection which might, otherwise, be expected from so sublime a genius. Brutus, in like manner, may be excused on account of his philosophical speculations. Both he and Cæsar, in their oratorical attempts, fell short of themselves. Their warmest admirers acknowledge the fact, nor is there an instance to the contrary, unless we except Cæsar's speech for Decius the Samnite [f], and that of Brutus for king [g] Dejotarus. But are those performances, and some others of the same lukewarm temper, to be received as works of genius? He who admires those productions, may be left to admire their verses also. For verses they both made, and sent them into the world, I will not say, with more success than Cicero, but certainly more to their advantage; for their poetry had the good fortune to be little known.

Asinius lived near our own times [h]. He, seems to have studied in the old school of Menenius and Appius. He composed tragedies as well as orations, but in a style so harsh and ragged, that one would think him the disciple of Accius and Pacuvius. He mistook the nature of eloquence, which may then be said to have attained its true beauty, when the parts unite with smoothness, strength, and proportion. As in the human body the veins should not swell too high, nor the bones and sinews appear too prominent; but its form is then most graceful, when a pure and temperate blood gives animation [i] to the whole frame; when the muscles have their proper play, and the colour of health is diffused over the several parts. I am not willing to disturb the memory of Corvinus Messala [k]. If he did not reach the graces of modern composition, the defect does not seem to have sprung from choice. The vigour of his genius was not equal to his judgement.

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I now proceed to Cicero, who, we find, had often upon his hands the very controversy, that engages us at present. It was the fashion with his contemporaries to admire the ancients, while he, on the contrary, contended for the eloquence of his own time. Were I to mention the quality that placed him at the head of his rivals I should say it was the solidity of his judgement. It was he that first shewed a taste for polished and graceful oratory. He was happy in his choice of words, and he had the art of giving weight and harmony to his composition. We find in many passages a warm imagination, and luminous sentences. In his later speeches, he has lively sallies of wit and fancy. Experience had then matured his judgement, and after long practice, he found the true oratorical style. In his earlier productions we see the rough cast of antiquity. The exordium is tedious; the narration is drawn into length; luxuriant passages are not retouched with care; he is not easily affected, and he rarely takes fire; his sentiments are not always happily expressed [a], nor are the periods closed with energy. There is nothing so highly finished, as to tempt you to avail yourself of a borrowed beauty. In short, his speeches are like a rude building, which is strong and durable, but wants that grace and consonance of parts which give symmetry and perfection to the whole.

In oratory, as in architecture, I require ornament as well as use. From the man of ample fortune, who undertakes to build, we expect elegance and proportion. It is not enough that his house will keep out the wind and the rain; it must strike the eye, and present a pleasing object. Nor will it suffice that the furniture may answer all domestic purposes; it should be rich, fashionable, elegant; it should have gold and gems so curiously wrought, that they will bear examination, often viewed, and always admired. The common utensils, which are either mean or sordid, should be carefully removed out of sight. In like manner, the true orator should avoid the trite and vulgar. Let him reject the antiquated phrase, and whatever is covered with the rust of time; let his sentiments be expressed with spirit, not in careless, ill-constructed, languid periods, like a dull writer of annals; let him banish low scurrility, and, in short, let him know how to diversify his style, that he may not fatigue the ear with a monotony, ending for ever with the same unvaried cadence [b].

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I shall say nothing of the false wit, and insipid play upon words, which we find in Cicero's orations. His pleasant conceits about the _wheel of fortune_ [a], and the arch raillery on the equivocal meaning of the word _verres_ [b], do not merit a moment's attention. I omit the perpetual recurrence of the phrase, _esse videatur_ [c], which chimes in our ears at the close of so many sentences, sounding big, but signifying nothing. These are petty blemishes; I mention them with reluctance. I say nothing of other defects equally improper: and yet those very defects are the delight of such as affect to call themselves ancient orators. I need not single them out by name: the men are sufficiently known; it is enough to allude, in general terms, to the whole class.

We all are sensible that there is a set of critics now existing, who prefer Lucilius [d] to Horace, and Lucretius [e] to Virgil; who despise the eloquence of Aufidius Bassus [f] and Servilius Nonianus, and yet admire Varro and [g] Sisenna. By these pretenders to taste, the works of our modern rhetoricians are thrown by with neglect, and even fastidious disdain; while those of Calvus are held in the highest esteem. We see these men prosing in their ancient style before the judges; but we see them left without an audience, deserted by the people, and hardly endured by their clients. The truth is, their cold and spiritless manner has no attraction. They call it sound oratory, but it is want of vigour; like that precarious state of health which weak constitutions preserve by abstinence. What physician will pronounce that a strong habit of body, which requires constant care and anxiety of mind? To say barely, that we are not ill, is surely not enough. True health consists in vigour, a generous warmth, and a certain alacrity in the whole frame. He who is only not indisposed, is little distant from actual illness.

With you, my friends, the case is different: proceed, as you well can, and in fact, as you do, to adorn our age with all the grace and splendour of true oratory. It is with pleasure, Messala, that I see you selecting for imitation the liveliest models of the ancient school. You too, Maternus, and you, my friend, Secundus [h], you both possess the happy art of adding to weight of sentiment all the dignity of language. To a copious invention you unite the judgement that knows how to distinguish the specific qualities of different authors. The beauty of order is yours. When the occasion demands it, you can expand and amplify with strength and majesty; and you know when to be concise with energy. Your periods flow with ease, and your composition has every grace of style and sentiment. You command the passions with resistless sway, while in yourselves you beget a temperance so truly dignified, that, though, perhaps, envy and the malignity of the times may be unwilling to proclaim your merit, posterity will do you ample justice [i].

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As soon as Aper concluded, You see, said Maternus, the zeal and ardour of our friend: in the cause of the moderns, what a torrent of eloquence! against the ancients, what a fund of invective! With great spirit, and a vast compass of learning, he has employed against his masters the arts for which he is indebted to them. And yet all this vehemence must not deter you, Messala, from the performance of your promise. A formal defence of the ancients is by no means necessary. We do not presume to vie with that illustrious race. We have been praised by Aper, but we know our inferiority. He himself is aware of it, though, in imitation of the ancient manner [a], he has thought proper, for the sake of a philosophical debate, to take the wrong side of the question. In answer to his argument, we do not desire you to expatiate in praise of the ancients: their fame wants no addition. What we request is, an investigation of the causes which have produced so rapid a decline from the flourishing state of genuine eloquence. I call it rapid, since, according to Aper's own chronology, the period from the death of Cicero does not exceed one hundred and twenty years [b].
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I am willing, said Messala, to pursue the plan which you have recommended. The question, whether the men who flourished above one hundred years ago, are to be accounted ancients, has been started by my friend Aper, and, I believe, it is of the first impression. But it is a mere dispute about words. The discussion of it is of no moment, provided it be granted, whether we call them ancients, or our predecessors, or give them any other appellation, that the eloquence of those times was superior to that of the present age. When Aper tells us, that different periods of time have produced new modes of oratory, I see nothing to object; nor shall I deny, that in one and the same period the style and manners have greatly varied. But this I assume, that among the orators of Greece, Demosthenes holds the first rank, and after him [a] Æschynes, Hyperides, Lysias, and Lycurgus, in regular succession. That age, by common consent, is allowed to be the flourishing period of Attic eloquence.

