Page images
PDF
EPUB

6

poffibly raise him even to the consular “ availing zeal, solicit the afeless tribute dignity. Far more desirable, in my « of posthumous memorials!" eftimation, was the calm retreat of Maternus had scarce finished the se Virgil: where yet he lived not un ho- words, which he uttered with great emonoured by his prince, nor unregarded tion, and with an air of inspiration, by the world. ' If the truth of either when Messalla entered the room; who, of these a Bertions should be questioneel, observing much attention in our countethe letters of Augustus will witness nances, and imagining the conversation the former; as the latter is evident turned upon something of more than orfrom the conduct of the whole Roman dinary import. Perhaps,' said he, people, who when some verses of that you ase engaged in a conjultation; and, divine poet were repeated in the theatre, ' I doubt, I am guilty of an unfeasonwhere he happened to be present, rose ' able interruption.'- By no means,' up to a man, and faluted him with the answered Secundus: ' on the contrary, same respect that they would have paid. I wish you had given us your compa. to Augustus himself. But to mention ny sooner; for, I am perfuaded, you our own times. I would ask whether' would have been extremely entertain. Secundus Pomponius is any thing in., ed. Our friend Aper has, with great ferior, either in dignity of life, or soli- eloquence, been exhorting Maternus dity of reputation, to Afer Domitius? : ' to turn the whole ftrength of his geAs to Crispus or Marcellus, to whom • nius and his studies to the bufines of Aper refers me for an animating ex- “the forum: while Maternus, on the ample, what is there in their present other hand, agreeably to the characexalted fortunes really desirable? Is ' ter of one who was pleading the cause it that they pass their whole lives either of the Mufes, has defended his fa. in being alarmed for themselves, or in 'vourite art with a boldness and elevastriking terror into others? Is it that • tion of Atyle more suitable to a poet they are daily under a necefiity of court- than an orator.' ing the very men they hate; that, hoid- " It would have afforded me infinite ing their dignities by unmanly adula. pleasure,' replied Messalla, 'to have tion, their matters never think them fuf. been present at a debate of this kind, ficiently Naves, nor the people suffici. "! And I cannot but express my fatisently free! And, after all, what is this • faction, in finding the most eminent their so much envied power? Nothing 'orators of our times, not confining more, in truth, than what many a paltry ( their geniuses to points relating to their

freedman has frequently enjoyed. But ' profesion, but canvaffing such other "!--Me let the lovely Muses lead" (as • topics in their conversation, as give a • Virgil sings) “ to silent groves and very advantageous exercise to their fa. “ heavenly-haunted streams,

! culties, at the lame time that it fur. " from bugness and from care; and Inishes an entertainment of the most “ ftill superior to the painful neceffity of ! instructive kind, not only to them" acting in wretched opposition 10 my • selves, but to those who have the pri\' better heart. Nor let me more, with (vilege of being joined in their party, " anxious steps, and dangerous, pur

• And believe me, Secundus, the world ” fue pale Fame amidit the noisy fo- received with much approbation your

rum! May never clamorous suitors, history of J. Afiaticus, as an earnest "ror panting freed-man with officious ! that you intend to publith more pieces " haste, awake my peaceful flumbers !

I of the same nature. On the other " Uncertain of futurity, and equally · side,' continued he, with an air of

unc ncerned, ne'er may I bribe the irony, 'it is observed with equal satis« favour of the great; by rich bequests ' faction, that Aper has not yet bid $ to avarice insatiate; nor, accumula- • adieu to the questions of the schools, " tion vain! amals niore wealth than I but employs his leisure rather after the " may transfer as inclination prompts, example of the modern rhetoricians, " whenever thall arrive my life's last (than of the antient orators.' " Fatal period: and then, not in horrid • perceive,' returned Aper, that “ guise of mournful pomp, but crown. • you continue to treat the moderns “ed with chaplets gay, may I he en... with your usual derision and contempli 9 tombed nor let a friend, wiih un- while the antients alone are in full

