On Oratory/First Conference
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AFTER a repeated view, and recollection of past events, my dear brother, to me, those men seem to have been placed in the most eligible situation, who under a sound government, in the fulness of honour and enjoyment of glory, could either act up to their public character with safety, or descend to retirement with dignity. And indeed there was a time in which I too thought, that if the multiplicity of my labours at the bar, and the toils of ambition into which I was led, after running through the public honours, had rested towards my decline of life, scarce any one could have thought it unreasonable, that I should then have begun to taste some relief, and to dedicate my abilities to those amiable studies in which we are both of us engaged. But those pleasing hopes and schemes were defeated by public calamity, and our private misfortunes: for in the very place which bade fairest to afford shelter in case of a storm, the chief weight of misfortune fell, and the strongest tempest broke forth. This blasted my most earnest hopes, and most passionate desires of improving the sweets of retirement by an amicable intercourse in cultivating those arts to which our early youth was dedicated. For on my setting out in life I lighted upon the very wrecks of our ancient constitution; in my consulate I dropped into the hurry and peril of all public concerns, and all my intermediate time since has been spent in buffeting the billows, which, after I had repelled from my own country, recoiled upon myself. Yet amidst all the difficulties and dangers of doubtful conjunctures, still my bias is to learning, and all the leisure which the malice of my enemies, the causes of my friends, or the concerns of my country allow me, will I dedicate to writing. Besides, my dear brother, I shall ever pay the greatest deference to your entreaties and requests; for there is no man alive for whom I have either greater regard or greater affection.
AND here I must recal to memory a conference that passed many years ago, which I own I do not exactly recollect; but in my opinion directly answering what you wanted to be informed of, as to the sentiments which the greatest and most eminent orators entertained of eloquence in general. For you have often told me, that you wanted I should give you somewhat more finished and complete on that head, according to the improvement I have acquired by pleading in so many, and so important causes; because the hasty notes we marked down, when we were young men, in our memorandum-books, appear unworthy of my experience and character. And sometimes you used to differ from me in our conversation upon those points, because I maintain, that eloquence comprehends the arts of the most sagacious men in the world, while you imagine, that it ought to be treated as quite distinct from the elegance of study, and rested entirely upon natural genius, joined to a certain perfection of practice. I own indeed I have been frequently at a loss to account, upon a review of the greatest and ablest men, why fewer have been distinguished in eloquence than in any other art. For to whatever point of science you direct your view and reflection, you shall find many excelling in every kind, not only of the middling arts, but of those which require almost the greatest compass of genius. For is there that man alive, who, were he to form his idea of public merit by great actions and useful consequences, would not prefer the character of a general to that of an orator? yet will any man deny, that in this single city innumerable instances of consummate generals, and but few, very few of accomplished orators may be produced. Nay further, in our own, in our fathers’, in our forefathers’ days, many have appeared with wisdom and abilities equal to all the government and direction of a state, while for a long time no good orators appeared; and upon the whole, we scarcely find for so many ages as many tolerable speakers. But lest it should be said, that eloquence ought to compared with those other professions that are contained within the comprehensive circle of refined arts and various sciences, rather than with the glory of a general, or the politics of a patriot senator, let the person who makes this objection review those very arts; let him survey those who have made a figure in them; then may he easily form a judgment how many have been distinguished by those, and how few ever have been, or ever can be, by eloquence.
FOR you have surely observed, that what is termed by the Greeks philosophy is thought by the most learned men to be, as it were, the mother and parent of the fine arts; and it is hard to say how many, how learned, how universally learned men in their several professions have appeared in this science; men, who have not confined themselves to a single province of learning, but either by an indefatigable pursuit of first principles, or the clearness of their reasoning, have mastered the whole compass of science. We all know how dark, how perplexed, how complicated, and how subtle the study is of, what we call, the mathematics; yet so many great men have appeared in this art, that it seems as if no man had ever set about to attain it in good earnest, and did not carry his point. Was there ever a musician, was there ever a professor of what we term the study of grammar, who by intense application did not master the almost boundless power and subject of their several arts? I must at the same time take notice, that in the circle of liberal arts and sciences we find fewer eminent in poetry than any other profession: yet small as the number of good poets is, (and it must be allowed to be very small) if you shall take the trouble to enumerate those who have appeared both in Greece an in our own country, you will find upon the comparison that there have been more good poets than good orators. This appears still more surprising, because the knowledge of other arts is commonly acquired from dark and abstruse fountains, but eloquence consists in the most obvious principles, the knowledge of common life, and in the habits and conversation of mankind. In other arts, he who excels is the man who strikes deepest into a road the most distant from the knowledge, the more impervious to the capacity of the ignorant: whereas in eloquence, the most dreadful blunder that can be committed is to deviate into abstruse expressions, and out of the beaten tract of common sense.
IT cannot even be pretended, that more people apply to the study of the other arts, that they are animated in their pursuit by more exquisite sensations of pleasure, by fairer prospects, or more inviting rewards. Not to mention Greece, which has ever claimed the palm of oratory, or Athens, that nursery of all learning, where eloquence had its rise and perfection, I will venture to say, that in this very city, no study has ever been cultivated with more intenseness than has that of eloquence. For, after we had acquired and settled the government of the world, and begun from the continuance of tranquillity to relish repose, there was scarcely a young man who had a passion for glory, who did not think it his duty to apply himself to eloquence with all the faculties he possessed. At first indeed, when they were ignorant of all method, and void of all notions of the energy or principles of the art, they owed all their progress, such as it was, to genius and application. But afterwards, when our countrymen heard the Greek orators, when they begun to taste their learning, and attend their lessons, they burned with an amazing, an irresistible passion for eloquence. The importance and variety of the art, was a spur to their adding repeated practice, which avails more than all the precepts in the world, to the theory which they had attained by study. At that time likewise, as now, the greatest rewards were annexed to the profession of this art, with regard to popularity, interest, and honour; and the capacities of Romans, as we may judge from many other instances, were far superior to those of the rest of mankind. All this being considered, have we not reason to be surprised, that in so large a tract of time, so many opportunities, and such a variety of states, the number of good orators, should be so inconsiderable? But the truth is, that in this art there is somewhat more, and it must be attained by an acquaintance with more arts and sciences, than mankind generally imagine.
FOR what other cause can be assigned for this scarcity of good orators, where the students are so numerous, the teachers so many, their capacities so excellent, the cases so various, and the prizes so inviting, but the amazing difficulty and extensiveness of the thing? For there must be a fund of universal knowledge, without which the greatest volubility of speaking will appear empty and ridiculous. Words must not only be well chosen, but properly disposed, and the speaker must have a thorough knowledge of all the affections which nature has implanted in the soul of man, because it demands the whole energy and power of speaking to awaken and to sooth the passions of an audience. Add to this, that the art requires a certain pleasantry of wit and humour, such learning as suits a gentleman, a quickness and smartness in attacking and replying, together with an insinuating address and a delicate politeness. The orator must likewise possess a perfect knowledge of antiquity, and the application of precedents, and be conversant in the laws both of nations and of particular states. Why need I to mention action itself, which must be regulated by the motion of the body, the gesture, the look, joined to the justness of accent and command of voice? Of how much importance this is in itself, even so slight an art as is that of acting on a theatre demonstrates: for though the whole excellency of players consists in adjusting their looks, their features and gesture, does not every body know that few of them ever were, or can be endured with patience? Need I to mention memory, that treasury of all knowledge; which, unless it becomes the repository of all thoughts and inventions, let an orator possess all other qualifications even in the highest perfection, they can be of no use?
Let us therefore be no longer surprised, that there are so few orators, since eloquence consists in a variety of accomplishments, any one of which it is a very difficult task to attain; and let us rather advise our children, and those whom we wish to see make a figure in the public stations of life, to reflect maturely upon the importance of the thing, and not to imagine that it can be attained by those precepts and masters, or that kind of exercise which they all practise, but by other means.
NAY, in my opinion, no man can deserve the praise of an accomplished orator, without a perfect knowledge of all the arts, and every thing that is great: for it is from this acquaintance with the world that eloquence must receive its flow and its embellishments. Without this, let a subject be ever so well considered and understood by an orator, there will be still somewhat poor, and almost childish in his expression; yet I am far from laying such a burden upon orators, especially those of this city, amidst such a hurry of business and multiplicity of affairs, as to require that they should be ignorant of nothing. Though indeed the energy of eloquence, and the profession of true oratory seems to undertake and promise, that an orator should be able to treat every subject that shall fall in his way elegantly and copiously. But as I do not doubt that, to most people, this will appear too unwieldy and extensive; and as I perceive that the Greeks, who possessed not only genius and learning, but ease and leisure for study, made a kind of division of the arts: that one man did not grasp at the whole circle, but set apart from every other species of speaking that which was more immediately adapted to pleading and debates at the bar; allotting that alone as the province of an orator: therefore, in these pages, I shall only treat of those properties, which upon mature deliberation, and a long discussion, are almost universally allotted to this single species of eloquence. For this purpose, I shall not repeat any string of precepts which we learned when we were children at school, and just come from under the nurse’s care; no, I mean to give the arguments which I heard formerly urged in a debate among some friends, men of the greatest eloquence and eminence in Rome. Not that I despise the principles which the Greek professors and teachers of eloquence have left us; but since they are well known, and in every body’s hands, and impossible to receive any ornament or explanation from my interpretation, you will pardon me, my dear brother, if in my opinion, the authority of such of our own countrymen as all Rome allows to be finished orators, ought to be preferred to that of the Greeks.
I REMEMBER I was told, that when the consul Philip was carrying on his furious attack upon the nobility, while the tribuneship of Drusus, who made head in favour of the senate’s authority appeared quite distressed and crushed, Lucius Crassus, as the Roman plays were celebrating, retired to Tusculanum, in order to recruit his spirits; and that Quintus Mucius, who had been his father-in-law, with Marcus Antonius, the companion of Crassus in his public conduct, and his particular friend in private, were of the party. Two young gentlemen, intimate companions of Drusus, of the most promising appearances, in the eyes of men of the greatest experience at that time, to fill the highest posts in the government, went likewise along with Crassus; the one Caius Cotta, who then stood for the tribuneship of the commons; the other P. Sulpicius, who, it was thought, would be the next candidate for the same office. This company, the first day, had a great deal of discourse concerning the danger of the times, and the state of the government, which had been the occasion of their meeting in that place, and their conversation lasted till day was almost gone. Cotta used to relate, that during this conversation, a number of things were mentioned with a melancholy concern by those three consular persons, in so prophetic a spirit, that there was not a single calamity that afterwards happened to the state, which they did not foresee to be hanging over it at that distance of time. But this conversation being over, that, such was the politeness of Crassus, when they went to sup, none of the melancholy air that mixed in their late discourse appeared; so pleasant was his turn, and he knew how to direct his humour so happily, that though the day appeared to be apent in a senate, yet at night they found themselves round the social board at Tusculanum. Next day, after the old gentlemen had sufficiently reposed, continued Cotta, they went, all of them, out a walking, when Scævola, after two or three turns, why Crassus, said he, do not we imitate Socrates in Plato’s Phædrus? I am put in mind of this by this plane-tree of yours, which to me appears, by its spreading boughs, as proper for shading this place, as was that which Socrates used to frequent; and which, in my opinion, flourished not so much by the rivulet which fed it, as by the lines of Plato which described it; if therefore he with his hard feet reposed upon the grass, where he delivered those sentiments which philosophers ascribe to a spirit of divinity, sure there is more reason that my tender feet should be indulged in the same way. Right, said Crassus, but you shall sit more conveniently, and then he called for cushions, and so all of them sat down upon the benches under the plane-tree.
