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VI

ORATIONS AND ADDRESSES

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Curtis's biographer holds that the volume of reports and addresses on Civil Service reform is 'in some respects the most valuable of all [his] writings.'' The entire collection of Orations and Addresses, comprising over a thousand pages, is no

, less a manual of literary than of civic virtues. A student of the art of expression can well afford to make this book his vade mecum. Here is a body of practical illustration of how to write and how to speak. The oration on ‘The Duty of the

American Scholar to Politics and the Times,' delivered when Curtis was thirty-two years of age, is an extraordinary performance. Few addresses hold one in the reading like this. What it must have been in the delivery we can but faintly imagine. It is another splendid proof that literature and oratory may occupy a common ground, neither usurping the other's place. With the amplest use of oratorical arts the speaker makes rhetoric subordinate to thought. It shows fully (does this oration) one marked virtue of Curtis's public discourse, its perfect urbanity. His speeches were free from invective, from personalities of

ities of any sort, from every feature born of mere impulse of the

Cary's Curtis, p. 296.

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moment. If he was ever tempted to give vigor and point to his phrase by means which must afterward be regretted, temptation never got the better of him.

The leading thesis of the Wesleyan College oration — that the scholar is not the recluse, the pale valetudinarian, a woman without woman's charm, but a man — may not have been new; but

the putting was fresh, vivid, inspiring, eloquent. The oration may be compared with Emerson's utterances on the same theme. Emerson's treatment is the more philosophical ; that of Curtis is the better adapted to public speech.

Along with this oration should be read the address on Patriotism,' in which Curtis defends the doctrine that where law violates the primary conception of human rights it is our duty to disobey the law, and the address entitled "The Present 'Aspect of the Slavery Question,' in which Curtis said, 'Government is, unquestionably, a science of 'compromises, but only of policies and interests,

not of essential rights; and if of them, then the sacrifice must fall on all.'

These three are but the beginning of a series of orations from among which the great eulogies of Sumner and of Wendell Phillips, of Bryant and of Lowell, may be chosen as the very crown of his work.

The critic (and there are such critics) who values almost lightly the sentimental and poetic literary work of Curtis's young manhood is perhaps not entirely unjust; Curtis would have agreed with him. But the critic would be unjust if he overlooked the value of this literary training in giving an enormous increase of

We shall never know how much the editorial writer and political orator gained in clarity, precision, beauty of style, effectiveness, by the penning of a series of books in which for pages together he revels in the mere music of words. The author of the address on Sumner was largely indebted to the author of the Nile Notes of a Howadji and Prue and I.

power.

XVII

Donald Grant Mitchell

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