« AnteriorContinuar »
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the vear one thousand eight hundred and fisty-two, by
CAAUNCEY & GOODRICH,
in the Office of the Clerk of the Distr'ct Court of the District of Connecticut
MR. HUME has somewhere remarked, that “ he who would teach eloquence must do it chiefly by examples.” The author of this volume was forcibly struck with this remark in early life; and in entering on the office of Professor of Rhetoric in Yale College, more than thirty years ago, besides the ordinary instructions in that department, he took Demosthenes' Oration for the Crown as a text-book in the Senior Class, making it the basis of a course of informal lectures on the principles of oratory. Modern eloquence came next, and he endeavored, in a distinct course, to show the leading characteristics of the great orators of our own language, and the best mode of study. ing them to advantage. His object in both courses was, not only to awaken in the minds of the class that love of genuine eloquence which is the surest pledge of success, but to aid them in catching the spirit of the authors read, and, by analyzing passages selected for the purpose, to initiate the pupil in those higher principles which (whether they were conscious of it or not) have always guided the great masters of the art, till he should learn the unwritten rules of oratory, which operate by a kind of instinct upon the mind, and are far more important than any that are found in the books.
Such is the origin of this volume, which contains the matter of the second course of lectures mentioned above, cast into another form, in connection with the speeches of the great British orators of the first and second class. A distinct volume would be necessary for American eloquence, if the lectures on that subject should ever be published.
The speeches selected are those which, by the general suffrage of the English public, are regarded as the master-pieces of their respective authors. They are in almost every instance given entire, because the object is to have each of them studied as a complete system of thought. Detached passages of extraordinary force and beauty may be useful as exercises in elocution; but, if dwelt upon exclusively as models of style, they are sure to vitiate the taste. It is like taking all one's nutriment from highly-seasoned food and stimulating drinks.
As to the orators chosen, CHATHAM, BURKE, Fox, and Pitt stand, by universal consent, at the head of our eloquence, and to these Erskine may be added as the greatest of our forensic orators. Every tolerably reported speech from Lord Chatham is of interest to the student in oratory, and all that I thought such are here inserted, including eight never before published in this country. All of BURKE's speeches which he prepared for the press have also found a place, except that on Economical Reform, which, relating to mere matters of English finance, has less interest for an American. In room of this, the reader will find the most striking passages in his works on the French Revolution, so that this volume contains nearly every thing which most persons can have any desire to study in the pages of Mr. Burke. Six of Fox's great speeches are next given, and three of Pitt's, with copious extracts from the early efforts of the latter; together with nine of Erskine's ablest arguments, being those on which his reputation mainly rests. Among the orators of the second class, the reader will find in this volume four speeches of Lord MANSFIELD; two of Mr. GRATTAN's, with his invectives against Flood and Corry; Mr. Sheridan's celebrated speech against Hast