COTTA used further to tell me, that in order to wear off the impressions which their last day’s conversation had made upon their minds, Crassus turned the discourse upon the study of eloquence; that he introduced what he had to say by observing, that Sulpicius and Cotta did not appear so much to require instruction as praise; since they had already attained to such a degree of perfection, as not only to excel those of equal age, but to rival speakers of more experience and years: nor indeed, continued he, can I conceive any thing more excellent than to be able by eloquence to captivate the affections, charm the understandings, and direct or restrain the passions of whole assemblies, as you please. This single art has, amongst every free people, especially in peaceful settled governments, met with the greatest encouragement, and been attended with the most powerful efficacy: for what can be more surprising, than that, amidst an infinite multitude, one man should appear, who shall be the only, or almost the only man who can do what nature has put in every man’s power? Or can any thing impart so exquisite pleasure to the ears and understanding, as a speech to which sentiments give dignity, and expression embellishment? Is there any thing so commanding, so grand, as that the eloquence of one man should direct the inclinations of the people, the consciences of judges, and the majesty of senates? Nay further, can ought be esteemed so noble, so generous, so public-spirited, as to relieve the suppliant, to rear the prostrate, to communicate happiness, to avert danger, and to save a fellow-citizen from exile? Can any thing be so necessary as to have always ready those arms, which at the same time can defend yourself, attack the profligate, or redress your own affronts? But come—do not let us ever dwell upon the forum, the benches, the rostra, and the senate; can any thing in retirement from business be more entertaining, more endearingly social, than a language agreeable and polished on every subject? For this is the characteristic of our nature, to distinguish us from brutes, that we have a social intercourse with one another, and are able to convey our ideas by language. Must not every man then be struck with this, and own that to excel mankind themselves in that quality which gives them the preference to brutes, ought to be his favourite study? But that I may mention the chief point of all, what other power could have been of sufficient efficacy, either to collect the dispersed the individuals of mankind from all quarters into place, or to bring them from savage barbarous life to a social regulated intercourse; or, after states were founded, to mark out laws, forms, and constitutions for their government? Let me in one word sum up this almost boundless subject; I lay it down as a maxim, that upon the prudence and abilities of an accomplished orator, not only his own dignity, but the welfare of vast numbers of individuals, nay of the whole government rests. Therefore, my young gentlemen, go on; ply the study you have in hand, for your own honour, the advantage of your friends, and the service of your country.
SAYS Scævola, in his pleasant way, in many things I agree with Crassus; far be it from me to impair the credit and honour of the profession of either my father-in-law Lælius, or my son-in-law Crassus; but, my friend, it is with some difficulty that I can admit two things you have advanced. The first is, that states were originally constituted, and have been often preserved by orators; the other is, that setting aside the forum, the public assemblies, the courts of justice and the senate-house, you supposed an orator to be accomplished in every kind of eloquence, and all the duties of society. Will any man pretend, that when mankind in early ages were dispersed over mountains and woods, they were not compelled to associate by the counsels of the sage, but that the harangues of orators softened them into humanity, and brought them to live within towns and walls? Or, indeed, that the other wise regulations, either in founding or preserving states, were owing to the eloquent and fine-spoken, and not to the brave and the wise? Do you indeed imagine Romulus assembled his shepherds and mixed multitude, executed the scheme of the Sabine marriages, and repelled the power of the neighbouring states from his eloquence, and not by his foresight and wisdom? Nay further, what do you say of Numa Pompilius, what of Servius Tullius, what of our other kings, who made many wise regulations in settling this state, is there the least trace remaining of their eloquence? Nay, when monarchy was abolished, which I will venture to say was accomplished by the resolution, and not the eloquence of L. Brutus; do not we perceive that all the great things performed afterwards, were full of wise conduct, but void of all eloquence? If I had a mind to dip into precedents in our own history, and in that of other states, I could undertake to point out more instances in which men of the greatest eloquence have been prejudicial, than all that can be brought of their having been serviceable, to their country. But not to mention other instances, the two most eloquent men I ever heard, except, Crassus, you and my friend, in my opinion were Tiberius and C. Sempronii, whose father was a wise grave man, but far from eloquent; and upon several occasions, especially when Censor, did the most important services to his country; yet this man transferred the sons of freed-men into the city tribes, not by any flow of eloquence, but by his very nod and a single word; which, unless he had effected, we should not have enjoyed even that shadow of the constitution which we at present possess. But his eloquent sons, formed to the art of speaking by all the advantages of nature and learning, though they entered upon a government glorious both by the conduct of their father, and the courage of our ancestors, brought their country into confusion by that very eloquence, which, according to you, is the noble directress of all constitutions.
FURTHER, need I to mention the old statutes and customs of our ancestors? Or the auspices over which you and I, Crassus, preside, to the great service of our country? Need I to mention our rites and ceremonies? or that jurisprudence that has been, without the aid of eloquence, long in our family; was that invented, was it known, was it ever so much as touched upon by the tribe of speakers? Let me add, that I knew Servius Galba who spoke like a god, Marcus Æmilius Porcina, and Cn. Carbo himself, whom you, when but a very young man, vanquished; each of whom was ignorant of our constitution, a blunderer in the practice of our ancestors, and but a novice in the civil law; and even the present age is ignorant of the laws of the twelve tables, excepting you, Crassus, who, led by curiosity rather than any province annexed to eloquence, studied the civil law under me, though I may sometimes be ashamed to say so. As to the liberty you assumed in the latter part of your speech, as if an orator could never be at a loss to bear a very considerable share in discussing every argument that may fall in his way, were we not upon your own territories I should not suffer it, but put myself at the head of a numerous body, who would certain either bring an action against you, or seize you as an interloper upon a province you have nothing to do with. For in the first place, the disciples of Pythagoras and Democritus would fall upon you; and the other philosophers in their several ways; and men of great weight and dignity would go to law with you, and, in that case, you must have a very unequal chance for success. Besides, whole troops of philosophers from the school of their master Socrates would press you, urging that you had never studied; nay, that you had not even attempted to inquire about what is morally good or bad in life; the passions of the mind or the end of living; and after they had thus attacked you in a body, you must then battle it with each particular sect amongst them. The academics would oppose you, and deny that you knew one single proposition you advanced. My friends the stoics would entangle you in the snares of their questionary debates. The peripatetics would quite confound you, by insisting that those very qualifications, which you think to be the character and beauty of eloquence, can only be found amongst them; and they would prove that Aristotle and Theophrastus wrote not only better, but more upon that subject than all the professors of eloquence that ever lived. I will not mention your mathematicians, your grammarians, your musicians, whose arts have no manner of connexion with the qualities you require in an orator. Therefore, my friend, we ought not to entertain so many chimerical notions of the extensiveness and importance of this art; what you are able to effect, in reality, is a great deal, that whatever cause you shall undertake to plead always carries the greatest face of right and justice; that in all public assemblies and debates the decision is very much influenced by your eloquence. In short, that men of sense allow you to be eloquent, and fools think you are right. If you can do more than this, in my opinion it is not owing to any qualifications indispensable in an orator, but to the advantages you enjoy from nature.
I KNOW, Scævola, replied the other, that the Greeks used to talk and dispute in this manner: for I have heard some of the greatest men of that ages, when I came, as questor, from Macedon to Athens, it being then pretended that their academy was in its glory, under the inspection of Charmades, Clitomachus and Æschines. Metrodorus likewise was there, who, together with them, had been the constant hearer of the famous Carneades, who was said to be the keenest and most copious speaker in the world. Mnesarchus was then in vogue, and the hearer of your tutor Panætius, together with the peripatetics Critolaus and Diodorus. Besides these, a great many famous and able philosophers at that time unanimously were for deposing the orator from the government of states, and excluding him from all knowledge of the higher scenes of life, degrading and pinning him down to hard labour in courts of justice and petty cabals. But I neither agreed with them, nor with Plato himself the inventor of those opinions, and by far their superior, as to the power and weight of eloquence. I was then reading his Gorgias with Charmades at Athens: a book in which I could not help admiring the author, who in ridiculing orators appears to be a complete orator himself. For disputes about words have long puzzled your little Greek fellows, who are much fonder of wrangling than of the truth. But though one lays down as a principle, that an orator ought only to be qualified to speak fully on any point in equity, in trials, before the people, or in a senate; yet admitting this, the qualifications of an orator must necessarily be great and various: for even in treating those matters with accuracy and clearness, he must be possessed of great experience in civil affairs, with the insight into our statutes, customs, and laws; he must likewise be a competent judge of human nature and manners; and the man who is master of all these, without which even the smallest point that occurs cannot be rightly maintained, what can such a man be said to want in the knowledge of the most important affairs? But admitting that all the energy of eloquence consists in its being neat, embellished, and copious, let me ask you how even these characters can be attained without that kind of knowledge which you deny to it? For the efficacy of eloquence can never appear but where the orator is a complete master of the subject. Therefore if Democritus, the famous natural philosopher, spoke so gracefully as it is said, and as I admit he did, his subject indeed was natural philosophy, but it was the art of an orator that gave the embellishment to his discourse. And if Plato, as I must allow, discoursed divinely upon points the most distant from political altercations; if Aristotle, if Theophrastus, if Carneades spoke well and beautifully in the several subjects they disputed on; those subjects belonged to distinct arts; yet their method of handling them was peculiar and appropriated to the study now under our consideration and debate. As a proof of that, we know that others have spoken jejunely and drily upon those very points; for instance Chrysippus, who is said to be a man of the greatest penetration; and yet was not the less complete philosopher for not possessing this faculty, in an art foreign to eloquence.