In like manner, Cicero stands at the head of our Roman orators, while Calvus, Asinius, and Cæsar, Cælius and Brutus, follow him at a distance; all of them superior, not only to every former age, but to the whole race that came after them. Nor is it material that they differ in the mode, since they all agree in the kind. Calvus is close and nervous; Asinius more open and harmonious; Cæsar is distinguished [b] by the splendour of his diction; Cælius by a caustic severity; and gravity is the characteristic of Brutus. Cicero is more luxuriant in amplification, and he has strength and vehemence. They all, however, agree in this: their eloquence is manly, sound, and vigorous. Examine their works, and you will see the energy of congenial minds, a family-likeness in their genius, however it may take a distinct colour from the specific qualities of the men. True, they detracted from each other's merit. In their letters, which are still extant, we find some strokes of mutual hostility. But this littleness does not impeach their eloquence: their jealousy was the infirmity of human nature. Calvus, Asinius, and Cicero, might have their fits of animosity, and, no doubt, were liable to envy, malice, and other degrading passions: they were great orators, but they were men.

Brutus is the only one of the set, who may be thought superior to petty contentions. He spoke his mind with freedom, and, I believe, without a tincture of malice. He did not envy Cæsar himself, and can it be imagined that he envied Cicero? As to Galba [c], Lælius, and others of a remote period, against whom we have heard Aper's declamation, I need not undertake their defence, since I am willing to acknowledge, that in their style and manner we perceive those defects and blemishes which it is natural to expect, while art, as yet in its infancy, has made no advances towards perfection.

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After all, if the best form of eloquence must be abandoned, and some, new-fangled style must grow into fashion, give me the rapidity of Gracchus [a], or the more solemn manner of Crassus [b], with all their imperfections, rather than the effeminate delicacy of [c] Mæcenas, or the tinkling cymbal [d] of Gallio. The most homely dress is preferable to gawdy colours and meretricious ornaments. The style in vogue at present, is an innovation, against every thing just and natural; it is not even manly. The luxuriant phrase, the inanity of tuneful periods, and the wanton levity of the whole composition, are fit for nothing but the histrionic art, as if they were written for the stage. To the disgrace of the age (however astonishing it may appear), it is the boast, the pride, the glory of our present orators, that their periods are musical enough either for the dancer's heel [e], or the warbler's throat. Hence it is, that by a frequent, but preposterous, metaphor, the orator is said to speak in melodious cadence, and the dancer to move with expression. In this view of things, even [f] Cassius Severus (the only modern whom Aper has ventured to name), if we compare him with the race that followed, may be fairly pronounced a legitimate orator, though it must be acknowledged, that in what remains of his compositing, he is clumsy without strength, and violent without spirit. He was the first that deviated from the great masters of his art. He despised all method and regular arrangement; indelicate in his choice of words, he paid no regard to decency; eager to attack, he left himself unguarded; he brandished his weapons without skill or address; and, to speak plainly, he wrangled, but did not argue. And yet, notwithstanding these defects, he was, as I have already said, superior to all that came after him, whether we regard the variety of his learning, the urbanity of his wit, or the vigour of his mind. I expected that Aper, after naming this orator, would have drawn up the rest of his forces in regular order. He has fallen, indeed, upon Asinius, Cælius, and Calvus; but where are his champions to enter the lists with them? I imagined that he had a phalanx in reserve, and that we should have seen them man by man giving battle to Cicero, Cæsar, and the rest in succession. He has singled out some of the ancients, but has brought none of his moderns into the field. He thought it enough to give them a good character in their absence. In this, perhaps, he acted with prudence: he was afraid, if he selected a few, that the rest of the tribe would take offence. For among the rhetoricians of the present day, is there one to be found, who does not, in his own opinion, tower above Cicero, though he has the modesty to yield to Gabinianus [g]?
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What Aper has omitted, I intend to perform. I shall produce his moderns by name, to the end that, by placing the example before our eyes, we may be able, more distinctly, to trace the steps by which the vigour of ancient eloquence has fallen to decay. Maternus interrupted him. I wish, he said, that you would come at once to the point: we claim your promise. The superiority of the ancients is not in question. We want no proof of it. Upon that point my opinion is decided. But the causes of our rapid decline from ancient excellence remain to be unfolded. We know that you have turned your thoughts to this subject, and we expected from you a calm disquisition, had not the violent attack which Aper made upon your favourite orators, roused your spirit, and, perhaps, given you some offence. Far from it, replied Messala; he has given me no offence; nor must you, my friends, take umbrage, if at any time a word should fall from me, not quite agreeable to your way of thinking. We are engaged in a free enquiry, and you know, that, in this kind of debate, the established law allows every man to speak his mind without reserve. That is the law, replied Maternus; you may proceed in perfect security. When you speak of the ancients, speak of them with ancient freedom, which, I fear, is at a lower ebb than even the genius of those eminent men.
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Messala resumed his discourse: The causes of the decay of eloquence are by no means difficult to be traced. They are, I believe, well known to you, Maternus, and also to Secundus, not excepting my friend Aper. It seems, however, that I am now, at your request, to unravel the business. But there is no mystery in it. We know that eloquence, with the rest of the polite arts, has lost its former lustre: and yet, it is not a dearth of men, or a decay of talents, that has produced this fatal effect. The true causes are, the dissipation of our young men, the inattention of parents, the ignorance of those who pretend to give instruction, and the total neglect of ancient discipline. The mischief began at Rome, it has over-run all Italy, and is now, with rapid strides, spreading through the provinces. The effects, however, are more visible at home, and therefore I shall confine myself to the reigning vices of the capital; vices that wither every virtue in the bud, and continue their baleful influence through every season of life.

But before I enter on the subject, it will not be useless to look back to the system of education that prevailed in former times, and to the strict discipline of our ancestors, in a point of so much moment as the formation of youth. In the times to which I now refer, the son of every family was the legitimate offspring of a virtuous mother. The infant, as soon as born, was not consigned to the mean dwelling of a hireling nurse [a], but was reared and cherished in the bosom of a tender parent. To regulate all household affairs, and attend to her infant race, was, at that time, the glory of the female character. A matron, related to the family, and distinguished by the purity of her life, was chosen to watch the progress of the tender mind. In her presence not one indecent word was uttered; nothing was done against propriety and good manners. The hours of study and serious employment were settled by her direction; and not only so, but even the diversions of the children were conducted with modest reserve and sanctity of manners. Thus it was that Cornelia [b], the mother of the Gracchi, superintended the education of her illustrious issue. It was thus that Aurelia [c] trained up Julius Cæsar; and thus Atia [d] formed the mind of Augustus. The consequence of this regular discipline was, that the young mind grew up in innocence, unstained by vice, unwarped by irregular passions, and, under that culture, received the seeds of science. Whatever was the peculiar bias, whether to the military art, the study of the laws, or the profession of eloquence, that engrossed the whole attention, and the youth, thus directed, embraced the entire compass of one favourite science.

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In the present age, what is our practice? The infant is committed to a Greek chambermaid, and a slave or two, chosen for the purpose, generally the worst of the whole household train; all utter strangers to every liberal notion. In that worshipful society [a] the youth grows up, imbibing folly and vulgar error. Throughout the house, not one servant cares what he says or does [b] in the presence of his young master: and indeed how should it be otherwise? The parents themselves are the first to give their children the worst examples of vice and luxury. The stripling consequently loses all sense of shame, and soon forgets the respect he owes to others as well as to himself. A passion for horses, players, and gladiators [c], seems to be the epidemic folly of the times. The child receives it in his mother's womb; he brings it with him into the world; and in a mind so possessed, what room for science, or any generous purpose?