poffention

remote

[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

to

[ocr errors]

poffeffion of your esteem. It is a max. • Undoubtedly,' returned Aper, 'I sim, indeed, I have fiequently heard ' shall not tamely suffer the moderns to • you advanc, (tod, allow me to 'ay, • be condemned, unheard and unde

with much asjutice to yourlelf, and • fended. But first let me ask, wliom

to your brzier) that incre is no such it is you call antients? What age of 5 thing in the reintes 2n crator. • orators do you distinguish by that de• This you are the leis fcrupulous to fignation?' The word always suge maintain, as you imagine it cannot be geits to me a Nestor, or an Ulyffes; • imputer to a lpirit of envy; tince you men who lived above a thousand years ' are willing at the same time to exclude • fince: whereas you feem to apply it to

yourseif trom a character which every • Demoithenes and Hyperides, who, it « body else is inclined to give you.' ' is agreed, Rourithed fo late as the

' I have hitherto,' replied Mt 11:111, • times of Philip and Alexander, and, • found no reason to change my npi- • indeed, survived them. It appears • nion: and I am perfuaded, that even « from hence, that there is not much

you yourself, Aver, (whatever you " above four hundred years distance be

may sometimes affect to the contrary) • tween our age and that of Demosthenes: (as well as my other two friends here, . a portion of time, which, considered

join with me in she same fentments. • with respect to human duration, ap" I should, indeed, be glad, if any of

pears, I acknowledge, extremely long; "you would discuss this inatter, and ac- • but, if compared with that immenie

count for so remarkable a disparity, æra which the philosophers talk of, ' which I have often endeavoured in my • is exceedingly contracted, and seems ! own thoughts. And what to fome ' almost hut of yeiterday. For if it be

appears a satisfactory folution of this true, what Cicero observes in his trea. ! phænomenon, me, I confeis, • tife inscribed to Hortensius, that the

heightens the difficulty: for I find the great and genuine year is that period

very same difference prevails among • in which the heavenly bodies return • the Grecian orators; and that the to the same position, wherein they

prieit Nicetes, together with others of • were placed when they first began their • the Ephelian and Mitytenean schools, respective orbits; and this revolution s who humbly content themselves with contains 12,954 of our solar years; ! raising the acclamations of their tafte- ' then Deniosthenes, this antient De• lefs auditors, deviate much farther mosthenes of yours, lived in the same • from Æichines or Demofthenes, than year, or rather I might say, in the

you, my friends, from Tully or Al- • same month, with ourselves. But to nius.'

"mention the Roman orators: I pre• The question you have started,' said ' sume, you will scarcely prefer Mene. Secundus, ' is a very important one, nius Agrippa (who may with some " and well worthy of consideration. ' propriety, indeed, be called an an• But who so capahle of doing justice tient) to the men of eloquence among ' to it as yourselt? who, belides the the moderns. It is Cicero, then, I

advantages of a fine genius and great ' suppose, together with Caelius, Cæfar,

literature, have given, it seems, par- • and Calvus, Brutus, Alinius, and * ticular attention to this enquiry.'-I • Meffalla, to whom you give this bo' am very willing,' answered Meffalla, 'nourable precedency: yet I am at a

to lay before you my thoughts upon • loss to allign a reason, why these ! the subject, provided you will affift me fhould be deemed antients rather than • with yours as I go along. '- I will 'moderns. To instance in Cicero : he

engage for two of us,' replied Mater- was killed, as his freedman Tiro innus: Secundus and myself will speak' forms us, on the 26th of Decem

to such points as you shall, I do not 'ber, in the consulhip of Hirtius and ' fay omit, but, think proper to leave • Panfa, in which year Augustus and • us. As for Aper, you just now in- • Pedius succeeded them in that digni• formed us, it is usual with him to ry. Now, if we take fifty-fix years I diffent from you in this article: and, • for the reign of Auguftus, and add ! indeed, I see he is already preparing twenty-three for that of Tiberius,

to oppose us, and will not look with o about four for that of Caius, fourteen ! indifference upon this our association a-piece for Claudius and Nero, one ja support of the antients,

• for Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, to.