WHERE then lies the difference, or how can you discern the flowing and copious eloquence of those I have named from the poorness of such as are destitute of this command and propriety of expression? In short, there is one thing which the masters of the art of speaking bring as peculiar to themselves; a style graceful, ornamented, and distinguished by certain masterly touches, and an artful polish. Yet all this beauty of language, if the subject itself is not thoroughly understood and comprehended by the speaker, must be either empty or ridiculous: for what can look liker a madman than to pour out an empty jingle of words, let them be ever so beautiful or well chosen, if they are connected by no method or meaning. Therefore, in any art or branch of science, if an orator should study a point, be it what it will, with as much application as he would a client’s cause, he would deliver himself with more propriety and elegance than ever the inventor and artist himself could be able to do. For if one should affirm that certain maxims and causes and peculiar to orators, and that their knowledge of some points is confined within the rails of a forum, I will own indeed that those of our profession are most conversant in such matters, but upon those very heads there are many things which your professors of rhetoric neither teach nor understand. For who does not know that the greatest power of eloquence consists in awakening the soul to anger, to hatred, to grief; or to recal her from these affections to gentleness and pity? This arbitrary command of the passions can never be effected, but by one who has a thorough insight into the nature of mankind, the whole extent of his faculties, and those motives which impel or check the soul. Yet all this appears to be the province of philosophy, and, were an orator to be counselled by me, he would never deny this; but after he has granted them this knowledge, which is the sole end of their study, let him assume to himself the method of treating it, without which the knowledge itself cannot exist. For, as I have often said, the province of an orator is to talk in a language that is proper, graceful, and suited to the affections and understandings of mankind.
I OWN that Aristotle and Theophrastus have treated of those matters; but take care, Scævola, that this does not make for me. For I do not borrow from them what is common to philosophy and eloquence; but they own that all their disputations upon these points belong to orators. For this reason, they title and call their other books under the denomination of the several arts they treat of, but they range these under the head of rhetoric. Therefore when, as it very often happens in the course of a work, they come to speak of the immortal gods, of piety, of concord, of equity, of friendship, of the laws of state, of nature, of nations, of temperance, of magnanimity; in short, of all other virtues, the academies and the schools of philosophers bawl out, all to a man, that all these subjects belong to them, and no way to the orator. I shall not deny them the liberty of disputing about all these things in every corner, in order to pass away a little time; yet I affirm and assert, that the orator only can, with perspicuity and elegance, explain those very points about which the others wrangle in a dry spiritless manner. I then talked over those things with those very philosophers at Athens, being obliged to it by our friend M. Marcellus, who was then a very young man prodigiously devoted to these studies, now Curule Ædile, and were it not for the plays he is now celebrating he would have made one of our company. But now, as to forming laws, as to war, peace, alliances, tributaries, as to the disposition and subordination of civil polity; let the Greeks say, if they will, that Lycurgus or Solon, though by the bye I look upon them as orators, were much better skilled in them that Hyperides or Demosthenes, those accomplished masters of the art of speaking; or let them prefer our decemvirs who compiled the twelve tables, who certainly were men of sagacity, to Servius Galba, or your father-in-law, Caius Lælius, whom all the world owns to be eminent speakers. For I will never deny that there are certain arts peculiar to those who have made it their whole study and pursuit, but I call him a full and complete orator, who can speak with a copiousness of expression on every subject.
FOR, very often, in those causes, which all the world allow to be the province of orators, there is somewhat to be cleared up or laid down, not from the practice of the bar, but from some more abstruse science. Let me ask you if a man can plead either for or against a general without knowing military affairs, and often without being acquainted with the situation of maritime and inland countries? Can he speak before the people either for enacting or forbidding a law? or can he talk of civil polity in general in a senate, without the deepest insight and sagacity with regard to civil affairs? or can he apply that predominant effect of eloquence in inflaming or extinguishing the affections and emotions of the soul, without attentively surveying all those causes which are explained by those who have treated on moral and natural philosophy? I do not know if there is any occasion for me to prove this, I am, however, under no difficulty of speaking as I think. The knowledge of physics, mathematics, and of the other arts, which you, some time ago, laid down as appropriated to their several professions, belongs to those who profess them; but if a man wants to explain those very arts, he is obliged to have recourse to eloquence. For admitting that the famous Philo the architect, who built the arsenal at Athens, gave the people a very eloquent account of his work; yet we must not suppose that this was owing to the art of architecture, but of eloquence. Nor, if Antonius here were to plead upon naval affairs for Hermodorus; after he had made himself master of his subject, can we imagine that he would not be able to talk of it with perspicuity and elegance, though a profession foreign to his own? Or that Asclepiades, who was both my friend and physician, and is more eloquent than any other of that faculty, was indebted for his graceful way of speaking to the study, not of eloquence, but of physic? Therefore, that which Socrates used to say, was rather plausible than true; that every man is sufficiently eloquent in subjects of which he is quite master. He had been nearer truth had he said, that as no man can be eloquent upon a subject in which he is ignorant, so no man, let him be ever so much master of his subject, can ever talk eloquently upon that subject, if he is ignorant how to form and polish his discourse.
THEREFORE, were a comprehensive definition of an orator to be given, in my opinion, the man who deserves that awful name must be one, who, upon all occasions, shall be able to deliver what he has to say, accurately, perspicuously, gracefully, and readily, accompanied with a certain dignity of action. But if any one should think that I speak too indefinitely when I say, upon all occasions, let him curtail and retrench what I have said as he pleases; yet if an orator is ignorant of the properties of other arts and studies, and shall only retain what is appropriated to debates and the practice of the bar; if he is to speak upon subjects belonging to those arts; I maintain that this orator will speak much better, after he is instructed in them by the respective professors of each, than even those professors themselves. For instance, were my friend Sulpicius here to plead upon an affair, of the army, he would first apply for instruction to my kinsman Caius Marius, and then he could talk of it so as to seem even to Caius Marius almost to understand military affairs better than himself. Supposing a point in civil law; why, he will apply to you, and notwithstanding all your skill and experience in that study, he shall beat you upon those very subjects which he learned of you. Should a cause come in his way, in which he must touch upon the nature and vices of mankind, upon passions, temperance, chastity, sorrow, or death, perhaps if he sees occasion (though an orator should know those things) he may confer with that learned philosopher Sextus Pompeius. Thus much at least he will attain to, that he shall be able to speak more elegantly upon any subject, let him learn it of whom he will, than the person who is his instructor. But if my opinion may be followed, since philosophy is divided into three branches, natural, argumentative, and moral, let us indulge ourselves so far as to abandon the two first; but unless we shall stick close by the third, which has still been the character of eloquence, we leave nothing to an orator in which he can shine. Therefore that part of philosophy which regards the life and morals of mankind, must be completely understood by an orator: and though he does not study the other branches, yet if he has occasion, he will be able to embellish them by his eloquence, provided they are communicated and delivered to him.
FOR if it is certain among the learned that Aratus, a man quite ignorant of astronomy, treated of the heavens and the constellations in most beautiful and charming numbers; if Nicander of Colophon, a man entirely remote from a country life, by a genius of poetry, and not of husbandry, wrote excellently upon rustic affairs; what should hinder but that an orator should treat those points, which he shall study for a particular cause and emergency, with eloquence? For poetry borders very much upon eloquence; the poet is indeed a little more confined to numbers, but then he can take greater liberties in the choice of his words, and in many respects, as to the method of embellishing, is the companion, nay almost the equal, of an orator. In one respect I will venture to say they are nearly the same; for the orator prescribes no bounds or limitations to his province, so as to confine him from using the same liberty, and freedom of ranging, as he pleases. Why then, my friend, should you say, that were you not upon my territories you would not have borne with me for affirming that an orator ought to be a complete master of eloquence and all liberal knowledge? Upon my word, I should not have mentioned it, did I imagine myself to be such a person as I describe. But as C. Lucilius, a man of letters and good breeding, (though you do not love him, and therefore he is less agreeable to me than he wishes to be,) used frequently to say, (and I entirely agree with him,) that no man ought to be accounted an orator, who was not thoroughly accomplished in all those arts that become a gentleman; and though we do not make a shew of them upon every turn of discourse, yet it may be plainly and evidently perceived whether we possess them or not. For instance, a man who plays at tennis, though while he plays he does not use the very airs that he learned at the fencing-school, yet we can easily perceive from his movements whether he has learned them. A man who is moulding a piece of work, though the work has nothing to do with painting, yet it is no hard matter to discern whether he can paint or not. Thus in the very speeches delivered before judges, in assemblies, and senates, though the speaker does not make any immediate application of those arts, yet it is easily discerned whether he is a pedantic declaimer, or trained to eloquence by all the arts that belong to a liberal education.
I WILL not fence any more with you, my friend, says Scævola laughing, for even what you have now said in answer to me has a good deal of art in it. You agree with me as to those things which I deny to belong to an orator, yet, I do not known how, you have fallen upon a way to warp your argument so as to make them the properties of eloquence. After I came to Rhodes, when I was pretor, and had talked over what I had learned from Panætius, with Apollonius, the celebrated master of this profession; he indeed, as usual, laughed at, and ridiculed, philosophy, and said a great many things, in which there was more wit than wisdom; but you have formed your argument so as not to despise any art or profession, but have pronounced them all the attendants or handmaids of eloquence. Should any one man be master of them all, and to these perfections join that of an accomplished orator, I must confess that such a man would be somewhat of a prodigy and a miracle. But if there is, if ever there was, or if there can be such a man, you are the person who, in my opinion, and in that of all mankind, have, I speak it under correction of these gentlemen, almost engrossed to yourself the whole glory of an orator. But though you want nothing that can qualify you either as a speaker or a senator, yet give me leave to say after all, that you are not master of all that extent of knowledge which you require in an orator; let us therefore examine whether you do not require more than either the nature of the thing, or truth itself can admit of.
Let me put you in mind, says Crassus, here, that I did not talk of my own accomplishments, but of those of an orator. For what could I learn or know? I who entered upon action before I entered upon my studies! I who was even worn out by my application to the business of the forum, before I was capable to suspect I should be employed in those weighty points! But if you have so favourable an opinion of me, to whom you are so kind as to allow some degree of capacity; yet still I was deprived of the opportunities of study, of quiet, and, if I must say it, of that keen inclination for study that is so necessary; what will be your opinion of a man who has improved more genius than I possess, with those qualifications that I have never attained; how great, how complete an orator must such a man be!