In our houses, at our tables, sports and interludes are the topics of conversation. Enter the places of academical lectures, and who talks of any other subject? The preceptors themselves have caught the contagion. Nor can this be wondered at. To establish a strict and regular discipline, and to succeed by giving proofs of their genius, is not the plan of our modern rhetoricians. They pay their court to the great, and, by servile adulation, increase the number of their pupils. Need I mention the manner of conveying the first elements of school learning? No care is taken to give the student a taste for the best authors [d]; the page of history lies neglected; the study of men and manners is no part of their system; and every branch of useful knowledge is left uncultivated. A preceptor is called in, and education is then thought to be in a fair way. But I shall have occasion hereafter to speak more fully of that class of men, called rhetoricians. It will then be seen, at what period that profession first made its appearance at Rome, and what reception it met with from our ancestors.

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Before I proceed, let us advert for a moment to the plan of ancient discipline. The unwearied diligence of the ancient orators, their habits of meditation, and their daily exercise in the whole circle of arts and sciences, are amply displayed in the books which they have transmitted to us. The treatise of Cicero, entitled Brutus [a], is in all our hands. In that work, after commemorating the orators of a former day, he closes the account with the particulars of his own progress in science, and the method he took in educating himself to the profession of oratory. He studied the civil law under [b] Mucius Scævola; he was instructed in the various systems of philosophy, by Philo [c] of the academic school, and by Diodorus the stoic; and though Rome, at that time, abounded with the best professors, he made a voyage to Greece [d], and thence to Asia, in order to enrich his mind with every branch of learning. Hence that store of knowledge which appears in all his writings. Geometry, music, grammar, and every useful art, were familiar to him. He embraced the whole science of logic [e] and ethics. He studied the operations of nature. His diligence of enquiry opened to him the long chain of causes and effects, and, in short, the whole system of physiology was his own. From a mind thus replenished, it is no wonder, my good friends, that we see in the compositions of that extraordinary man that affluence of ideas, and that prodigious flow of eloquence. In fact, it is not with oratory as with the other arts, which are confined to certain objects, and circumscribed within their own peculiar limits. He alone deserves the name of an orator, who can speak in a copious style, with ease or dignity, as the subject requires; who can find language to decorate his argument; who through the passions can command the understanding; and, while he serves mankind, knows how to delight the judgement and the imagination of his audience.
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Such was, in ancient times, the idea of an orator. To form that illustrious character, it was not thought necessary to declaim in the schools of rhetoricians [a], or to make a vain parade in fictitious controversies, which were not only void of all reality, but even of a shadow of probability. Our ancestors pursued a different plan: they stored their minds with just ideas of moral good and evil; with the rules of right and wrong, and the fair and foul in human transactions. These, on every controverted point, are the orator's province. In courts of law, just and unjust undergo his discussion; in political debate, between what is expedient and honourable, it is his to draw the line; and those questions are so blended in their nature, that they enter into every cause. On such important topics, who can hope to bring variety of matter, and to dignify that matter with style and sentiment, if he has not, beforehand, enlarged his mind with the knowledge of human nature? with the laws of moral obligation? the deformity of vice, the beauty of virtue, and other points which do not immediately belong to the theory of ethics?

The orator, who has enriched his mind with these materials, may be truly said to have acquired the powers of persuasion. He who knows the nature of indignation, will be able to kindle or allay that passion in the breast of the judge; and the advocate who has considered the effect of compassion, and from what secret springs it flows, will best know how to soften the mind, and melt it into tenderness. It is by these secrets of his art that the orator gains his influence. Whether he has to do with the prejudiced, the angry, the envious, the melancholy, or the timid, he can bridle their various passions, and hold the reins in his own hand. According to the disposition of his audience, he will know when to check the workings of the heart, and when to raise them to their full tumult of emotion.

Some critics are chiefly pleased with that close mode of oratory, which in a laconic manner states the facts, and forms an immediate conclusion: in that case, it is obvious how necessary it is to be a complete master of the rules of logic. Others delight in a more open, free, and copious style, where the arguments are drawn from topics of general knowledge; for this purpose, the peripatetic school [b] will supply the orator with ample materials. The academic philosopher [c] will inspire him with warmth and energy; Plato will give the sublime, and Xenophon that equal flow which charms us in that amiable writer. The rhetorical figure, which is called exclamation, so frequent with Epicurus [d] and Metrodorus, will add to a discourse those sudden breaks of passion, which give motion, strength, and vehemence.

It is not for the stoic school, nor for their imaginary wise man, that I am laying down rules. I am forming an orator, whose business it is, not to adhere to one sect, but to go the round of all the arts and sciences. Accordingly we find, that the great master of ancient eloquence laid their foundation in a thorough study of the civil law, and to that fund they added grammar, music, and geometry. The fact is, in most of the causes that occur, perhaps in every cause, a due knowledge of the whole system of jurisprudence is an indispensable requisite. There are likewise many subjects of litigation, in which an acquaintance with other sciences is of the highest use.

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Am I to be told, that to gain some slight information on particular subjects, as occasion may require, will sufficiently answer the purposes of an orator? In answer to this, let it be observed, that the application of what we draw from our own fund, is very different from the use we make of what we borrow. Whether we speak from digested knowledge, or the mere suggestion of others, the effect is soon perceived. Add to this, that conflux of ideas with which the different sciences enrich the mind, gives an air of dignity to whatever we say, even in cases where that depth of knowledge is not required. Science adorns the speaker at all times, and, where it is least expected, confers a grace that charms every hearer; the man of erudition feels it, and the unlettered part of the audience acknowledge the effect without knowing the cause. A murmur of applause ensues; the speaker is allowed to have laid in a store of knowledge; he possesses all the powers of persuasion, and then is called an orator indeed.

I take the liberty to add, if we aspire to that honourable appellation, that there is no way but that which I have chalked out. No man was ever yet a complete orator, and, I affirm, never can be, unless, like the soldier marching to the field of battle, he enters the forum armed at all points with the sciences and the liberal arts. Is that the case in these our modern times? The style which we hear every day, abounds with colloquial barbarisms, and vulgar phraseology: no knowledge of the laws is heard; our municipal policy is wholly neglected, and even the decrees of the senate are treated with contempt and derision. Moral philosophy is discarded, and the maxims of ancient wisdom are unworthy of their notice. In this manner, eloquence is dethroned; she is banished from her rightful dominions, and obliged to dwell in the cold regions of antithesis, forced conceit, and pointed sentences. The consequence is, that she, who was once the sovereign mistress of the sciences, and led them as handmaids in her train, is now deprived of her attendants, reduced, impoverished, and, stripped of her usual honours (I might say of her genius), compelled to exercise a mere plebeian art.

And now, my friends, I think I have laid open the efficient cause of the decline of eloquence. Need I call witnesses to support my opinion? I name Demosthenes among the Greeks. He, we are assured, constantly attended [a] the lectures of Plato. I name Cicero among the Romans: he tells us (I believe I can repeat his words), that if he attained any degree of excellence, he owed it, not so much to the precepts of rhetoricians, as to his meditations in the walks of the academic school. I am aware that other causes of our present degeneracy may be added; but that task I leave to my friends, since I now may flatter myself that I have performed my promise. In doing it, I fear, that, as often happens to me, I have incurred the danger of giving offence. Were a certain class of men to hear the principles which I have advanced in favour of legal knowledge and sound philosophy, I should expect to be told that I have been all the time commending my own visionary schemes.