6 gether

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

ances.

gether with the six that our prefent as Gracchus, for inftance, is much ! excellent prince has enjoyed the em more copious and forid than old Caro,

pire, we fall have about one hun. • fo Cratiusoites into a far higher strain • dreal and twenty years from the r of polirenets and refinement than • death of Cicero to thele times: a period • Gracchus. Thus, likewife, as the • to which it is not impoffiile that a ip.eches of Tully are more regular, 'man's life may extend. I remember, " and marked with superior elegance and (when I was in Britain, to have met fubiinity, than those of the two ora• with an old soldier, who assured ine, tors lait mentioned; 1o Corvinus is

be had served in the army which op- confiderably more iniooth and harmo.

pored Cæfar's descent upon that ' nious in his periods, as well as more • itland. If we fuppore this person, by • correct in his language, than Tully, • being taken prisoner, or by any other "I am not considering which of them " means, to have been brought to Rome, is most eloquent: all I endeavour to • he might have heard Cæfar and Ci- prove at present is, that ora:ory does

cero, and likewise any of our con- not manifeit ivell in one uniforin fi.

temporaries. I appeal to yourselves, gure, but is exhibited by the antients (whether, at the last public donative, under a variety of different appear. • there were not several of the populace

However, it is by no means • who acknowledged they had received a just way of reasoning, to infer that • the fame bounty, more than once, one thing must neceflarily be worse • from the hands of Augustus ? It is • than another, merely because it is not • evident, therefore, that these people " the fame. Yet luch is the unaccount: • might have been present at the plead- • able perverlity of human nature, that *ings both of Corvinus and Alinius : ' whatever has antiquity to boalt, is • for Corvinus was alive in the middle ! fure to be admired, as every thing no• of the reign of Agustos, and Alinius • vel is certainly disapproveil. There • towards the latter end. Surely, then, are critics, I doubt not, to be found,

you will not split a century, and call ' who prefer even Appius 'Cocus to

one orator an antient; and another a • Cato; as it is well known that Cicero • modern, when the very same person " had his cenlurers, wlio objected that "might be an auditor of both; and • his style was swelling and redundant, • thus, as it were, render them content- and by no means agreeable to the ele• poraries.

gant conciseness of Artic eloquence. The conclusion I mean to draw from "You have certainly read the letters of " this observation is, that whatever ad- • Calvus and Brutus to Cicero. It apvantages thele orators might derive to

pears hy those epiftolary collections, • their characters from the period of • that Cicero conlidered. Caivus as a e time in which they flourished, the fame dry, unanimated orator, at the same ¢ will extend to us: and, indeed, with time that he thought the style of Brus i much more reason than to S. Galba, tusenegligentand unconnected. Tnele, ( or to C, Carbomus, It cannot be de- in their tury, hait their objections, it o nied that the compofitions of thefe latt • seems, to Cicero: Calvus contemned • are very inelegant and unpolifed per his oratorical compositions, for being » formances; as I could wish, that not ' weak and enervaied; as Brutus (to

only your admired Calvus and Co. ' use his own expression) esteemed them lius, but, I will venture to add too, ' fechle and disjointeil. If I were to give even Cicero himself, (for I shall deli- my opinion, I thould say, they each

ver'my sentiments with great freedom) ' spoke truth of one another. But I « had not conlidered them as the proper • Thall examine there orators separately , models of their imitation. Suffer me hereafter: my present design is only « to premise, however, as I go along, " to consider them in a general view.

that eloquence changes it's qualities as • The admirers of antiquity aroagreed, it runs through different ages. ThusI think, in extending the æra of ute • From this pafiage Fabricius afferts that this dialogue was written i

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of Vespatian's reign: but he evidently mistakes the time in which the icen refitis laid, for inat in which it was composed. It is upon arguments not better founded that the critics have given Tacitus and Quintilian the honour of this elegant perturmanı V.d. Fabric. Rit. Lat. V, 1, 559.