SAYS Antonius; You yourself, Crassus, are a proof of what you advance; and I make no doubt that a man would have a greater fund of eloquence, could he master the whole system and nature of all knowledge and arts. But, in the first place, that is almost impracticable, especially considering our profession and business; and then it is to be apprehended that it would throw us out of the practice and readiness of pleading in the forum, or before the people. For, to me, the persons you mentioned a little while ago seem to have possessed a different kind of eloquence, though it must be allowed that they spoke with great beauty and energy upon natural or moral philosophy. Their way of speaking had somewhat in it that was neat and gay; but then it was more proper for an exercise at school or a college, than for our crowded assemblies and forum. For I myself, who began very late in life to study Greek, and then attained only to a smattering of it, after I had come to Athens as proconsul, in my road to Cilicia, was stopped there a good many days, because the seas were then dangerous. As I had every day along with me very learned men, most of them the same you named a little while ago; and when they got a notion amongst them, I do not know how, that, like you, I frequently was concerned in some causes of consequence, they used, each in his own way, to debate upon the duty and qualifications of an orator. Some of them, such as that Mnesarchus you mentioned, affirmed, that those whom we term orators were only certain hackney operators with glib, well hung, tongues: but that no man, unless he is a philosopher, can be an orator. That eloquence itself, which is the same thing with knowing how to speak well, is a virtue; that the man who possess one virtue possesses them all; and that all virtues are in their own nature equal; hence, said they, the man who is eloquent possesses every virtue, therefore an orator is the same with a philosopher. But this crabbed dry stuff was very disagreeable to our notions. Yet Charmades treated those subjects in a much more diffuse manner; not that he would speak his own sense of the matter, for it is inherent to the academy to be eternally disputing; but the drift of all his discourse was to prove, that they who are termed rhetoricians, and they who teach the art of speaking, cannot possess any one excellency, or even attain to the smallest share of eloquence, unless they have studied the inventions of philosophy.
THEY were opposed by some eloquent Athenians, men well seen both in law and politics, amongst whom was Menedemus, who lately was at Rome, and my guest. This person, who was naturally quick, was attacked by another with a great stock of learning, and a prodigious variety and extent of experience, who maintained that there was a certain knowledge required in being able to judge right with regard to the founding and governing civil societies. He likewise taught that all the branches of knowledge must be derived from philosophy; that all the constitution of government, religion, education, justice, patience, temperance, moderation, and the other virtues, without which states cannot subsist, or, if they do, they must be badly regulated, were never to be found in their pamphlets. But if those teachers of rhetoric did comprehend within their own art the force of these important matters, he asked why their books were full of prefaces, epilogues, and such other stuff, for he called it no better; maintaining that there is not tittle to be found in their books about the modelling of states, the composing laws, equity, justice, truth, governing the passions, and regulating the morals of mankind. Nay, he went so far in ridiculing their doctrines, as to shew that they were not only void of all the learning they arrogated to themselves, but even of the very method and force of speaking. He laid it down as a maxim that the principal aim of a good orator is to appear to his audience to be the very man he wishes they should take him for. That this could only be effected by a dignity of character, of which these teachers of rhetoric are silent in their rules; and by making every impression upon the minds of the audience that the orator desires; that it is impossible to succeed in this, if the speaker is ignorant in how many different manners, by what subjects, and by what forms of speech, the passions of mankind are moved and directed. But that all these were points concealed and wrapped up in the very recesses of profound philosophy; points, of which those rhetoric masters had not so much as a smattering. Menedemus endeavoured to confute this doctrine by authorities rather than by arguments; for he repeated by heart a great many fine passages from the orations of Demosthenes, and endeavoured to prove from thence, that Demosthenes knew well how to touch and direct, as he pleased, the minds both of judges and people, which are the means of attaining that end which the other said could be obtained only by philosophy.
TO this the other answered, that he did not deny, but that Demosthenes was a skilful master of the whole power of speaking; whether he had attained to this by the force of genius, or by his being the hearer of Plato, which he indisputably was; but that the question was not with regard to what he could effect, but what they taught. He likewise went so far as to dispute whether there absolutely was such an art as that of speaking, and supported his opinion by the following arguments. That we are born with a power of soothing, and insinuating ourselves into the favour of those whom we want to court; of terrifying our foes by menaces; of explaining a fact; of enforcing what we wish should be believed; of refuting what we opposed; and of winding up the whole in moving and pathetic terms; qualities, in which the whole art of an orator is employed. He further insisted, that custom and practice both whetted the faculties of the understanding, and quickened those of the expression. He then had recourse to a variety of instances; for he, first was very industrious to shew, that no writer upon this art was himself tolerably eloquent. This he confirmed by the example of Corax and Tisias, who appear to have been the inventors of, and leading men in this art: at the same time he brought numberless instances of very eloquent men, who never made it their study, or never made it their care to trouble themselves about it. Amongst those, whether he was in jest or in earnest, or from hear-say, I cannot say, he instanced me as one who had never studied it, and yet, as he was pleased to say, understood a little how to speak. I readily admitted the first of these positions; that I had never studied any thing on this head; but as to the other, I thought he was playing upon me, or perhaps mistaken himself. And then he even denied that there could be any art, but what consisted in principles that were self-evident, thoroughly examined all tending to one point, and never missing their end; but that every thing delivered by orators was doubtful and uncertain; since the teachers themselves were not quite masters of what they were teaching, and their scholars were to learn, not a science, but a mistaken, or at least, a doubtful, short-lived, opinion. In short, he appeared to convince me that there neither was, nor possibly could be, any art of eloquence, and that no man could speak, either skilfully or copiously, without being acquainted with the precepts of the most learned philosophers. Charmades used to add to all this, in the highest raptures, Crassus, at your eloquence, that I appeared to be his gentle hearer, but you his tough opponent.
BEING at that time mislead by these maxims, I maintained in a pamphlet which I then wrote, and which, without my knowledge, and against my will, got abroad into the hands of the public, that I had known many good speakers, but never one orator. What I meant by a good speaker was a man who could with a tolerable accuracy and clearness, according to the general sense of the world, talk to the middling rate of mankind. But by an orator I meant one who could magnify, who could embellish in a more marvellous, in a more magnificent manner, whatever he had a mind; one whose knowledge and memory contained all the principles, however extensive, that regard eloquence. Though this seems impracticable to us, who before we enter into the school, are entangled in the pursuit of ambition and the forum, yet still it must be allowed in fact and nature. For my own part, so far as I can form a judgment, founded on the capacities which I discern amongst my countrymen, I doubt not but some time or other a person will appear, who, by a keener application to study than ours is, or ever was, with greater leisure, with more pregnant parts, and superior in toil and industry, shall devote himself to hearing, reading, writing, and answer all the ideas we now form of a complete orator. A man who shall be guilty of no arrogance if he claims a title not only to elegance but eloquence. My friend Crassus is such a character in my judgment, or if there is a person of equal genius, but with greater practice in hearing, reading, or writing, I own that I could enlarge a little more still on such a man’s praise. Here Sulpicius interrupted; it is, said he, an exceeding agreeable disappointment, both to Cotta and me, that our discourse has taken this turn; it gave us great pleasure while we were coming here, to think that if you should enter with us even upon other subjects, yet still we should be able to pick somewhat from what you said, worthy of our memory; but we scarce had presumption enough to hope that you would enter even into the most material disquisitions of this, call it study, art, or faculty. For I, who from the time that I could discern right from wrong, was filled with a veneration of you both, (as to Crassus, I can say, besides, I loved him,) yet, though I never left his company, all I could do by myself, all my repeated endeavours by means of Drusus, could never draw a word from him upon the power and business of eloquence. But I must be so just to you Antonius, as to own that, upon this head, you never failed me, that you always answered my desires and requests, and very often instructed me in your own practice of speaking. But now as both of you have cleared the entrance to these very points which we were in search of; and as Crassus himself first started the discourse, indulge us with a minute detail of your own sentiments upon eloquence in general, which, if you grant us, we shall be infinitely obliged, Crassus, to your school at Tusculanum, and prefer this your rural retreat for study to the academy and Lyceum.
INDEED, Sulpicius, answers the other, we must apply for this to Antonius, who is both able, and, as you told me just now, is used to answer your importunity; for you yourself just now owned, that I have always declined any talk upon this subject, and have often denied your earnest requests. This I did, not from any motive of pride or affectation, nor from any unwillingness to oblige you in your courtesy, which is highly just and laudable, especially as I knew that nature had peculiarly formed and qualified you for an orator; but, upon my honour, it was from my being unaccustomed to, and unskilled in, those principles of this pretended art. Since, answered Cotta, we are got over our greatest difficulty, which was, that you, Crassus, should open your mouth at all upon this subject, it will be our fault now if you get off from us without explaining every thing we want to know of you. Then says Crassus, as we used to write in our administrations, I will speak to what I know, and what I can. Is there a man here, answered the other, that has the impudence to pretend to know and do, what you do not know and cannot do? Well, replies Crassus, saving to myself the plea of inability, where I am really unable, I am at your service in answering all the questions you shall think fit to put. Then, said Sulpicius, to begin, we require that you give your opinion with regard to those points that Antonius opened some time ago; do you think that eloquence can properly be called an art? How, replied Crassus, do you throw a little quibble in my way for me to descant upon, while, the humour is upon me, as if I were some idle, prattling, but perhaps learned and ingenious, Greekling? Did ever I give you reason to think that I valued or minded, that I did not always rather ridicule the impudence of those fellows, who when they had got into a chair of a school, demanded in a crowded assembly, whether any man there had any question to start? This is a practice said to be introduced by Gorgias of Leontium, who thought that he undertook something that was great and surprising, when he pronounced that he was ready to speak upon any subject that any one of his audience, be who it would, desired to hear. This afterwards became, and still is, their common practice, insomuch, that there is no subject so important, so unexpected, or so new, that they do not pretend to discuss as fully as it possibly can be. If I thought, Cotta, that you or Sulpicius wanted to be entertained in this manner, I would have brought along with me some Greek to tickle you with such disputes, which indeed is no hard matter to bring about even yet: for there is a peripatetic, one Staseas, at the house of M. Piso, a young gentleman, who is bewitched with this curiosity, though a man of excellent genius, and a mighty friend of mine. I am very well acquainted with this Staseas, and, as appears from the adepts in this art, he is the leading man in this way of disputing.