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You will excuse me, replied Maternus, if I take the liberty to say that you have by no means finished your part of our enquiry. You seem to have spread your canvas, and to have touched the outlines of your plan; but there are other parts that still require the colouring of so masterly a hand. The stores of knowledge, with which the ancients enlarged their minds, you have fairly explained, and, in contrast to that pleasing picture, you have given us a true draught of modern ignorance. But we now wish to know, what were the exercises, and what the discipline, by which the youth of former times prepared themselves for the honours of their profession. It will not, I believe, be contended, that theory, and systems of art, are of themselves sufficient to form a genuine orator. It is by practice, and by constant exertion, that the faculty of speech improves, till the genius of the man expands, and flourishes in its full vigour. This, I think, you will not deny, and my two friends, if I may judge by their looks, seem to give their assent. Aper and Secundus agreed without hesitation.

Messala proceeded as follows: Having, as I conceive, shewn the seed-plots of ancient eloquence, and the fountains of science, from which they drew such copious streams; it remains now to give some idea of the labour, the assiduity, and the exercises, by which they trained themselves to their profession. I need not observe, that in the pursuit of science, method and constant exercise are indispensable: for who can hope, without regular attention, to master abstract schemes of philosophy, and embrace the whole compass of the sciences? Knowledge must be grafted in the mind by frequent meditation [a]; to that must be added the faculty of conveying our ideas; and, to make sure of our impression, we must be able to adorn our thoughts with the colours of true eloquence. Hence it is evident that the same arts, by which the mind lays in its stock of knowledge, must be still pursued, in order to attain a clear and graceful manner of conveying that knowledge to others. This may be thought refined and too abstruse. If, however, we are still to be told that science and elocution are things in themselves distinct and unrelated; this, at least, may be assumed, that he, who, with a fund of previous knowledge, undertakes the province of oratory, will bring with him a mind well seasoned, and duly prepared for the study and exercise of real eloquence.

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The practice of our ancestors was agreeable to this theory. The youth, who was intended for public declamation, went forth, under the care of his father, or some near relation, with all the advantages of home-discipline; his mind was expanded by the fine arts, and impregnated with science. He was conducted to the most eminent orator of the time. Under that illustrious patronage he visited the forum; he attended his patron upon all occasions; he listened with attention to his pleadings in the tribunals of justice, and his public harangues before the people; he heard him in the warmth of argument; he noted his sudden replies, and thus, in the field of battle, if I may so express myself, he learned the first rudiments of rhetorical warfare. The advantages of this method are obvious: the young candidate gained courage, and improved his judgement; he studied in open day, amidst the heat of the conflict, where nothing weak or idle could be said with impunity; where every thing absurd was instantly rebuked by the judge, exposed to ridicule by the adversary, and condemned by the whole bar.

In this manner the student was initiated in the rules of sound and manly eloquence; and, though it be true, that he placed himself under the auspices of one orator only, he heard the rest in their turn, and in that diversity of tastes which always prevails in mixed assemblies, he was enabled to distinguish what was excellent or defective in the kind. The orator in actual business was the best preceptor: the instructions which he gave, were living eloquence, the substance, and not the shadow. He was himself a real combatant, engaged with a zealous antagonist, both in earnest, and not like gladiators, in a mock contest, fighting for prizes. It was a struggle for victory, before an audience always changing, yet always full; where the speaker had his enemies as well as his admirers; and between both, what was brilliant met with applause; what was defective, was sure to be condemned. In this clash of opinions, the genuine orator flourished, and acquired that lasting fame, which, we all know, does not depend on the voice of friends only, but must rebound from the benches filled with your enemies. Extorted applause is the best suffrage.

In that school, the youth of expectation, such as I have delineated, was reared and educated by the most eminent genius of the times. In the forum, he was enlightened by the experience of others; he was instructed in the knowledge of the laws, accustomed to the eye of the judges, habituated to the looks of a numerous audience, and acquainted with the popular taste. After this preparation, he was called forth to conduct a prosecution, or to take upon himself the whole weight of the defence. The fruit of his application was then seen at once. He was equal, in his first outset, to the most arduous business. Thus it was that Crassus, at the age of nineteen [a], stood forth the accuser of Papirius Carbo: thus Julius Cæsar, at one and twenty, arraigned Dolabella; Asinius Pollio, about the same age, attacked Caius Cato; and Calvus, but a little older, flamed out against Vatinius. Their several speeches are still extant, and we all read them with admiration.

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In opposition to this system of education, what is our modern practice? Our young men are led [a] to academical prolusions in the school of vain professors, who call themselves rhetoricians; a race of impostors, who made their first appearance at Rome, not long before the days of Cicero. That they were unwelcome visitors, is evident from the circumstance of their being silenced by the two censors [b], Crassus and Domitius. They were ordered, says Cicero, to shut up their school of impudence. Those scenes, however, are open at present, and there our young students listen to mountebank oratory. I am at a loss how to determine which is most fatal to all true genius, the place itself, the company that frequent it, or the plan of study universally adopted. Can the place impress the mind with awe and respect, where none are ever seen but the raw, the unskilful, and the ignorant? In such an assembly what advantage can arise? Boys harangue before boys, and young men exhibit before their fellows. The speaker is pleased with his declamation, and the hearer with his judgement. The very subjects on which they display their talents, tend to no useful purpose. They are of two sorts, persuasive or controversial. The first, supposed to be of the lighter kind, are usually assigned to the youngest scholars: the last are reserved for students of longer practice and riper judgement. But, gracious powers! what are the compositions produced on these occasions?

The subject is remote from truth, and even probability, unlike any thing that ever happened in human life: and no wonder if the superstructure perfectly agrees with the foundation. It is to these scenic exercises that we owe a number of frivolous topics, such as the reward due to the slayer of a tyrant; the election to be made by [c] violated virgins; the rites and ceremonies proper to be used during a raging pestilence; the loose behaviour of married women; with other fictitious subjects, hackneyed in the schools, and seldom or never heard of in our courts of justice. These imaginary questions are treated with gaudy flourishes, and all the tumor of unnatural language. But after all this mighty parade, call these striplings from their schools of rhetoric, into the presence of the judges, and to the real business of the bar [d]:

1. What figure will they make before that solemn judicature? Trained up in chimerical exercises, strangers to the municipal laws, unacquainted with the principles of natural justice and the rights of nations, they will bring with them that false taste which they have been for years acquiring, but nothing worthy of the public ear, nothing useful to their clients. They have succeeded in nothing but the art of making themselves ridiculous. The peculiar quality of the teacher [a], whatever it be, is sure to transfuse itself into the performance of the pupil. Is the master haughty, fierce, and arrogant; the scholar swells with confidence; his eye threatens prodigious things, and his harangue is an ostentatious display of the common-places of school oratory, dressed up with dazzling splendour, and thundered forth with emphasis. On the other hand, does the master value himself for the delicacy of his taste, for the foppery of glittering conceits and tinsel ornament; the youth who has been educated under him, sets out with the same artificial prettiness, the same foppery of style and manner. A simper plays on his countenance; his elocution is soft and delicate; his action pathetic; his sentences entangled in a maze of sweet perplexity; he plays off the whole of his theatrical skill, and hopes to elevate and surprise.
2. This love of finery, this ambition to shine and glitter, has destroyed all true eloquence. Oratory is not the child of hireling teachers; it springs from another source, from a love of liberty, from a mind replete with moral science, and a thorough knowledge of the laws; from a due respect for the best examples, from profound meditation [a], and a style formed by constant practice. While these were thought essential requisites, eloquence flourished. But the true beauties of language fell into disuse, and oratory went to ruin. The spirit evaporated; I fear, to revive no more. I wish I may prove a false prophet, but we know the progress of art in every age and country. Rude at first, it rises from low beginnings, and goes on improving, till it reaches the highest perfection in the kind. But at that point it is never stationary: it soon declines, and from the corruption of what is good, it is not in the nature of man, nor in the power of human faculties, to rise again to the same degree of excellence.
3. Messala closed with a degree of vehemence, and then turning to Maternus and Secundus [a], It is yours, he said, to pursue this train of argument; or if any cause of the decay of eloquence lies still deeper, you will oblige us by bringing it to light. Maternus, I presume, will find no difficulty: a poetic genius holds commerce with the gods, and to him nothing will remain a secret. As for Secundus, he has been long a shining ornament of the forum, and by his own experience knows how to distinguish genuine eloquence from the corrupt and vicious. Maternus heard this sally of his friend's good humour with a smile. The task, he said, which you have imposed upon us, we will endeavour to execute. But though I am the interpreter of the gods, I must notwithstanding request that Secundus may take the lead. He is master of the subject, and, in questions of this kind, experience is better than inspiration.
4. Secundus [a] complied with his friend's request. I yield, he said, the more willingly, as I shall hazard no new opinion, but rather confirm what has been urged by Messala. It is certain, that, as painters are formed by painters, and poets by the example of poets, so the young orator must learn his art from orators only. In the schools of rhetoricians [b], who think themselves the fountain-head of eloquence, every thing is false and vitiated. The true principles of the persuasive art are never known to the professor, or if at any time there may be found a preceptor of superior genius, can it be expected that he shall be able to transfuse into the mind of his pupil all his own conceptions, pure, unmixed, and free from error? The sensibility of the master, since we have allowed him genius, will be an impediment: the uniformity of the same dull tedious round will give him disgust, and the student will turn from it with aversion. And yet I am inclined to think, that the decay of eloquence would not have been so rapid, if other causes, more fatal than the corruption of the schools, had not co-operated. When the worst models became the objects of imitation, and not only the young men of the age, but even the whole body of the people, admired the new way of speaking, eloquence fell at once into that state of degeneracy, from which nothing can recover it. We, who came afterwards, found ourselves in a hopeless situation: we were driven to wretched expedients, to forced conceits, and the glitter of frivolous sentences; we were obliged to hunt after wit, when we could be no longer eloquent. By what pernicious examples this was accomplished, has been explained by our friend Messala.
5. We are none of us strangers to those unhappy times, when Rome, grown weary of her vast renown in arms, began to think of striking into new paths of fame, no longer willing to depend on the glory of our ancestors. The whole power of the state was centred in a single ruler, and by the policy of the prince, men were taught to think no more of ancient honour. Invention was on the stretch for novelty, and all looked for something better than perfection; something rare, far-fetched, and exquisite. New modes of pleasure were devised. In that period of luxury and dissipation, when the rage for new inventions was grown epidemic, Seneca arose. His talents were of a peculiar sort, acute, refined and polished; but polished to a degree that made him prefer affectation and wit to truth and nature. The predominance of his genius was great, and, by consequence, he gave the mortal stab to all true eloquence [a]. When I say this, let me not be suspected of that low malignity which would tarnish the fame of a great character. I admire the man, and the philosopher. The undaunted firmness with which he braved the tyrant's frown, will do immortal honour to his memory. But the fact is (and why should I disguise it?), the virtues of the writer have undone his country.
6. To bring about this unhappy revolution, no man was so eminently qualified [a]. His understanding was large and comprehensive; his genius rich and powerful; his way of thinking ingenious, elegant, and even charming. His researches in moral philosophy excited the admiration of all; and moral philosophy is never so highly praised, as when the manners are in a state of degeneracy. Seneca knew the taste of the times. He had the art to gratify the public ear. His style is neat, yet animated; concise, yet clear; familiar, yet seldom inelegant. Free from redundancy, his periods are often abrupt, but they surprise by their vivacity. He shines in pointed sentences; and that unceasing persecution of vice, which is kept up with uncommon ardour, spreads a lustre over all his writings. His brilliant style charmed by its novelty. Every page sparkles with wit, with gay allusions, and sentiments of virtue. No wonder that the graceful ease, and sometimes the dignity of his expression, made their way into the forum. What pleased universally, soon found a number of imitators. Add to this the advantages of rank and honours. He mixed in the splendour, and perhaps in the vices, of the court. The resentment of Caligula, and the acts of oppression which soon after followed, served only to adorn his name. To crown all, Nero was his pupil, and his murderer. Hence the character and genius of the man rose to the highest eminence. What was admired, was imitated, and true oratory was heard no more. The love of novelty prevailed, and for the dignified simplicity of ancient eloquence no taste remained. The art itself, and all its necessary discipline, became ridiculous. In that black period, when vice triumphed at large, and virtue had every thing to fear, the temper of the times was propitious to the corruptors of taste and liberal science. The dignity of composition was no longer of use. It had no power to stop the torrent of vice which deluged the city of Rome, and virtue found it a feeble protection. In such a conjuncture it was not safe to speak the sentiments of the heart. To be obscure, abrupt, and dark, was the best expedient. Then it was that the affected sententious brevity came into vogue. To speak concisely, and with an air of precipitation, was the general practice. To work the ruin of a person accused, a single sentence, or a splendid phrase, was sufficient. Men defended themselves in a short brilliant expression; and if that did not protect them, they died with a lively apophthegm, and their last words were wit. This was the fashion introduced by Seneca. The peculiar, but agreeable vices of his style, wrought the downfall of eloquence. The solid was exchanged for the brilliant, and they, who ceased to be orators, studied to be ingenious.
7. Of late, indeed, we have seen the dawn of better times. In the course of the last six years Vespasian has revived our hopes [a]. The friend of regular manners, and the encourager of ancient virtue, by which Rome was raised to the highest pinnacle of glory, he has restored the public peace, and with it the blessings of liberty. Under his propitious influence, the arts and sciences begin once more to flourish, and genius has been honoured with his munificence. The example of his sons [b] has helped to kindle a spirit of emulation. We beheld, with pleasure, the two princes adding to the dignity of their rank, and their fame in arms, all the grace and elegance of polite literature. But it is fatally true, that when the public taste is once corrupted, the mind which has been warped, seldom recovers its former tone. This difficulty was rendered still more insurmountable by the licentious spirit of our young men, and the popular applause, that encouraged the false taste of the times. I need not, in this company, call to mind the unbridled presumption, with which, as soon as genuine eloquence expired, the young men of the age took possession of the forum. Of modest worth and ancient manners nothing remained. We know that in former times the youthful candidate was introduced in the forum by a person of consular rank [c], and by him set forward in his road to fame. That laudable custom being at an end, all fences were thrown down: no sense of shame remained, no respect for the tribunals of justice. The aspiring genius wanted no patronage; he scorned the usual forms of a regular introduction; and, with full confidence in his own powers, he obtruded himself on the court. Neither the solemnity of the place, nor the sanctity of laws, nor the importance of the oratorical character, could restrain the impetuosity of young ambition. Unconscious of the importance of the undertaking, and less sensible of his own incapacity, the bold adventurer rushed at once into the most arduous business. Arrogance supplied the place of talents.
8. To oppose the torrent, that bore down every thing, the danger of losing all fair and honest fame was the only circumstance that could afford a ray of hope. But even that slender fence was soon removed by the arts of [a] Largius Licinius. He was the first that opened a new road to ambition. He intrigued for fame, and filled the benches with an audience suborned to applaud his declamations. He had his circle round him, and shouts of approbation followed. It was upon that occasion that Domitius Afer [b] emphatically said, Eloquence is now at the last gasp. It had, indeed, at that time shewn manifest symptoms of decay, but its total ruin may be dated from the introduction of a mercenary band [c] to flatter and applaud. If we except a chosen few, whose superior genius has not as yet been seduced from truth and nature, the rest are followed by their partisans, like actors on the stage, subsisting altogether on the bought suffrages of mean and prostitute hirelings. Nor is this sordid traffic carried on with secrecy: we see the bargain made in the face of the court; the bribe is distributed with as little ceremony as if they were in a private party at the orator's own house. Having sold their voices, this venal crew rush forward from one tribunal to another, the distributors of fame, and the sole judges of literary merit. The practice is, no doubt, disgraceful. To brand it with infamy, two new terms have been invented [d], one in the Greek language, importing the venders of praise, and the other in the Latin idiom, signifying the parasites who sell their applause for a supper. But sarcastic expressions have not been able to cure the mischief: the applauders by profession have taken courage, and the name, which was intended as a stroke of ridicule, is now become an honourable appellation.

