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kind for which we are indebted to nature LECT. merely. Nature has, indeed, conferred upon some a very favourable distinction in this respect, beyond others. But in there, as in most other talents the bestows, she has left much to be wrought out by every man's own industry. So conspicuous have been the effects of study and improvement in every part of eloquence; such remarkable examples have appeared of persons surmounting, by their diligence, the disadvantages of the most untoward nature, that ainong the learned it has long been a contested, and remains still an undecided point, whether nature or art confer most towards excelling in writing and difcourse.

With respect to the manner in which art can most effectually furnish assistance for such a purpose, there may be diversity of opinions. 1 by no means pretend to say that mere rhetorical rules, how just foever, are fufficient to form an orator. Supposing natural genius to be favourable, more by a great deal will depend upon private application and study, than upon any system of instruction that is capable of being publicly communicated. But at the same time, though rules and instructions cannot do all that is requisite, they may, however, do much that is of real use. They cannot, it is true, inspire genius; but they can

B 4

direct

I,

LECT. direct and assist it. They cannot remedy

barrenness; but they may correct redundancy.
They point out proper models for imitation.
They bring into view the chief beauties that
ought to be studied, and the principal faults
that ought to be avoided ; and thereby tend
to enlighten talte, and to lead genius froin
unnatural deviations, into its

proper

channel. What would not avail for the production of great excellencies, may at least serve to prevent the commission of considerable errors.

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All that regards the study of eloquence and composition, merits the higher attention upon this account, that it is intimately connected with the improvement of our intellectual powers. For I must be allowed to say, that when we are employed, after a proper manner, in the study of composition, we are cultivating reason itself. True rhetoric and sound logic are very nearly allied. The study of arranging and expressing our thoughts with propriety, teaches to think, as well as to speak, accurately. By putting our sentiments into words, we always conceive them more distinctly. Every one who has the Nightest acquaintance with composition knows, that when he expresses himself ill on any

subject, when his arrangement is loose, and his sentences become feeble, the defects of his style çan, almost on every occasion, be traced

back

back to his indistinct conception of the sub- LECT. ject : so close is the connection between thoughts and the words in which they are clothed.

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The study of composition, important in itself at all times, has acquired additional importance from the taste and manners of the present age. It is an age wherein improvements, in every part of science, have been prosecuted with ardour. To all the liberal arts much attention has been paid; and to none more than to the beauty of language, and the grace and elegance of every kind of writing. The public ear is become refined. It will not easily bear what is slovenly and incorrect. Every author must aspire to fome merit in expression, as well as in sentiment, if he would not incur the danger of being neglected and despised.

I will not deny that the love of minute elegance, and attention to inferior ornaments of composition, may at present have engrossed too great a degree of the public regard. It is indeed my opinion, that we lean to this extreme ; often more careful of polishing style, than of storing it with thought. Yet hence arises a new reason for the study of just and proper composition. If it be requisite not to be deficient in elegance or ornament in times

when

1.

LECT. when they are in such high estimation, it is

ftill more requisite to attain the power of diftinguishing false ornament from true, in order to prevent our being carried away by that tor. rent of false and frivolous taste, which never fails, when it is prevalent, to sweep along with it the raw and the ignorant. They who have never studied eloquence in its principles, nor have been trained to attend to the genuine and manly beauties of good writing, are always ready to be caught by the mere glare of language ; and when they come to speak' in public, or to compofe, have no other standard on which to form themselves, except what chances to be fashionable and popular, how corrupted soever, or erroneous, that

may be,

But as there are many who have no such objects as either composition or public speaking in view, let us next consider what advantages may be derived by them, from such studies as form the subject of these Lectures. To them, rhetoric is not so much a practical art as a fpeculative science; and the fame instructions which aslist others in composing, will affift them in discerning, and relifhing, the beauties of composition. Whatever enables genius to execute well, will enable taste to criticise justly.

WHEN

I.

When we name criticising, prejudices may L E C T. perhaps arise, of the same kind with those which I mentioned before with respect to rhetoric. As rhetoric has been sometimes thought to signify nothing more than the scholastic study of words and phrases, and tropes, so criticism has been considered as merely the art of finding faults; as the frigid application of certain technical terms, by means of which persons are taught to cavil and censure in a learned manner. But this is the criticism of pedants only. True criticisin is a liberal and humane art. It is the offspring of good sense and refined taste.

It aims at acquiring a just discernment of the real merit of authors. It promotes a lively relish of their beauties, while it preserves us from that blind and implicit veneration which would confound their beauties and faults in our esteem. It reaches us, in a word, to admire and to blame with judgment, and not to follow the crowd blindly.

In an age when works of genius and literature are so frequently the subjects of difcourse, when every one erects himself into a judge, and when we can hardly mingle in polite society without bearing some share in such difcussions ; studies of this kind, it is not to be doubted, will appear to derive part of their importance from the use to which they

may

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