WHY do you talk to us, answered Mucius, of your Staseas and your peripapetic? you must, my friend, indulge the young gentlemen; they do not want to hear the daily prate of an unpractised Greek, nor a school ballad; they want to know the sentiments of the wisest, the most eloquent man in his time; of the man whose head and tongue commands, not in the craft of learning, but in the importance of the causes he manages in this august seat of empire; it is such a man in whose footsteps they desire to tread. For my part, though I always imagined you a god in speaking, yet I never thought you more distinguished by eloquence than by politeness. It is in this character that you are now to appear, nor must you decline the disputation to which you are invited by two young gentlemen of the most excellent qualities. I assure you, replies Crassus, I am ready to obey them, and to give them my sentiments in my own brief manner upon any subject. And, Scævola, in the first place, as I cannot in decency overlook what you mentioned, I think that eloquence is no art, or but a very slender one; but that all the difference among the learned, on this head, lies in words. For if, as Antonius said a little while ago, the definition of an art is, that it consists of points thoroughly examined, clearly understood, abstracted from the caprice of opinion, and bounded by the principles of science; to me there seems to be no such art as that of eloquence. For all the kinds of our pleadings at the bar vary from one another, and must be suited to the understandings of the vulgar and the populace. But if the observations made both in the theory and practice of speaking by the cunning and knowing of mankind, have been defined in terms characterised by their properties, and digested under heads, which I see may have been done; I do not understand why it should not, though not in the strictness of terms, yet in the common way of thinking, be looked upon as an art. However, whether it be an art or the semblance of an art, it ought by no means to be neglected; but we must still take it for granted that some higher qualifications are required to attain it.
ANTONIUS then said, that he agreed heartily with Crassus, that he neither owned it as an art, in the sense of those who fix all the powers of eloquence upon the principles of an art, nor absolutely rejected it for such, as most philosophers do. But, Crassus, continued he, I believe it will oblige these gentlemen, if you point out the method by which you think they may improve in the excellency rather than in the art of speaking. Agreed, answered the other; because I promised it; but I beg of you that my impertinence may go no further; though at the same time I will be upon my guard not to appear as a master or an artist, but in the character of a private Roman, who has a tolerable reputation, and is not entirely void of merit in the practice at the bar; who does not dictate, but delivers his sentiments in an accidental conversation. It puts me in mind, when I stood for preferment, I used when I was soliciting, to take my leave of Scævola, by telling him I wanted to be impertinent; this was the civil way of asking him; for in these cases, unless a man is impertinent he can do nothing to the purpose. Here it happens that this very man, the man in the world before whom I would soonest avoid to seem trifling, is now the hearer and witness what an arrant trifler I am; for what can be more so than to speak upon the art of speaking, when nothing can excuse speaking itself but necessity? Pray go on, replies Mucius, I will answer for any thing which you fear may be amiss.
THEN, said Crassus, it is my opinion that nature and genius contribute most to the powers of eloquence; as to those authors whom Antonius mentioned a little before, it was not method or order that was wanting to them, but genius; for the mind and the genius ought to be endured with certain quick faculties for rendering the invention acute, the expression and its embellishments diffusive, and the memory solid and lasting. It is very well, if these faculties be animated or excited by art; but it is not in the power of art to ingraft every quality; for these are the gifts of nature. Therefore, if one should be under the mistake of thinking that these qualifications are attainable by art, what will such a one say of those which are certainly born with them; such as the volubility of tongue, the music of the voice, the strength of lungs, the symmetry and beauty of the look and figure? Not but that art can contribute some refinements; for I am sensible that learning may improve what is already good, and in some measure polish and correct what is none of the best. But there are some men so stuttering in their expression, so harsh in their tone of voice, so forbidding in their look, so unwieldy and so savage in their make, that, with all the genius and art in the world, they can never become orators. There are others so happily turned, so endued by nature for the same attainments, that they seem not to be born, but moulded by the finger of a god. Great, weighty, and important is the undertaking and profession, when, amidst a numerous assembly, profoundly silent, one man alone is heard discoursing on the most important matters: for there is scarcely any one who hears him, who has not a quicker, a more piercing eye to the defects than to the beauties of his expression, who, in condemning what he dislikes, with that, confounds excellencies themselves. Not that I insist young gentlemen who have not natural qualifications should be absolutely discouraged from the study of eloquence: for who does not perceive that it does great honor to C. Lælius, my equal in years, and without the advantages of birth to recommend him, that he was able to acquire even that indifferent talent in speaking which he possessed? Is there one in this company who does not know that Q. Varius, an unwieldy, uncouth figure of a man, has now a vast interest in the city, by means of those very talents, such as they are?
BUT as our discourse has now fallen upon the character of an orator, let it describe one who is blameless, and all accomplished; for the multiplicity of suits, the variety of causes, the bustle and impertinence of the forum, afford employment sufficient for the most wretched speakers; we ought not, for that reason, to take our eye off from the main object of our pursuit. Thus, in those arts to which we apply, not because of their indispensable utility in life, but because they are genteel amusements, how critically, nay, how squeamishly do we judge? For there are no suits or controversies on the theatre to make people endure a bad actor there, as they do an indifferent pleader at the bar. An orator, therefore, ought to be extremely careful, not only to please those whom it is his business to please, but to fix the admiration of men who can judge upon a more disengaged, disinterested footing. But if you insist upon it, that I should speak my sense of the matter without reserve, since you are all of you my intimate friends, I will now, for the first time, declare what I have hitherto thought ought to be concealed. Even the best speakers, they who speak with the greatest ease and grace, appear to me almost with an air of impudence, unless they compose themselves to speak with a certain bashfulness, and are under some confusion when they set out; yet they can never appear otherwise; for the more a man excels in speaking, he is the more sensible of its difficulty, he is under the greater concern for the event of his speech, and to answer the expectation of the public. But the man who can compass nothing worthy the profession, worthy the name, of an orator, or worthy of the attention of mankind; such a one will appear impudent in my eyes, let his concern while he speaks be ever so great; for we ought to keep clear of the charge of impudence, not by blushing at, but by avoiding indecencies. As for a man who discovers no symptoms of his being abashed, as I see is commonly the case, I think such a fellow deserves not reproof only but punishment. For I have often observed in you and experienced in myself that I grow pale at the beginning of a speech, feel a flutter over all my spirits, and a trembling through every joint. But when I was a young man, I was so spiritless at the opening of a charge, that, I speak it with the highest sense of gratitude, Q. Maximus adjourned the court, when he perceived me thus oppressed and disabled with concern. Here they all of them agreed in the same thing, and began to whisper, and talk to one another; for there was in Crassus a surprising bashfulness, which at the same time was so far from being a disadvantage to his eloquence, that it even carried a prepossession in its favour, by recommending the goodness of his heart.
INDEED, my friend, I have often observed, as you say, replied Antonius, that you, and the rest of our best speakers, were under great concern at their setting out. When I came to inquire into the reason of this, and why an orator, the better he could speak, was always under the greater confusion in speaking, I accounted for it two ways; the first was, that they who are formed both by experience and nature to speak, have observed, that sometimes causes will go not quite agreeable to the minds of the very best speakers; therefore it is reasonable for them, every time they are speaking, to dread, as it sometimes happens, it may be their own case at the time; the other way I account for it, is, what I often thought a hardship. When they who have an established character in other arts fall short of their usual excellence, it is generally imputed to their wanting either inclination, or health, to exert their abilities; Roscius, say they, would not act to-day, or he was indisposed. But if a defect is observed in an orator, it is immediately imputed to dulness, and dulness has no excuse; for you will never be able to persuade the world that a man can be a dunce either through indisposition or wilfulness. Thus, in speaking, we undergo a severe trial, and every time we speak it is renewed; while a player, who has been faulty in action is not immediately pronounced to know nothing of action; but if an orator shall be thought to make one blunder he eternally, or at least for a long time, labours under the imputation of dulness.
AS to what you say, that there are a great many things in which, unless an orator has them from nature, the assistance of a master can do him but little service, I am very much of your opinion; and here I cannot but do justice to the merits of that excellent master Apollonius of Alabanda, who, though he made a trade of teaching, yet would never suffer those he thought would never turn out orators, to lose their time in attending his lessons; but dismissed them, and used to advise and drive them to follow the art for which he thought each most fitted. For in learning other crafts, it is enough, if you have the resemblance of a man, and if the learner, be he ever so great a dunce, has just as much apprehension as to conceive, and as much memory as to retain what is taught, and perhaps hammered into him. He has no occasion for the smoothness of language, or the command of expression, nor for those qualifications which we must owe to nature, such as the face, the look, the accent. But in an orator, there is required the subtility of logicians, the learning of philosophers, the diction almost of poets, the memory of lawyers, the voice of tragedians, and the action of the best players. Therefore in mankind there is nothing harder to find than a perfect orator. Among the professors of particular branches in other arts, if each in his own arrived at mediocrity, he passes with approbation; but if an orator is not completely master of every branch of his art he cannot pass. And yet, said Crassus, see how much more indefatigable people are in an art that is but slight and trivial than in this affair, which is evidently of the greatest importance. For I have frequently heard Roscius say, he never could find that scholar with whom he was perfectly satisfied; not but that some of them might have passed; but because, if they had any manner of defect, he himself could not endure it; for nothing makes so remarkable, so deep an impression upon the memory as a miscarriage. Therefore, that we may run the parallel betwixt the accomplishments of an orator and those of a player, do not you observe, that every thing he does, is done in the most complete, the most graceful manner; that he does nothing but with the greatest propriety, and so as to move and delight every body? Hence it is, he has long attained to this distinction, that when a man excels in his own craft, he is called the Roscius of his profession. While I require this finished excellence in an orator, of which I am so void myself, I act impudently; because my own defects I wish to have pardoned; to those of others, I am inexorable. For the man who is destitute of abilities, who performs incorrectly; in short, the man who goes aukwardly to work, such a one (so far I agree with Apollonius) I think ought to be turned over to do somewhat he can do.
WHAT, replies Sulpicius, would you order Cotta or me to fall to the study of civil law, or military affairs? For what man must not despair to attain to those high, those universal accomplishments? So far from that, answers the other, that the very reason why I have explained myself in this manner, was, because I knew both of you to possess a most extraordinary genius for eloquence; and I adapted my speech not more with a view to discourage those who had not abilities, than to encourage you who have; and though I perceive, that both the one and the other of you are endued with the greatest capacity and application; yet the advantages of outward appearances, which I have enlarged upon perhaps more than the Greeks use to do, in you, Sulpicius, are divine. For I do not remember to have ever heard any man speak more gracefully, either as to the attitude, the department, or the figure, or with a more full and sweet voice. Even they who possess these advantages in a smaller degree may be good speakers, provided they have the skill to use the qualifications they really possess to the best advantage, and with gracefulness; for ungracefulness is the thing in the world that is to be most avoided. At the same time, it is extremely difficult to give any rules upon this head; this is a difficulty that not only sticks with me who speak of these matters as a private gentleman, but even with Roscius himself, whom I have often heard say, that the chief point of art is gracefulness, but that it was the only thing that did not come within the precepts of art; but if you please, let us shift our discourse, and talk in our own way, not as rhetoricians. By no means, replied Cotta, for we are now reduced to a necessity of entreating you, since you have arrested us in this profession, and will allow us to apply to no other art, to inform us, as you can, of the whole extent of your own power in eloquence. Sure you cannot say we are too greedy, we are content to take up with your eloquence, indifferent as it is, and we want to know how we can be further qualified; since you say we are not entirely destitute of natural advantages; not that we intend to aspire at more than the little merit in speaking you have attained to.