9. This infamous practice rages at present with increasing violence. The party no longer consists of freeborn citizens; our very slaves are hired. Even before they arrive at full age, we see them distributing the rewards of eloquence. Without attending to what is said, and without sense enough to understand, they are sure to crowd the courts of justice, whenever a raw young man, stung with the love of fame, but without talents to deserve it, obtrudes himself in the character of an advocate. The hall resounds with acclamations, or rather with a kind of bellowing; for I know not by what term to express that savage uproar, which would disgrace a theatre.

Upon the whole, when I consider these infamous practices, which have brought so much dishonour upon a liberal profession, I am far from wondering that you, Maternus, judged it time to sound your retreat. When you could no longer attend with honour, you did well, my friend, to devote yourself entirely to the muses. And now, since you are to close the debate, permit me to request, that, besides unfolding the causes of corrupt eloquence, you will fairly tell us, whether you entertain any hopes of better times, and, if you do, by what means a reformation may be accomplished.

10. It is true [a], said Maternus, that seeing the forum deluged by an inundation of vices, I was glad, as my friend expressed it, to sound my retreat. I saw corruption rushing on with hasty strides, too shameful to be defended, and too powerful to be resisted. And yet, though urged by all those motives, I should hardly have renounced the business of the bar, if the bias of my nature had not inclined me to other studies. I balanced, however, for some time. It was, at first, my fixed resolution to stand to the last a poor remnant of that integrity and manly eloquence, which still lingered at the bar, and shewed some signs of life. It was my intention to emulate, not, indeed, with equal powers, but certainly with equal firmness, the bright models of ancient times, and, in that course of practice, to defend the fortunes, the dignity, and the innocence of my fellow-citizens. But the strong impulse of inclination was not to be resisted. I laid down my arms, and deserted to the safe and tranquil camp of the muses. But though a deserter, I have not quite forgot the service in which I was enlisted. I honour the professors of real eloquence, and that sentiment, I hope, will be always warm in my heart.

11. In my solitary walks, and moments of meditation, it often happens, that I fall into a train of thinking on the flourishing state of ancient eloquence, and the abject condition to which it is reduced in modern times. The result of my reflections I shall venture to unfold, not with a spirit of controversy, nor yet dogmatically to enforce my own opinion. I may differ in some points, but from a collision of sentiments it is possible that some new light may be struck out. My friend Aper will, therefore, excuse me, if I do not, with him, prefer the false glitter of the moderns to the solid vigour of ancient genius. At the same time, it is not my intention to disparage his friends. Messala too, whom you, Secundus, have closely followed, will forgive me, if I do not, in every thing, coincide with his opinion. The vices of the forum, which you have both, as becomes men of integrity, attacked with vehemence, will not have me for their apologist. But still I may be allowed to ask, have not you been too much exasperated against the rhetoricians?

I will not say in their favour, that I think them equal to the task of reviving the honours of eloquence; but I have known among them, men of unblemished morals, of regular discipline, great erudition, and talents every way fit to form the minds of youth to a just taste for science and the persuasive arts. In this number one in particular [a] has lately shone forth with superior lustre. From his abilities, all that is in the power of man may fairly be expected. A genius like his would have been the ornament of better times. Posterity will admire and honour him. And yet I would not have Secundus amuse himself with ill-grounded hopes: neither the learning of that most excellent man, nor the industry of such as may follow him, will be able to promote the interests of Eloquence, or to establish her former glory. It is a lost cause. Before the vices, which have been so ably described, had spread a general infection, all true oratory was at an end. The revolutions in our government, and the violence of the times, began the mischief, and, in the end, gave the fatal blow.

12. Nor are we to wonder at this event. In the course of human affairs there is no stability, nothing secure or permanent. It is with our minds as with our bodies: the latter, as soon as they have attained their full growth, and seem to flourish in the vigour of health, begin, from that moment, to feel the gradual approaches of decay. Our intellectual powers proceed in the same manner; they gain strength by degrees, they arrive at maturity, and, when they can no longer improve, they languish, droop, and fade away. This is the law of nature, to which every age, and every nation, of which we have any historical records, have been obliged to submit. There is besides another general law, hard perhaps, but wonderfully ordained, and it is this: nature, whose operations are always simple and uniform, never suffers in any age or country, more than one great example of perfection in the kind [a]. This was the case in Greece, that prolific parent of genius and of science. She had but one Homer, one Plato, one Demosthenes. The same has happened at Rome: Virgil stands at the head of his art, and Cicero is still unrivalled. During a space of seven hundred years our ancestors were struggling to reach the summit of perfection: Cicero at length arose; he thundered forth his immortal energy, and nature was satisfied with the wonder she had made. The force of genius could go no further. A new road to fame was to be found. We aimed at wit, and gay conceit, and glittering sentences. The change, indeed, was great; but it naturally followed the new form of government. Genius died with public liberty.
13. We find that the discourse of men always conforms to the temper of the times. Among savage nations [a] language is never copious. A few words serve the purpose of barbarians, and those are always uncouth and harsh, without the artifice of connection; short, abrupt, and nervous. In a state of polished society, where a single ruler sways the sceptre, the powers of the mind take a softer tone, and language grows more refined. But affectation follows, and precision gives way to delicacy. The just and natural expression is no longer the fashion. Living in ease and luxury, men look for elegance, and hope by novelty to give a grace to adulation. In other nations, where the first principles of the civil union are maintained in vigour; where the people live under the government of laws, and not the will of man; where the spirit of liberty pervades all ranks and orders of the state; where every individual holds himself bound, at the hazard of his life, to defend the constitution framed by his ancestors; where, without being guilty of an impious crime, no man dares to violate the rights of the whole community; in such a state, the national eloquence will be prompt, bold, and animated. Should internal dissensions shake the public peace, or foreign enemies threaten to invade the land, Eloquence comes forth arrayed in terror; she wields her thunder, and commands all hearts. It is true, that upon those occasions men of ambition endeavour, for their own purposes, to spread the flame of sedition; while the good and virtuous combine their force to quell the turbulent, and repel the menaces of a foreign enemy. Liberty gains new strength by the conflict, and the true patriot has the glory of serving his country, distinguished by his valour in the field, and in debate no less terrible by his eloquence.
14. Hence it is that in free governments we see a constellation of orators. Hence Demosthenes displayed the powers of his amazing genius, and acquired immortal honour. He saw a quick and lively people, dissolved in luxury, open to the seductions of wealth, and ready to submit to a master; he saw a great and warlike monarch threatening destruction to the liberties of his country; he saw that prince at the head of powerful armies, renowned for victory, possessed of an opulent treasury, formidable in battle, and, by his secret arts, still more so in the cabinet; he saw that king, inflamed by ambition and the lust of dominion, determined to destroy the liberties of Greece. It was that alarming crisis that called forth the powers of Demosthenes. Armed with eloquence, and with eloquence only, he stood as a bulwark against a combination of enemies foreign and domestic. He roused his countrymen from their lethargy: he kindled the holy flame of liberty; he counteracted the machinations of Philip, detected his clandestine frauds, and fired the men of Athens with indignation. To effect these generous purposes, and defeat the policy of a subtle enemy, what powers of mind were necessary! how vast, how copious, how sublime! He thundered and lightened in his discourse; he faced every danger with undaunted resolution. Difficulties served only to inspire him with new ardour. The love of his country glowed in his heart; liberty roused all his powers, and Fame held forth her immortal wreath to reward his labours. These were the fine incentives that roused his genius, and no wonder that his mind expanded with vast conceptions. He thought for his country, and, by consequence, every sentiment was sublime; every expression was grand and magnificent.
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The true spirit of genuine eloquence [a], like an intense fire, is kept alive by fresh materials: every new commotion gives it vigour, and in proportion as it burns, it expands and brightens to a purer flame. The same causes at Rome produced the same effect. Tempestuous times called forth the genius of our ancestors. The moderns, it is true, have taken fire, and rose above themselves, as often as a quiet, settled, and uniform government gave a fair opportunity; but eloquence, it is certain, flourishes most under a bold and turbulent democracy, where the ambitious citizen, who best can mould to his purposes a fierce and contentious multitude, is sure to be the idol of the people. In the conflict of parties, that kept our ancestors in agitation, laws were multiplied; the leading chiefs were the favourite demagogues; the magistrates were often engaged in midnight debate; eminent citizens were brought to a public trial; families were set at variance; the nobles were split into factions, and the senate waged incessant war against the people. Hence that flame of eloquence which blazed out under the republican government, and hence that constant fuel that kept the flame alive.