antients

he 6th year

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]

antients as far as Callius Severus; days, endure an orator, who lhould ' whom they allert to have been the first open his harangue with a tedious apo

that truck out from the plain and fim- Jogy for the weakness of his conltitu.' '.ple manner, which will then prevailed. tion? Yet almost every oration of . Now affirm thar he did fo, not

Corvinus sets out in that manner, i from any deficiency in point of ge

• Would any man now have patience 'nius or learning, but from his fupe- to hear out the five long books againit

rior judgment and good-fense. He ( Verres? or thole endleis volumes of • saw it was neceffary to accommodate pleading in favour of Tully, or Cæ'oratory, as I observed before, to the cina? The vivacity of our modera' ' different times and taste of the audi- juitges even prevents the speaket; and "ence. Our anceitors, indeed, might • they are apt to conceive some fort of • be coniented (and it was a mark of prejudice againit all he utters, unless • their igrorance and want of politeness

he has the address to bribe their at. • that they were 10) with the inmode- • rention by the-trength and spirit of

rate anii tedious length of speeches, ' his arguments, the livelineis of his ' which was in yogue in those ages; as, • fentintents, or the elegance and brid-' . in truth, to be able to harangue for liancy of his descriptions. The very ' a whole day together was itself look- populace have some norion of the

ed upon, ae that illiterate period, as a beauty of language, anú would no

talent worthy of the highet admira- inore relish the uncovihness of anti' tion. The immeasurable introduction, quity in a modern orator, then they

the circumstantial derail, the entiler's ' would the gesture of old Rocius or division and luidivision, the formal • Ambivins in a modern actor. Our

argument drawn cut into a duil va- young students too, who are forming • nety of logical delu Stions, together • Themielves to eloquence, and for that

with a thousand other impertinenciespurpole attend the courts of judica' of the same tarteless lamp, which you ture, expect not merely to bear, buz

may find laid down among the pre- to carry home - fomething worthy of

ceprs of thole drielt op al writers, remembrance: and it is usual with • Hermagoras and A poliodorus, were tiem not only to canvats ainong them. • then held in fupreme honour. And, felves, but to trantinit to their respec.

to complear all, if the orator had just * tive provinces whatever ingenious

dipped into philosophy, and could thought or poetical ornament the 012• sprinkle his harangire with some of tor has happily employed. For even • the most trite maxiins of that fci nce, the embellithments of poetry are now

they thund:led cut his applaules to required; and thote too, not copied • the skies. For thele were new and '11on the heavy and antiquated man

uncominon topics to them; as indeed ner of Artius or Pacuvius, but formvery few of the orztors theinelves had ed in the lively and elegant spirit of the lealt acquaintance with the writ- Horace, Virgil, and Lucan. Agreeings either of the philosophers or the * abiy, therefore, to the superior tatte rhetoricians. Buc in our more en- and judgment of the prelent age, our lightened age, where even the lowelt orators appear with a more polished part of an audience have at lealt some and graceful alpect. And mott cer. general notion of literature, Eloquence tainly it cannot be thought that their is conttrained to find out riew and speeches are the lets efhcacious, -bemore florid paibs. She is obliged to caule they foothe the ears of the au' avoid cvery thing that may fatigue or dience with the piealing modulation offend the ears of her audience; cfpe- • of harmonious periods. Has Elo. cially as the must now app ar before

.

