Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

A PROPER acquaintance with the circle of liberal arts is requisite to the study of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. To extend the knowledge of them must be the first care of those, who wish, either to write with reputation, or so to express themselves in public, as to command attention. Among the ancients it was an essential prinçiple, that the orator ought to be conversant in every department of learning. No art indeed can be contrived which can stamp merit on a composition, rich or splendid in expression, but barren or erroneous in sentiment. Oratory, it is true, has often been disgraced by attempts to establish a false criterion of its value. Writers have endeavoured to supply want of matter by graces of composition; and courted the temporary applause of the ignorant instead of the lasting approbation of the discerning. But

such imposture must be short and transitory. The body and substance of any valuable composition must be formed of knowledge and science. Rhetoric completes the structure,and adds the polish; but firm and solid bodies only are able to receive it.

Among the learned it has long been a contested, and remains still an undecided question, whether nature or art contribute most toward excel lence in writing and discourse. Various inay be the opinions with respect to the manner, in which art can most effectually furnish aid for such a purpose; and it were presumption to ašsert,that rhetorical rules,how just soever, are sufficient to form an orator. Private application and study, supposing natural genius to be favourable, are certainly superior to any system of public instruction. But, though rules and instructions cannot effect every thing which is requisite, they may be of considerable use. If they cannot inspire genius, they can give it direction and assistance. If

« PreviousContinue »