« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
4. A fourth variety of oratory is when the discourse is not only prepared beforehand, but is read from the paper in the presence of the audience. This is by no means an uncommon form of oratory. In some deliberative assemblies orators read their speeches; the practice of reading sermons is all but universal; and sometimes at a public meeting a gentleman insists on his right of reading what he has to say. Then, in public lecturing, reading from manuscript is by far more frequent than any other plan. Respecting the propriety of the plan in most kinds of lecturing, and on various occasions where the exercise is still more properly that of oratory, there can be no doubt; but its propriety in general has been more questioned and is more questionable. It is the most miserable sight in the world to see a dull fellow with spectacles on stooping down over the readingdesk before a thousand people who can only see the crown of his head, never lifting his eyes, but holding the leaves of his manuscript with one hand, and preaching for three-quarters of an hour into his pocket-handkerchief, which he holds in the other. Such preaching is not to be tolerated, and little wonder that, out of revenge against it, the public have contracted a dislike to the habit of reading sermons. The dislike, however, is perhaps not quite fair. It admits of doubt whether the men who, when they read their sermons, seem to be reading them to their pocket-handkerchiefs, would have been very much more interesting or effective as preachers, if they had learned to commit their sermons to memory. A preacher who reads badly shows by that very fact that he is deficient in the oratorical gift; and, at all events, there have been examples of men in whom the practice of reading from the manuscript has not been inconsistent with the most transcendent powers of oratory. The British pulpit at the present day, both English and Scotch, furnishes many instances; and there are many more in the past history of oratory. Mirabeau delivered some of his tremendous speeches from the manuscriptsome of them even from the manuscripts of other persons handed to him just as he was ascending the tribune; and, though Dr. Chalmers now and then interpolated an extempore burst or a bit of familiar exposition in the course of his harangues, all his greatest speeches, with only one memorable exception, and all his great sermons without any exception, were read openly from his papers or note-books. In his case, at least, there was no incompatibility between the use of the paper and the highest and most unparalleled effects of oratory. In the country-parts of Scotland there is now, and there always has been, a strong popular prejudice against read sermons; but wherever Dr. Chalmers went, the prejudice was waived in his case as a matter of course. One
485 old woman in Fifeshire gave an excellent reason for this. Being taunted with the fact that she, who would not bear read sermons from any one else, would yet walk a dozen miles at any time to hear Dr. Chalmers preach, if he chanced to be in the neighbourhood, she justified herself by saying, 'Ay, ay, the Doctor reads; but O, it's fell readin' thon! Now the old woman's distinction between reading' and fell reading,' is exactly the distinction between less and more of the oratorical energy. The difference between the orator who has prepared his discourse by heart, and the orator who reads is that, in the one case the final and allimportant act of Pronuntiatio is from the memory, in the other it is from the manuscript. If the Pronuntiatio from the manuscript can be fell' enough, there ought to be no objection to it. There are perhaps reasons which prevent it from being so in general. The act of reading fixes both body and mind in an attitude unfavourable to the action upon them of those miscellaneous perturbing and rousing incidents which affect the disengaged speaker. Some orators overcome the difficulty; and not being slaves to the paper,' as the Scotch say, are able, while they read, to yield themselves up also to the full sensation of the place and the circumstances. In the case of Dr. Chalmers, it is worth remarking that the manuscripts from which he read were always, or nearly always, in short-hand. This permitted him, as it seemed, to take in a larger number of words per glance, as his eye crossed the paper, and so to have a larger proportion of his attention free for the aspect of his audience. Indeed, unless one was near him so as to observe the fact, it was difficult to know that he was reading. A favourite plan of his in a public meeting was to post himself where he could, as it were casually, rest his left hand, with his note-book in it, on the back of a chair or some such slight support, leaving his body, and especially his right arm, free for movement and gesticulation. Then, moving his head and shoulders in a peculiar acquired curve, one point of which brought him within eyeshot of the paper, he took his glances cunningly at regular intervals, delivering the result of each in a corresponding volley. It is needless to say that in his case there was never any chance that the matter he brought with him should be found unsuitable for the purposes of oratory. No man ever exemplified better than he did the peculiar genius, and, we might even say (using the word in a high sense), the peculiar knack of oratorical cogitation. With a mind very scientific in its structure and tendencies, so that, as we have said, he was never happy and never felt himself capable of proceeding unless he had some generalization or some principle in his hands; with much also of the poet in his feelings and habits of thought-he
was yet, in virtue of his total character, and the nature of his lifelong training, emphatically an orator in his intellectual method. This is seen even in his published treatises on various subjects— which, however, were almost always originally prepared in the form of lectures. Take, as an example, the following passage from his Political Economy-a passage worth quoting on its own
'We confess that, on this subject, we have no sympathy with what has been called the spirit of the age. The very worst effects are to be dreaded from it. Everything now is made a question of finance; and science, with all which can grace or dignify a nation, is vulgarized and brought down to a common standard-the standard of the market and of the counting-house. It does look menacing, to take one example out of the thousand which could be specified, that it hinged on one solitary vote, whether the trigonometrical survey of our island should be permitted to go on-a work which, like the Doomsday Book of England, might have, after the lapse of a millennium, still survived, as a great national index for the guidance of our most distant posterity. It makes one tremble for some fearful resurrection of the old Gothic spirit amongst us, when one thinks that we were within a hair's-breadth of this noble enterprise being quashed. And this is the spirit of the age!-an age of unsparing retrenchment; a régime of hard and hunger-bitten economy, before whose remorseless pruninghook lie withering and dissevered from their stem the noblest interests of the commonwealth; a vehement, outrageous parsimony which, under the guise of patriotism, so reigns and ravens over the whole length and breadth of the land, and cares not though both religion and philosophy should expire, if but some wretched item of shred and of candle-end should be gained by the sacrifice: this which, though now the ascendant policy of our nation, elevated into power by the decisions of the legislature, and blown into popularity by the hosannahs of the multitude, will be looked back upon by posterity as an inglorious feature of the worst and most inglorious period in the annals of Britain, the befitting policy of an age of little measures and little men.'
