Abbildungen der Seite

The cultivation of Taste is recommended, by the happy effects which it naturally tends to produce on human life. The most busy man, in the most active sphere, cannot be always occupied in business. Men of various professions cannot always be on the stretch of serious thought. Neither can the most gay and flourishing situation of fortune, afford any man the power of filling all his hours with pleasure. Life must languish in the hands of the idle. It will frequently languish in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employraent subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit. How then shall those va- . cant spaces, those unemployed intervals, which, more or less, occur in the life of every one, be filled up

? How can we contrive to dispose of them in any way that shall be more agreeable in itself, or more consonant to the dignity of the human mind, than in the entertainment of Taste, and the study of polite literature ? He who is so happy as to have acquired a relish for them, has always at hand an innocent and irreproachable amusement for his leisure hours, to save him from the danger of many a pernicious passion. He is not in hazard of being a burden to himself. He is not obliged to fly to low company, or to court the riot of loose pleasures, in order to cure the tediousness of existence.


TASTE and genius are two words frequently joined together ; and therefore, by inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They signify however two quite differ ent things. Taste consists in the power of judging; Genius is the power of executing. One may have a considerable degree of Taste in Poetry, Eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any Genius for composition or execution in any of those arts ; but Genius cannot be found without including Taste also. Genius, therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the mind than Taste. Genius always imports something inventive or creative; which does not rest in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, moreover, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner, as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined Taste forms a good critic; but Genius is farther necessary to form the poet or the orator.

The Beauty of the human countenance, includes the Beauty of colour, arising from the delicate shades of the complexion ; and the Beauty of figure, arising from the lines which form the different features of the face. But the chief Beauty.of the countenance depends upon a mysterious expression, which it conveys of the qualities of the mind ; of good sense, or good humour; of sprightliness, candour, benevolence, sensibility, or other amiable dispositions. How it comes to pass, that a certain conformation of features is connected in our idea with certain moral qualities; whether we are taught by instinct, or experience, to form this connection, and to read the mind in the countenance, is not easy to resolve. The fact is certain, and acknowledged, that what gives the human countenance its most distinguishing Beauty, is what is called its expression ; or an image, which it is conceived to show of internal moral dispositions.

The advantages of Writing above Speech are, that Writing is both a more extensive, and a more permanent method of communication. More extensive, as it is not confined within the narrow circle of those who hear our words ; but by means of written characters, we can send our thoughts abroad, and propagate them through the world ; we can lift our voice, so as to speak to the most distant regions of the earth. More permanent also, as it prolongs this voice to the most distant ages; it gives us the means of rec cording our sentiments to futurity, and of perpetuating the instructive memory of past transactions. It likewise affords this advantage to such as read, above such as hear, that, having the written characters before their eyes, they can arrest'the sense of the writer. They can pause, and resolve, and compare at their leisure, one passage with another: whereas, the voice is fugitive and passing ; you must catch the words the moment they are uttered, or you lose them for


But, although these be so great advantages

of writo ten Language, that Speech, without Writing, would have been very inadequate for the instruction of mankind, yet we must not forget to observe, that spoken language has a great superiority over written language, in point of energy or force. The voice of the living speaker makes an impression on the mind, much stronger than can be made by the perusal of any writing. The tones of the voice, the looks and gesture which accompany discourse, and which no writing can conyey, render discourse when it is well managed, infinitely more clear, and more impressive, than the most accurate writing. For tones, looks and gestures, are natural interpreters of the sentiments of the mind. They remove ambiguities; they enforce impression; they operate on us by means of sympathy, which is one of the most powerful instruments of persuasion. Our sympathy is always awakened more by hearing the speaker, than by reading his works in our closet. Hence, though Writing may answer the purposes of mere instruction, yet all the great and high offices of eloquence must be made by means of spoken, not of written Language.

We have been eminently distinguished above most other nations by happy privileges and advantages. Providence has blessed us with an abundance of those things, which are usually thought to contribute to the public prosperity and happiness. Never had any


people a fuller enjoyment of liberty ; a profusion of wealth has flowed in upon us by our wide extended commerce. We have had great advantages for improvement in the arts and sciences, and every branch of useful knowledge ; especially that which is the most valuable and important of all others, the knowledge of religion in its truth and purity. The light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, freed from the absurdities, the superstitions, and idolatries with which it has been incumbered in many other countries professing the Christian Faith, has long shone among us. The holy Scriptures are not locked up in an unknown tongue, nor confined to the studies of the learned, but are put into the hands of the people : so that all men may have access to that sacred rule of faith and practice, the original standard of the Christian religion. The treasures of knowledge are opened, and the public instructions so freely and frequently dispensed, that it may be said, that wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets.

Cicero, in his works upon eloquence, particularly his conferences upon the character of an orator, strikes by his air, freedom, and dignity ; Quintilian wins by his beauty, regularity, and address. Quintilian is less splendid but more elegant, he is less commanding but more attractive. If Cicero is instructive, Quintilian to instruction adds affability ; and if he is inferior in genius to Cicero, he is equal to him in abilities, and superior to him in experience; I mean that experience that can be of the greatest service to a speaker in Britain. The style of Cicero is clear, diffuse, and pathetic ; that of Quintilian strong, concise, and expressive. If Cicero is more excellent in the disposition, Quintilian is more exquisite in the execution. Cicero's abilities were undoubtedly best fitted to guide the movements of government, those of Quintilian to determine a contest at the bar : Cicero was more decisive in debate, but Quintilian more useful in pleading ; the former could raise a spirit, but the latter could direct it.-Quintilian never was excelled in majesty but by Cicero, and Cicero never equalled in gracefulness but by Quintilian. We are ashamed to differ with the one, we cannot resist the other. Both know how to rise with temper, and to fall with dignity. Though both had natural, yet Quintilian had more accidental, advantages; but though Quintilian's works are more useful to an Englishman, yet, had he lived in the days of the Roman republic, the pre-eminence would have been clearly on Cicero's side.


An able master, as soon as a boy is delivered over to his care, will examine his natural capacity and disposition ; and having discovered these, he will soon be able to judge in what manner his pupil is to be managed. Some are indolent unless they are pushed on; some disdain to be commanded; fear awes some, and disheartens others ; some hammer out their learning, others strike it out at a heat. Give me the boy who rouses when he is praised, who profits when he is encouraged, and who cries when he is defeated. Such a boy will be fired by ambition ; he will be stung by reproach, and animated by preference ; never shall I apprehend any bad consequences from idleness in such a boy.

If we have received from heaven nothing more precious than speech, are we to esteem any thing more worthy of our attention and care ? Or are we to be more emulous in excelling mankind in any property, rather than in that which exalts man above all other animals ? As a further inducement to this, we are to reflect, that no art so plentifully supplies our labour, by a harvest of every thing that is profitable or

« ZurückWeiter »