The state, it is true, was often thrown into convulsions: but talents were exercised, and genius opened the way to public honours. He who possessed the powers of persuasion, rose to eminence, and by the arts which gave him popularity, he was sure to eclipse his colleagues. He strengthened his interest with the leading men, and gained weight and influence not only in the senate, but in all assemblies of the people. Foreign nations [b] courted his friendship. The magistrates, setting out for their provinces, made it their business to ingratiate themselves with the popular speaker, and, at their return, took care to renew their homage. The powerful orator had no occasion to solicit for preferment: the offices of prætor and consul stood open to receive him. He was invited to those exalted stations. Even in the rank of a private citizen he had a considerable share of power, since his authority swayed at once the senate and the people. It was in those days a settled maxim, that no man could either rise to dignities, or support himself in office, without possessing, in an eminent degree, a power of words, and dignity of language.

Nor can this be a matter of wonder, when we recollect, that persons of distinguished genius were, on various occasions, called forth by the voice of the people, and in their presence obliged to act an important part. Eloquence was the ruling passion of all. The reason is, it was not then sufficient merely to vote in the senate; it was necessary to support that vote with strength of reasoning, and a flow of language. Moreover, in all prosecutions, the party accused was expected to make his defence in person, and to examine the witnesses [c], who at that time were not allowed to speak in written depositions, but were obliged to give their testimony in open court. In this manner, necessity, no less than the temptation of bright rewards, conspired to make men cultivate the arts of oratory. He who was known to possess the powers of speech, was held in the highest veneration. The mute and silent character fell into contempt. The dread of shame was a motive not less powerful than the ambition that aimed at honours. To sink into the humiliating rank of a client, instead of maintaining the dignity of a patron, was a degrading thought. Men were unwilling to see the followers of their ancestors transferred to other families for protection. Above all, they dreaded the disgrace of being thought unworthy of civil honours; and, if by intrigue they attained their wishes, the fear of being despised for incapacity was a spur to quicken their ardour in the pursuit of literary fame and commanding eloquence.

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I do not know whether you have as yet seen the historical memoirs which Mucianus [a] has collected, and lately published, containing, in eleven volumes, the transactions of the times, and, in three more, the letters of eminent men who figured on the stage of public business. This portion of history is well authenticated by the original papers, still extant in the libraries of the curious. From this valuable collection it appears, that Pompey and Crassus [b] owed their elevation as much to their talents as to their fame in arms; and that Lentulus [c], Metellus, Lucullus, Curio, and others of that class, took care to enlarge their minds, and distinguish themselves by their powers of speech. To say all in one word, no man, in those times, rose to eminence in the state, who had not given proof of his genius in the forum and the tribunals of justice.

To this it may be added, that the importance, the splendour, and magnitude of the questions discussed in that period, served to animate the public orator. The subject, beyond all doubt, lifts the mind above itself: it gives vigour to sentiment, and energy to expression. Let the topic be a paltry theft, a dry form of pleading, or a petty misdemeanor; will not the orator feel himself cramped and chilled by the meanness of the question? Give him a cause of magnitude, such as bribery in the election of magistrates, a charge for plundering the allies of Rome, or the murder of Roman citizens, how different then his emotions! how sublime each sentiment! what dignity of language! The effect, it must be admitted, springs from the disasters of society. It is true, that form of government, in which no such evils occur, must, beyond all question, be allowed to be the best; but since, in the course of human affairs, sudden convulsions must happen, my position is, that they produced, at Rome, that flame of eloquence which at this hour is so much admired. The mind of the orator grows and expands with his subject. Without ample materials no splendid oration was ever yet produced. Demosthenes, I believe, did not owe his vast reputation to the speeches which he made against his guardians [d]; nor was it either the oration in defence of Quinctius, or that for Archias the poet, that established the character of Cicero. It was Catiline, it was Verres, it was Milo and Mark Antony, that spread so much glory round him.

Let me not be misunderstood: I do not say, that for the sake of hearing a bright display of eloquence, it is fit that the public peace should be disturbed by the machinations of turbulent and lawless men. But, not to lose sight of the question before us, let it be remembered, that we are enquiring about an art which thrives and flourishes most in tempestuous times. It were, no doubt, better that the public should enjoy the sweets of peace, than be harassed by the calamities of war: but still it is war that produces the soldier and great commander. It is the same with Eloquence. The oftener she is obliged, if I may so express it, to take the field, the more frequent the engagement, in which she gives and receives alternate wounds, and the more formidable her adversary; the more she rises in pomp and grandeur, and returns from the warfare of the forum crowned with unfading laurels. He, who encounters danger, is ever sure to win the suffrages of mankind. For such is the nature of the human mind, that, in general, we choose a state of security for ourselves, but never fail to gaze with admiration on the man, whom we see, in the conflict of parties, facing his adversaries, and surmounting difficulties.