SAYS Crassus, with a smile, why Cotta, you want nothing further but the intenseness and passion of study, without which nothing great was ever performed in life; far less can any one attain to this excellence you require. But indeed it is in vain to have a passion for arriving at any point, unless you are acquainted with the means that can carry and conduct you to what you intend. But as the task you impose upon me is pretty easy, since you do not insist upon my explaining the art of an orator, but the little I myself can do in this way, I will inform you of a method of my own, which has nothing in it that is abstruse, difficult, pompous, or great, but what I practised in my youth, while it was in my power to apply to these studies. Cotta, cried Sulpicius, what a blessed day this is for us! for I could never, by all the entreaties, by all the stratagems, by all the prying I could use, not only not see what Crassus composed or spoke, but I could not have the least hint from his amanuensis and reader Diphilus. I hope now we have obtained what we wished for, and shall be informed from his own mouth of every thing we wanted to know.
BUT indeed, my friend, said Crassus, I am of opinion, when you have heard all I have to say, that you will not be so much in love with it; you will rather think, that you had no manner of reason of being so fond to hear it beforehand; because what I am to say contains no secret, nothing to answer your expectation, nothing that is new to you or the world; for I own very freely, that I have studied all that common-place trite learning, a piece of education which is worthy of a gentleman; and therefore I lay it down, that the principal point an orator ought to aim at, is to persuade; next, that the tendency of every speech is either to discuss some general question, without specifying persons or times, or some point where particular times or persons are specified. In both these cases the question in dispute uses to be, whether such a thing is, or is not fact; or, if the fact be admitted, of what nature it is, or under what denomination it comes; and, according to some, whether the commission of it was, or was not justifiable. I was further taught, that controversies may arise from the meaning, whether it is either doubtful or contradictory, or when the letter contradicts the spirit of the law; and that there is a certain species of argumentation appropriated to each of these cases. I was further taught, that those doubts that cannot be ranked under the general division become either matters of trial or debate; that there was likewise a third species, consisting in praising or lashing particular persons; and that there are certain topics which we insist upon in cases of equity, and in courts of justice; that there are other topics on which we debate, and where all the subject of debate is in interest of those to whom we give our advice or assistance; that there are others appropriated to panegyric, where every thing has relation to personal merit. I was further taught, that as all the profession of eloquence is divided into five parts, an orator must first find out what he has to say, and when he has found that out, he is to distribute and range it, not only in order, but with a certain readiness and judgment; he is next to clothe and embellish it by his expression; he is then to imprint it in the memory, and lastly to deliver it with gracefulness and dignity. I likewise was further instructed, that before one enters upon the main subject, he should endeavour to gain the affection of his hearers. In the next place the fact is to be represented, the case is to be stated, and the speaker then proceeds to prove his allegations; he next proceeds to confute what has been advanced by the other party; and at the conclusion of his speech, whatever makes in his favour he is to magnify and improve, and whatever makes against him he is to weaken and extenuate.
I WAS likewise instructed in whatever relates to the embellishment of a speech, the chief of which is the purity of diction, the next is ease and clearness, the next gracefulness, and the last an expression suited to, and, as it were, setting off the nature of the subject; and I made myself master of all the precepts relating to each of these points. Even that which one would think to be a character of nature I have sometimes known to be assisted by art; for I myself have dipped into certain precepts upon action and memory, which, though short, cost me great labour; for the whole learning of certain artists turns upon these points; and I should be much in the wrong to say that they are of no use; for they serve, as it were, to prompt the orator, by informing him to what head such and such things relate, and, at a glance, he is much surer not to be wide of his aim. But I take the true effect of all precepts to lie in this, not that orators by observing them attain to eloquence, but that observations have been made, and a practice formed from characters which eloquent men have laid down merely by the strength of natural genius. Thus eloquence is not the product of art, but art is derived from eloquence: but even that, as I said before, I would not shut out; for though it may not be quite so necessary to the practical part of speaking, yet it is very well suited to the critical. This is the task that you are to undertake, though you have already entered the lists; notwithstanding that the students in this way, like the gentlemen of the sword, may improve by the preludes and practice of a mock fight upon disputable points. This, interrupted Sulpicius, was the very thing we wanted to know, yet we wish to hear somewhat from you with regard to the art itself you have so slightly touched upon, though we are not quite strangers to it. However, we shall talk of it by and by, but at present we want to know your sentiments upon the practice itself.
WHY really, replied Crassus, I approve of your common practice in stating a cause of the same nature with those that really come before the courts of justice, and then speaking to it as if you were actually in earnest. But most people in such exercises make use only of their voice, and that too not very judiciously, the strength of their lungs, and the glibness of their tongue, and are quite charmed with their own performance, if they can but pour forth a torrent of words; so far do they mistake that general maxim, that practice makes perfection in speaking. But there is another maxim; that by a vicious practice of speaking, men very naturally fall into a vicious habit of it. Therefore, in those very practisings, though it is of great importance that a man should acquire an ease and quickness of speaking, yet it is of much greater that he should, after some consideration, speak at once readily and correctly. But to tell the truth, the chief point of all this is a thing that we very little practise; for it is difficult, and therefore commonly avoided, I mean frequent compositions upon paper. The pen is the best, the most excellent former and director of the tongue; and no wonder; for if reflection and thought easily excel what is thrown out by chance, and at a heat, careful and assiduous practice in composing will excel even those advantages. For every topic, whether it regards art, genius, or learning, if it has any relation to the subject we write upon, immediately presents itself and occurs to the all-observing eye of strict inquiry and critical observation; and at the same time, it is a necessary consequence, that the periods and expressions, all of them the choice of their kind, should undergo the polish of the pen; hence arises perfection as to the propriety and disposition of expressions, and style in writing, not in the cadence and manner that suits the poet, but the orator. Hence likewise is the true spring of the admiration and applause bestowed on excellent speakers; and let a man declaim ever so violently in these flashy exercises, he shall never be able to attain to these qualifications without practice in writing: and the man, who, after handling his pen, shall come to the bar, will carry along with him this advantage, that though he even shall speak extempore, yet what he shall deliver will have the air of correct composition; and further, if at any time he shall use the assistance of notes, as soon as he lays them aside, the remaining part of his speech will be a piece with the preceding. As a boat, when sailing, though the rowers give over rowing, yet still the vessel keeps the same motion and direction as when impelled by the strength and strokes of the oars; so, in a continued discourse, when one’s notes fail him, yet the remaining part proceeds in the same strain, by the resemblance and strength it acquires from composition.
BUT in my daily exercises, when I was but a very young man, I own I chiefly followed what I knew to be the practice of our foe Caius Carbo, which was to digest in my memory, as well as I could, a set of sensible verses, or a certain portion of some oration which I had read over, and then deliver the very same matter in other words, and those the best I could choose. But I found myself under this inconveniency by this practice, that the most proper, the most elegant, and the most beautiful expressions in every subject, had been anticipated either by Ennius or Gracchus, if I took my theme from the verses of the one, or the orations of the other. Thus, if I used the same words, my labour was bootless; if I altered them, I was sure it must be for the worse, which would do me prejudice. Afterwards, when I grew a little older, I chose to translate the best Greek orations, by which I attained to this advantage, that in rendering the Greek I had read over, into Latin, I not only fell upon the most elegant, and yet the most usual expressions, but was in the course of my translation led in to coin some phrases, which to my countrymen were new, and I took care that they should be proper. Now the operations of the voice, the lungs, the whole body, and even the tongue, do not so much require art as exercise. But in all these exercises we ought to take particular care to imitate those whom we wish to resemble. We are not only to observe the practice of orators, but of actors, lest by a vicious habit we contract some ungracefulness and aukwardness. The memory ought likewise to be employed in learning a good many of our own and of foreign compositions; and to this exercise I do not think it would be amiss, if you should tack the rules which relate to the method of imprinting in your memory your subject, by certain hints taken from places and resemblances. From this private, this retired, exercised, you are to draw out the powers of your eloquence into the front of the battle, into the dust, the din, the camp, and the array of the forum. You are to handle every weapon; you are to put the forces of your genius to the trial, and all your retired lucubrations must now stand the test of public practice. The poets too must be read, a knowledge of history must be acquired; the writers, the authors, of all the best arts must be read over and over to explain, to correct, to vilify, and to confute them. You must dispute upon any side of every question; and you must explore and explain whatever can be advanced upon your own side with the greatest probability upon any subject. The civil law must be thoroughly studied; the statutes must be understood, you must have a clear notion of all antiquity, of the practice of the senate, the government of the state, the rights of our allies, leagues, conventions, and the interests of the constitution. You are likewise, from all the several modes of good-breeding, to extract a certain agreeable turn of wit, which, like salt, must season all you say. Thus I have poured forth all I had to deliver, and yet perhaps any private gentleman whom you had laid hold of in any company, would have given you just the same satisfaction.
WHEN Crassus had done speaking, a pause ensued; but though the company seemed to think that he had sufficiently answered all they proposed; yet he had run through it much sooner than they wished for. Pray, Cotta, say Scævola, what is all this silence for? What, cannot you fall upon some other question to put to Crassus? Why, replied the other, that is the very thing I am thinking of; for such was the rapidity of his words, such the flow of his language, that I perceived its force and energy, but could scarcely trace its rise and progress; as if one were to enter into some rich, well furnished house, where the apparel is neither exposed, nor the plate set forth, nor the pictures and images placed in view, but all the variety and magnificence of the furniture huddled and shut up; so just now, while Crassus was speaking, I could perceive the riches and beauties of his genius, as it were through certain veils and curtains; but of the things I wanted to survey at leisure, I could scarcely snatch a glance. Upon the whole, I can neither say that I am absolutely ignorant of his qualifications, nor that I have been able clearly to mark out and discover them. Then, replies Scævola, cannot you do as you would in case you were to step into a house or a seat magnificently furnished; if, as you have supposed, all the rich furniture is locked up, and you had an excessive curiosity to see it, sure you would desire the owner to order it to be brought out, especially if he was your friend. In like manner, ask the favour of Crassus now to display to our view, and range in proper order all those rich embellishments of his, whereof we have but got a slight, passing glance, as it were, through a lattice. Nay, but Scævola, says Cotta, I beg this favour from you; for Sulpicius and I are ashamed to importune one of the greatest men upon earth, and one who has always despised disputations of this kind, for what he perhaps looks upon as an exercise only for children. But do you, Scævola, grant us this favour, and prevail with Crassus to extend and explain those principles, which in his discourse he crammed into so narrow a compass. Upon my word, replied Mucius, I was for this before, rather on your account than my own, nor can I say that my desire of hearing Crassus upon this subject was equal to the pleasure I have had in hearing him plead. But now, Crassus, I beg upon my own account too, that you will employ this unusual interval of leisure, in finishing the building you have already founded: for I can see a more regular model of the whole than I expected, and such as I greatly approve of.