quence lost her power, because the has judges, who decide, not by law, but improved her charins ? Are our tem-, by authority; who Jescribe what li- files lels durable than those of oki, mits they think proper to the orator's • because they are not formed of rule Speech; nor calmly wait till he is materials, but shine out in all the polish pleased to come to the point, but call and fplendor of the most coftly orna. upon him to return, and openly testity !.mentsi their impatience whenever he seems To confess the plain truth, the ef. disposed to wander from the question. I feet which many of the antients have ! Who, I beseech you, would, in out upon me; is to difpofe-me either to

laugh

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• laugh or sleep. Not to mention the our times. It is visible he was a cloid ? more ordinary race of orators, such as : imitator of Artius and Pacuvius, not • Canutius, Arrius, or Fannius, with only in his tragedies, but also in his • some others of the same dry and un-. ' orations; so remarkably dry and un

affecting caft; even Calvus himself polished are all his coinpohtiens! But • scarce pleases me in more than one or the beauty of eloquence, like that of

two short orations: though he has left “ the human form, confifts in the

behind him, if I mistake not, no less • smoothness, strength, and colour of • than one and twenty volumes. And it's several parts. Corvinus I am in• the world in general seems to join 'clined to spare; though it was his own • with me in the same opinion of them: ' fault that he did not equal the elegant « for how few are the readers of his ' refinements of modera compositions, "inve&tives against Fscinius or Drusus? ' as it must be acknowledged his ge• Whereas those against Vatinius are in 'nius was abundantly fufficient for that • every body's hands, particularly the purpose. • second, which is indeed, both in sen. The next I shall take notice of, is 6 timent and language, a well-written Cicero; who had the same contest with • piece. It is evident, therefore, that those of his own times, as mine, my • he had an idea of just compofition, • friends, with you. They, it seems, 6 and rather wanted genius than incli- were favourers of the antienis; whilst • nation, to reach a more graceful and · He preferred the eloquence of his con

elevated manner. As to the orations temporaries: and, in truth, he excels • of Coelius, though they are by no " the orators of his own age in nothing

means valuable upon the whole, yet more remarkably, than in the folidity • they have their merit, so far as they of his judgment. He was the first who • approach to the exalted elegance of ' let a polih upon oratory; who seem• the present times. Whenever, indeed, red to have any notion of delicacy of • his composition is careless and uncon. ' expression, and the art of composi. • nected, his expression low, and his ' tion. Accordingly he attempted a • sentiments gross; it is then he is truly "more Horid 1tyle: as he now and then « an antient: and I will venture to affirm, • breaks out into some lively falhes of • there is no one so fond of antiquity as wit; particularly in his later perform

to admire him in that part of his cha. ances, when much practice and expe(racter. We may allow Cæsar', on rience (those beft and turelt guides) « account of the great affairs in which 'bad taught him a more improved man• he was engaged; as

we may Bru- ner. But his earlier compofitions are tus, in consideration of his philofophy; not without the blemishes of antiquity. • to be less eloquent than might other- • He is tedious in his exordiums, too • wise be expected of such superior ge- circumstantial in his narrations, and • niuses. The truth is, even their careless in retrenching luxuriances. • warmeit admirers acknowledge, that • He seems not easiy affected, and is • as orators they by no means shine with but rarely fired; as his periods are fel« the same lustre which distinguished dom either properly rounded, or hap• every other part of their reputation. pily pointed: he has nothing, in fine, ! Cæsar's speech in favour of Decius, • you would wish to make your own. 4 and that of Brutus in behalf of King His speeches, like a rude edifice, have • Dejotarus, with some others of the same • strength, indeed, and permanency; • coldness and languor, have scarcely, I ! but are destitute of that elegance and « imagine, met with any readers; un- • splendor which are necessary to render « less, perhaps, among such who can re- « them perfectly agreeable. The ora• lith their verfes. For verses, we know; 'tor, however, in his compositions, as

they writ, (and published too) I will the man of wealth in his buildings; • not say with more spirit, but un- • should consider ornament as well as

doubtedly with more success, than I use: his structure should be, not only . Cicero, because they had the good " subitantial, but itriking; and his fur« fortune to fall into much fewer hands. niture not merely convenient, but • Afinius, one would guess, by his air; rich, and such as will bear a close and « and manner, to have been contem- • frequent inspection; whilst every thing

porary with Menenius, and Appiuss that has a mean and aukward appear. though in fact he lived much nearer to ance ought to be totally baniibeds

• Let

« PreviousContinue »