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I proceed to another advantage of the ancient forum; I mean the form of proceeding and the rules of practice observed in those days. Our modern custom is, I grant, more conducive to truth and justice; but that of former times gave to eloquence a free career, and, by consequence, greater weight and splendour. The advocate was not, as now, confined to a few hours [a]; he might adjourn as often as it suited his convenience; he might expatiate, as his genius prompted him: and the number of days, like that of the several patrons, was unlimited. Pompey was the first who circumscribed the genius of men within narrower limits [b]. In his third consulship he gave a check to eloquence, and, as it were, bridled its spirit, but still left all causes to be tried according to law in the forum, and before the prætors. The importance of the business, which was decided in that court of justice, will be evident, if we compare it with the transactions before the centumvirs [c], who at present have cognizance of all matters whatever. We have not so much as one oration of Cicero or Cæsar, of Brutus, Cælius, or Calvus, or any other person famous for his eloquence, which was delivered before the last-mentioned jurisdiction, excepting only the speeches of Asinius Pollio [d] for the heirs of Urbinia. But those speeches were delivered about the middle of the reign of Augustus, when, after a long peace with foreign nations, and a profound tranquillity at home, that wise and politic prince had conquered all opposition, and not only triumphed over party and faction, but subdued eloquence itself.
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What I am going to say will appear, perhaps, too minute; it may border on the ridiculous, and excite your mirth: with all my heart; I will hazard it for that very reason. The dress now in use at the bar has an air of meanness: the speaker is confined in a close robe [a], and loses all the grace of action. The very courts of judicature are another objection; all causes are heard, at present, in little narrow rooms, where spirit and strenuous exertion are unnecessary. The orator, like a generous steed, requires liberty and ample space: before a scanty tribunal his spirit droops, and the dullness of the scene damps the powers of genius. Add to this, we pay no attention to style; and indeed how should we? No time is allowed for the beauties of composition: the judge calls upon you to begin, and you must obey, liable, at the same time, to frequent interruptions, while documents are read, and witnesses examined.

During all this formality, what kind of an audience has the orator to invigorate his faculties? Two or three stragglers drop in by chance, and to them the whole business seems to be transacted in solitude. But the orator requires a different scene. He delights in clamour, tumult, and bursts of applause. Eloquence must have her theatre, as was the case in ancient times, when the forum was crowded with the first men in Rome; when a numerous train of clients pressed forward with eager expectation; when the people, in their several tribes; when ambassadors from the colonies, and a great part of Italy; attended to hear the debate; in short, when all Rome was interested in the event. We know that in the cases of Cornelius, Scaurus, Milo, Bestia, and Vatinius, the concourse was so great, that those several causes were tried before the whole body of the people. A scene so vast and magnificent was enough to inflame the most languid orator. The speeches delivered upon those occasions are in every body's hands, and, by their intrinsic excellence, we of this day estimate the genius of the respective authors.

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If we now consider the frequent assemblies of the people, and the right of prosecuting the most eminent men in the state; if we reflect on the glory that sprung from the declared hostility of the most illustrious characters; if we recollect, that even Scipio, Sylla, and Pompey, were not sheltered from the storms of eloquence, what a number of causes shall we see conspiring to rouse the spirit of the ancient forum! The malignity of the human heart, always adverse to superior characters, encouraged the orator to persist. The very players, by sarcastic allusions to men in power, gratified the public ear, and, by consequence, sharpened the wit and acrimony of the bold declaimer.

Need I observe to you, that in all I have said, I have not been speaking of that temperate faculty [a] which delights in quiet times, supported by its own integrity, and the virtues of moderation? I speak of popular eloquence, the genuine offspring of that licentiousness, to which fools and ill-designing men have given the name of liberty: I speak of bold and turbulent oratory, that inflamer of the people, and constant companion of sedition; that fierce incendiary, that knows no compliance, and scorns to temporize; busy, rash, and arrogant, but, in quiet and well regulated governments, utterly unknown. Who ever heard of an orator at Crete or Lacedæmon? In those states a system of rigorous discipline was established by the first principles of the constitution. Macedonian and Persian eloquence are equally unknown. The same may be said of every country, where the plan of government was fixed and uniform.

At Rhodes, indeed, and also at Athens, orators existed without number, and the reason is, in those communities the people directed every thing; a giddy multitude governed, and, to say the truth, all things were in the power of all. In like manner, while Rome was engaged in one perpetual scene of contention; while parties, factions, and internal divisions, convulsed the state; no peace in the forum, in the senate no union of sentiment; while the tribunals of justice acted without moderation; while the magistrates knew no bounds, and no man paid respect to eminent merit; in such times it must be acknowledged that Rome produced a race of noble orators; as in the wild uncultivated field the richest vegetables will often shoot up, and flourish with uncommon vigour. And yet it is fair to ask, Could all the eloquence of the Gracchi atone for the laws which they imposed on their country? Could the fame which Cicero obtained by his eloquence, compensate for the tragic end to which it brought him [b]?

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The forum, at present, is the last sad relic of ancient oratory. But does that epitome of former greatness give the idea of a city so well regulated, that we may rest contented with our form of government, without wishing for a reformation of abuses? If we except the man of guilt, or such as labour under the hard hand of oppression, who resorts to us for our assistance? If a municipal city applies for protection, it is, when the inhabitants, harassed by the adjacent states, or rent and torn by intestine divisions, sue for protection. The province, that addresses the senate for a redress of grievances, has been oppressed and plundered, before we hear of the complaint. It is true, we vindicate the injured, but to suffer no oppression would surely be better than to obtain relief. Find, if you can, in any part of the world a wise and happy community, where no man offends against the laws: in such a nation what can be the use of oratory? You may as well profess the healing art where ill health is never known. Let men enjoy bodily vigour, and the practice of physic will have no encouragement. In like manner, where sober manners prevail, and submission to the authority of government is the national virtue, the powers of persuasion are rendered useless. Eloquence has lost her field of glory. In the senate, what need of elaborate speeches, when all good men are already of one mind? What occasion for studied harangues before a popular assembly, where the form of government leaves nothing to the decision of a wild democracy, but the whole administration is conducted by the wisdom of a single ruler? And again; when crimes are rare, and in fact of no great moment, what avails the boasted right of individuals to commence a voluntary prosecution? What necessity for a studied defence, often composed in a style of vehemence, artfully addressed to the passions, and generally stretched beyond all bounds, when justice is executed in mercy, and the judge is of himself disposed to succour the distressed?

Believe me, my very good, and (as far as the times will admit) my eloquent friends, had it been your lot to live under the old republic, and the men whom we so much admire had been reserved for the present age; if some god had changed the period of theirs and your existence, the flame of genius had been yours, and the chiefs of antiquity would now be acting with minds subdued to the temper of the times. Upon the whole, since no man can enjoy a state of calm tranquillity, and, at the same time, raise a great and splendid reputation; to be content with the benefits of the age in which we live, without detracting from our ancestors, is the virtue that best becomes us.

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Maternus concluded [a] his discourse. There have been, said Messala, some points advanced, to which I do not entirely accede; and others, which I think require farther explanation. But the day is well nigh spent. We will, therefore, adjourn the debate. Be it as you think proper, replied Maternus; and if, in what I have said, you find any thing not sufficiently clear, we will adjust those matters in some future conference. Hereupon he rose from his seat, and embracing Aper, I am afraid, he said, that it will fare hardly with you, my good friend. I shall cite you to answer before the poets, and Messala will arraign you at the bar of the antiquarians. And I, replied Aper, shall make reprisals on you both before the school professors and the rhetoricians. This occasioned some mirth and raillery. We laughed, and parted in good humour.