INDEED, replies Crassus, I am prodigiously surprised that you, Scævola, should insist on hearing what I am neither so much master of as they who teach it, nor is it of such a nature, as, did I understand it ever so well, to suit your experience, or claim your attention. Say you so, answers the other, but granting that young gentlemen ought not to hear the common and vulgar rules, are we to neglect those precepts which you have pronounced ought to be known by an orator upon the nature and morals of mankind, upon the method of awakening and subduing their passions, upon history, antiquity, government; and, in short, our own system of the civil law? For I knew that your experience had mastered all this extent, all this variety of knowledge, but never did I see so magnificent furniture in the equipage of an orator. Then, answers Crassus, not to speak of other instances, which are numberless of great importance, and to proceed to your favourite study of the civil law, can you reckon them orators, whom Scævola, with a mixture of mirth and indignation, waited many hours for, when he was in haste to go to the Campus Martius; when Hypsæus with a very audible voice, and in a power of words, insisted upon it with the pretor M. Crassus, that his client might lose his cause. While Cneius Octavius, a consular, in a speech of equal length, refused to suffer his antagonist to lose his cause, or that his own client should take the advantage, by the blunders of the other party, of being acquitted of the charge of betraying his ward, and all its troublesome consequences. For my part, answers the other, I remember to have heard Mucius talk of these dunces, but I am so far from allowing them the character of orators, that I am for depriving them of the privilege of pleading at the bar. And yet, replied Crassus, these advocates wanted neither for eloquence nor for method and readiness in speaking; what they wanted was a knowledge in the civil law. For the one insisted upon more, while he was pleading upon a law in the twelve tables, than the law admitted of; and if this was granted him, he of course lost his cause. The other thought it unjust that he should be more hardly dealt by than the charge brought against him implied, and could not perceive that if he had been dealt by in that manner, his antagonist must be cast.
NAY, not many days ago, while we were sitting as assistants to our friend Q. Pompeius, the city pretor, did not one of your eloquent lawyers insist upon the defendant being indulged in an old and common exception in favour of a debtor who was engaged to pay a sum at a certain day? He did not understand that this rule was made in favour of the creditor; insomuch, that if the defendant had proved before the judge, that the money was demanded before it became due, when the plaintiff came to demand it a second time he might have been precluded by this exception, because the thing had already been brought into judgment. Can any thing more scandalous than this be expressed or acted, than that a man who assumes the character of an advocate for the interests and causes of his friends, a reliever of the oppressed, a physician to the sick, and a raiser of the dejected, that such a man should trip in the most minute, the most trivial affairs, so as to become an object of pity to some, and of ridicule to others? I own that our kinsman, the rich Crassus, who in many respects was a man of taste and elegance, was highly commendable in this, that he used to tell his brother Scævola, that the latter never could have made any figure in the civil law had he not allied himself to eloquence, (his son, who was joint consul with me, united both these characters) and that he himself had studied the civil law before he undertook to plead or manage any causes for his friends. But what was the character of the excellent M. Cato? Was it not that of being one of the best speakers of his age and country, and at the same time a most skilful civilian? I have all along touched upon this point with the greater delicacy, because there is now in this company a person of the greatest eloquence, and one whom I admire as the first of his profession as an orator, and yet he has always expressed a contempt for the study of the civil law. But as you insist upon being let into my opinion and sentiments I will hide nothing from you, but explain as much as I can my thoughts upon every subject.
THE amazing, the unparalleled, the divine power of genius in Antonius, though void of the study of the civil law, seems to qualify him for managing and pleading causes by the assistance of other intellectual accomplishments; he is therefore an exception to our general rule; but as for the others, I own I make no difficulty of condemning them in my own mind, first of idleness, then of impudence. For to flutter over the forum; to be always dangling after the law, and the benches of the judges; to manage the most important trials upon private property, in which the question often does not turn upon points of fact, but of law and equity; to swagger in pleading before the Centumviri, where you have all the system of laws relating to interests, wards, families, relations; the alterations and eruptions of river, vassalage and bondage; walls and windows; egress and regress; wills executed or unfulfilled, together with an infinite number of other things; if a man who undertakes all this is ignorant of what belongs to himself, and what to another, and how a man becomes bond, and how free, or what constitutes an inmate and what a citizen, such a fellow must be certainly furnished with a most consummate stock of impudence. What a ridiculous figure would a man make, to own that he did not know how to manage a small bark, and yet pretend to sail one of our first rate ships? If in a company I should find that you are over-reached by a quibble of your antagonist; if I shall see you put your seal to a deed for your client, the matter of which must do him a prejudice, do you imagine that I would trust a cause of greater importance to your management? Take my word for it, the man who in harbour oversets a boat with but a pair of oars, shall sooner be made captain of a large ship in the Euxine sea. But if those causes that turn upon the civil law are none of your little ones, but often of the utmost importance, what a front must a man have to pretend to be counsel in those causes, without the smallest knowledge of the law? For instance, could any cause be more important than that of the soldier, whose death his father had an account of by wrong information from the army; thereupon believing it to be true, he altered his will, and thought fit to make another person his heir; he then died himself, and the cause was brought before the Centumviri: the soldier, returning home, commenced an action for his father’s estate; upon this question, that depended upon the civil law, was whether the son was disinherited by the will? whether the son, whom the father in his will neither expressly nominates to inherit or disinherit, is not cut off from succeeding to his father’s estate?
FURTHER, what was the case decided by the Centumviri, in the cause between the patrician families of the Claudii and the Marcelli? When the Marcelli claimed an estate in right of descent from the son of a freedman, and the Claudii pretended that the same estate ought to revert to them by a family right derived from a patrician of their name; in such a cause, were not the pleaders to explain the whole system of the rights of succession and family? What do you say of another dispute I have heard of before the same court of the Centumviri? A man during his banishment had come to Rome, and claimed the protection of the Roman laws relating to banished persons, he had then applied himself to somebody to be, as it were, his patron, and then died intestate; in such a cause, is not the obscure and unknown laws relating to application to be laid open in the trial, and explained by the advocate in his pleading? What do you think of a late instance, when I pleaded the cause of C. Sergius Aurata against our friend Antonius here in a private trial? Did not the whole import of my defence turn upon the civil law? For whem Marius Gratidianus had sold the house to Aurata, without expressing in the deed of freehold that any part of that house was to be subjected to servitude; I pleaded, that whatever loss might arise by omitting this reservation, it ought to fall upon the seller, if he knew of any such servitude annexed to the purchase, and omitted to express it. In these kind of actions my friend M. Bucculeius, who is no fool in my conceit, and a very wise man in his own, with no aversion to the law besides, in some respect committed a blunder lately upon a like occasion. For when he sold a house to L. Fufius, reserving in servitude the doors and windows in the state they were then in, somebody began to build a house in a different quarter of the city, in a place that could be but just discerned from the other house; but he had no sooner begun to build than he went to law with Bucculeius, and insisted on it, that his lights could not, in the terms of their agreement, remain in the same state, if one straw's breadth of the horizon was intercepted, by the distance ever so great. But what shall I say of that great cause betwixt Manius Curius and Marcus Coponius, that was lately pleaded before the Centumviri, and a vast multitude in Court, all curious to know the event? When Q. Scævola, my equal and colleague, the man in the world who is best acquainted withthe practice of the civil law, of the quickest discernment and genius; his style remarkably smooth and polite; and, as I used to say, of all great lawyers the most of an orator, and of all great orators the most of a lawyer; when such a man as he, defended the validity of wills from their letter, maintaining, that unless the posthumous child expressed in the will of the deceased was born, and then dead before he was of age, that the person named in the will as succeeding to the posthumous child, who should thus be born and die, could not be the heir. I pleaded for the intention of the will; and that the meaning of the deceased testator must have been, that if he had no son come to age, then Manius Curius was the heir. Did not we in this cause persist in quoting authorities, precedents, disputing upon the nature of wills, I mean the essential part of the civil law?
I SHALL at present pass over other numberless instances of very important causes; nay, it may often happen that our capital causes may turn upon the civil law. Thus Publius, the son of M. Rutilius, the tribune of the people, ordered Caius Mancinus, a man of the first quality, worth, and of consular dignity, to be turned out of the senate; because, to avoid the execution of a hated convention, he had made with the Numantines, he had been delivered up to them by the presiding herald; and upon their refusing to receive him, he had made no scruple of returning home, and taking his seat in the senate. The opposition of the tribune was founded on a received tradition, that a person sold either by his father or the people, or delivered up by the presiding herald, has no right to reclaim his privileges. Can we in all the system of civil polity find a more important cause or dispute than that upon the rank, the privilege, the liberty, and the reputation of a consular person? Especially as it was not pretended that he was under any disability arising from his own demerit, but from the constitution of the civil law. Of a like, but a less important nature is the case of a native of a confederate state, who had been a slave here, and then obtained his freedom, and returned to his own country; it was in that case a doubt with our ancestors, whether such a person could reclaim his rights in his own state, and whether he had not forfeited the privileges of this city. But as I am now speaking of liberty, than which no more important cause can be tried, may it not become a question, in the civil law, whether a man who is rated by the consent of his master, becomes not thereby, upon making up the rolls, free? Was there not a case that actually happened in the last age, when the father of a family came from Spain to Rome, leaving his wife big with child; he without any intimation to his wife, marries another at Rome, where he dies intestate, leaving behind him a son by each wife; was it any easy point that came in this case to be disputed? Here arises a question upon the rights of two citizens, I mean the latter son and his mother, who must have been deemed a concubine, had it been found upon the trial that a certain form of words, and not a new marriage, were necessary to constitute the validity of a divorce from the former wife. Must not a fellow therefore be a most eminent scoundrel, who shall strut about, with a face of gaiety and assurance, throwing his eyes first to one side, and then to another, swaggering over all the forum with a vast train, offering and tendering protection to his clients, assistance to his friends, and the guidance of his illuminated understanding and advice almost to all Rome, yet shall be ignorant of these and such like laws of his own country?