By an extension of the usual meaning of the term oratory, we might include under that name a very considerable proportion of all written literature, over and above orations actually delivered to assemblies and then preserved to be read. The Letters of Junius, for example, and all writings of that class, including, as it would, all, or nearly all, the leading articles in newspapers, and all, or nearly all, the pamphlets and tracts produced so abundantly in every society where questions of morals or politics are agitated, may be regarded as so much unspoken oratory, and their writers as generically orators. Nay, more, in every actual book or writing of whatever kind, whether historical, scientific,
or poetical, there are passages which are oratorical in their tenor, and belong to the oratorical form of literature. The reason of this lies in a certain definition that may be given of oratory as one of four leading forms into which all literature, spoken or written, may be theoretically distributed. According to this classification, while there is one form of literature called history, the primary business of which it is to narrate facts; another form of literature called exposition, the business of which it is to state and explain human ideas and conclusions respecting phenomena; and a third form of literature, called poetry, the business of which it is to invent beautiful imaginary circumstances, or beautiful imaginary combinations of existing circumstances; there is yet, distinct from either of these forms, though employing them all in turn and melting into them just as they melt into each other, a fourth form of literature, which may be called oratory, and the express function of which it is to stimulate the human will in some particular direction, or towards some particular course of conduct. In this sense, therefore, all writings which have stimulation for their main end, and all those passages in all writings which incidentally aim at stimulation, may be classed as belonging to oratory. According to Aristotle and the ancients, oratory was that art or science which considered all the possible means of persuasion on any subject with a view to influence the hearer in the manner desired; and, though in this definition, spoken oratory is chiefly regarded, the definition will include a large proportion of ordinary literature. Wherever the aim is persuasion, as distinct from or superadded to narration, exposition, or imaginative effort, there we have the orator. The Greeks had a good word for use in this connexion. While the historian deals in facts, the expositor in abstract conclusions, the poet in fancies and images, what the orator deals in is, the Greeks said, TOT-i.e., inducements, means of persuasion. But as TOTELS may be brought forward either in speech or in writing, there may be orators who are writers as well as orators who are speakers. With respect to such orators in writing-i.e., to pamphleteers, journalists, &c., it would not, we think, be difficult to show that the law of oratorical cogitation applies also to them, though with very important modifications.
ART. VIII.-Gott in der Geschicte oder der Fortschritt des Glauben au eine sittliche Weltordnung. Von CHRISTIAN CARL JOSIAS BUNSEN. In sechs Buchern. Erster Theil. Erstes und zweites Buch. (God in History; or, the Progress of the Belief in a Moral Order of the World.' By C. C. J. BUNSEN. In six Books. First Part. Books I. and II.) Leipzig: Brockhaus. London: Williams and Norgate. 1857.
That he is a
THE Chevalier Bunsen is a riddle to many. genius of a high order, his bitterest enemies, we imagine, would hardly be disposed to doubt. At least, we have met with only one, an Austrian ex-diplomatist, who seems to call the fact in question. In a pamphlet entitled The Austrian Concordat and the Chevalier Bunsen, written in answer to that trenchant work, The Signs of the Times, this waspish adversary, whose pen has evidently been dipped in the gall of popish hate intensified by professional spite, denies to him the possession of any talent, save that of ingratiating himself with the Prussian Court and the English Squirearchy. But the very venom of the scurrilous scribe suggests at once the explanation that the creature who voids it has himself been scorched by the Promethean ray he refuses to recognise, and thus his malice defeats itself. Bunsen's other antagonists, political, philosophical, and theological, comprising not a few eminent names in Germany, France, and England, are pretty unanimous in the acknowledgment of his being a man of great parts. These natural gifts, moreover, he has cultivated most assiduously, so that perhaps there is scarcely a man in Europe who has amassed such vast and varied attainments. Of these rich stores of many-sided erudition, gathered from the old East, and from classical Greece and Rome, from Egypt under the Pharaohs, and from the India and China of today, he seems to have gained-which is a much rarer accomplishment almost perfect control. That with all this there is a spice of vanity in his composition-just as much, perhaps, as may be expressed by the colloquialism, he is a clever fellow, and he knows it-few candid persons, who are acquainted with him either personally or through his writings, would care to deny. In common, however, with all true scholars, he is the farthest remove possible from pedantry; and although in conversation, or rather monologue (like Coleridge's), he talks books, and such books too as he writes, yet he carries you along with him in so familiar a style, that you fancy you understand him exactly, even
'Das östreichische Concordat und der Ritter Bunsen.' Regensburg. 1856.