HAVING discussed the impudence, I must now have a touch at the laziness and indolence, of mankind. For, granting the knowledge of the civil law to be an extensive, thorny study, yet its vast utility ought to spur mankind to undertake the fatigue of studying it. Yet, in the mean time, immortal gods! (I should not say this in the hearing of Scævola, had not he himself used to own it) there is not an art in the world more easily attained to. I own, that the general opinion for certain reasons is otherwise; first because your ancient practitioners, who are the head of this profession, that they may retain and increase their influence, do not care to have their made common. In the next place, after it had been published, and the process of it explained by Cn. Flavius, nobody could reduce his artful digest into a methodical order. For nothing can be reduced into an art, unless the person who attempts it, besides knowing the principles which he wants to reduce, has skill enough to strike an art out of principles that have never been reduced to one. I was willing that the brevity which which I have explained myself upon this head should lead me into a little obscurity, but I will endeavour if I can to explain my meaning.
ALMOST all the principles that are now reduced into arts were formerly dispersed and dissipated. Thus in music; tunes, sounds, and measures: in geometry; lines, figures, spaces, magnitudes: in astronomy; the revolution of the heavens, the rise and setting, and motions of stars: in grammar; the reading of poets, an acquaintance with history, the import of words, a certain manner of articulation: and in our profession of eloquence; invention, embellishment, arrangement, memory, action: all these formerly were unknown, or they seemed too widely dissipated to be reduced into a system. Therefore, a certain art taken out of some other system, and which philosophers challenge for their own, was employed to cement, and by a certain method to combine the matter that thus lay in a disjunction and confusion. Let us, therefore, lay it down, that the sum of the civil law is the preservation of just and impartial equity in deciding upon the interests and properties of fellow-citizens. Its heads are then to be marked, and to be reduced into a certain number as small as possible. Every head comprehends two or more parts, with certain properties in common, but differing in their species; and each part is ranged under those heads frmo which they are derived. And definitions must be laid down, expressing the force appropriated to every term, whether it related to the heads or the parts. A definition again is a short and limited explanation of the properties of the thing which we want to define. I should give examples of these particulars, were I not sensible before whom I speak: I shall now comprehend what I proposed in as short a compass as I can. For were I at leisure to do what I have long meditated; should any one while I am busied set about it, and when I am dead accomplish it; first, to digest the whole civil law into its different heads, which are but very few; and then to branch out these heads, as it were, into so many members; and next define the power that is appropriated to each; then shall you have a complete system of the civil law, less difficult and obscure than important and diffusive. And yet, in the mean time, while what is now dissipated is a connecting, let us be enriching the noble study of the civil law with what we can pick up and gather in ranging through all quarters.
HAVE you never taken notice that C. Aculeo, the Roman knight, who now lives, and ever has lived with me, a man whose genius is formed to excel in every art, but who has very little studied any other than this, is now so much master of the civil law, that when you leave this company you shall find none of those who are at the head of the profession beyond him. For every thing in it is plain to your eyes, to be found in daily practice, the conversation of mankind, and the forum, rather than in a multitude of volumes, and extent of reading. For the same principles were, by a great many, published in words; then, by the alteration of a few terms, they were transcribed again and again by the same authors. There happens another encouragement and assistance, that is taken very little notice of in the study of the civil law, which is the great pleasure and satisfaction one has in knowing it. For if a man is in love with other studies, he has a strong picture of antiquity through the whole of the civil law, in the books of the priests, and the laws of the twelve tables; since he thereby learns the old signification of words, and certain kinds of actions instruct him in the practice and history of our ancestors. If a man is intent upon the study of civil polity, a study which Scævola says belongs not to an orator, but to a different branch of knowledge, he sees all of it comprehended in the twelve tables, where the whole system of civil duties and dependencies is described. Or, if a man is enchanted with the resistless power of specious philosophy, I will boldly venture to say, that the source of all his disputations is contained in the civil law. For it is by this that the greatest dignitiy is to be acquired; when we see sincere, just, and honest endeavours crowned with honours, rewards and distinctions; while the vices and frauds of mankind are punished with loss, disgrace, fetters, whips, banishment, death. And we are taught, not by disputations endless and full of quibbling, but by the authority and sanction of the laws, to subdue our passions, to check all our affections, to guard our own property, and to refrain our thoughts, our eyes, our hands from that of another.
LET them all take it ill if they please, but I will speak what I think. By heaven! in my eyes, the single volume of the laws of the twelve tables, with regard to the source and principles of equity, is preferable to the libraries of all the philosophers that ever lived, both as to the weight of authority, and extent of utility. But, if the love of our country is, as it ought to be, our ruling passion; a passion that is so strong and so natural, as to induce the wisest of mankind to prefer his Ithaca, (which, like a little nest, is perched upon a cluster of crags,) to immortality itself: with what a passion ought we then to be fired for a country that has the pre-eminence over all other countries, of being the seat of valour, empire, and dignity! it is the sense, the manners, the government of this country that we ought first to be acquainted with, both because she is our common parent, and because we ought to presume that the plan of government, upon which her constitution was founded, discovers equal wisdom, with that conduct, by which her power has been reared. You will be able likewise so to discover the joy and satisfaction arising from the knowledge of the law, since you may easily perceive how much our ancestors, in sagacity, excelled the rest of the world, if you please to compare their system of laws with those of Lycurgus, Draco, and Solon. For it is incredible how uncouth, and almost ridiculous all other systems, besides our own, are. I use to have a great deal of discourse upon this subject every day, while I prefer the sagacity of our countrymen to that of all other nations, especially the Greeks. For these reasons, Scævola, I affirmed, that the knowledge of the civil law is necessary to those who want to be accomplished orators.
GIVE me leave now to observe, that nobody can be ignorant how much honour, interest, and dignity it communicates t those who are at the top of the profession. Therefore, as in Greece, the meanest of mankind hire themselves out for a pitiful fee, as assistants to an orator in a trial, and are by them called (pragmatikoi) joureymen; on the contrary, in Rome every man of the greatest quality and figure, like Ælius Sextus, whom, for his knowledge of the civil law, a great poet called, A MAN,
- With the best heart, and with the wisest head,
with a great many others, who, though they raised themselves to dignity by their genius, yet, by their practice in the law have found that their authority was of more weight than their abilities. Can a more honourable shelter be found, under which we can pass an old age with dignity and lustre, than the study of the law? For my own part, I own that this is a relief which I have provided even from my youth, not only with a view to my practice at the bar, but even to grace and embellish my old age; that when, as the tune now draws near, my strength shall fail me, I may shut out from my house that solitude which is generally the concomitant of years. For what, can be more honourable than that an old man, who has discharged the honours, and the duties he owed to his country, should boldly say with the Pythian Apollo in Ennius; that he is such a one as, if, I will not say all people and princes, but his counrtymen, do not ask his advice, they must be
- Uncertain as to their own affairs; but by my assistance I dismiss those who came to me in doubt, undoubting, and masters of the measures they ought to pursue; that they may not rashly plunge into perplexed matters.
Now it is a past question, that the house of a lawyer is the oracle of the whole city. For the truth of this I appeal to the gate and the avenue of Quintus Mucius, which, in his valetudinary state, and advanced old age, is now the daily resort of multitudes of citizens, and frequented by men of the greatest quality.
WHAT I am now going to say does not require any long harangue; that an orator ought to be acquainted with the public acts that relate to matters of state and government, adn likewise with the records of history, and transactions of antiquity; for as while he pleads in private causes and trials he must often have recourse to the civil law, and therefore, as I said before, that knowledge is necessary to an orator; so in public causes that come before our courts, assemblies, senates; all this history and that of antiquity, the weight of the public laws, together with the system and science of government, ought to be as intimately known to those orators who are conversant in the commonwealth, as if they were the grounds of their study. For what we are now in search of is not, an ordinary pleader, nor a bawler, nor a pettifogger, but such a man as may be the high priest of this art, a man who, notwithstanding the lavish endowments nature has bestowed upon mankind, shall appear to be a god; one whose qualifications, as a man, shall not seem to have been formed upon earth, but the peculiar gift of heaven: one, who dignified by the name of an orator, and not the ensigns of an herald, can walk unhurt through the array of his enemies: one whose tongue can expose to the hatred of his countrymen, and to punishment, fraud, and guilt; and under the protection of his genius can free innocence from the penalties of the law: who can rouse a spiritless desponding people to glory, reclaim them from infatuation, point their rage against the wicked; or sooth their resentment, if exasperated at the worthy? In short, one who by his eloquence can either awaken or compose all the emotions of the human soul, from whatever motive or cause they may proceed. It would be an egregious mistake in any man to imagine that this power has been explained by those who have written upon eloquence, or can be by me in this narrow compass; such a man must not only be unacquainted with my insufficiency, but even with the greatness of the subject. It is true, since you insisted on it, I have pointed out in the method I thought most proper, the fountains from whence you may draw, and the roads that lead to, this study; not that I pretend to conduct you in person, for that would be an infinite and a useless labour; I for my part have shewn you the way, and, as is usually done, pointed with my finger to the fountains.
SURELY, replied Mucius, to me it appears that you have done enough, and more than enough, to further them, if they are really studious; for, as the famous Socrates used to say, he had gained his end, if, by his instruction, any person was effectually spurred to endeavour at the knowledge and discernment of virtue; because, whoever is once in earnest in preferring no character to that of being a worthy man, will find very easy work in all the remaining part of the study; in like manner I am persuaded, that if you have a mind to enter into those principles that Crassus has explained in his discourse, that fromm this open avenue and door, you will easily reach the attainments you aim at. It is true, answers Sulpicius, that what we have heard, lays us under great obligations, and gives us great pleasure. But we are at a loss, Crassus, for a few things more. And in the first place, as to those points which you very slightly touched upon, with regard to the art itself; since you owned, that you were so far from disregarding them, that you had studied them. If you will explain those a little more fully, you will satisfy every wish of our longing passion; for now we have heard what things we ought to study; a point, indeed, of great consequence; but we further wish to be acquainted with the roads and method leading to these objects. What, replies Crassus, if we should apply to Antonius, who, a little while ago, complained that a pamphlet had dropt from his pen upon this subject, to explain what he still keeps in reserve, and what is yet unpublished, and declare to us the mysteries of eloquence; because, what I have said, has been to engage you more easily to stay with me, and in compliance rather with your pleasure, than my own custom and nature? As you please, answers Sulpicius; for, from what Antonius shall deliver, we shall learn your sentiments. Then, says Crassus, we desire Antonius of you, since that burden, by the requests of these young gentlemen, is thrown upon persons of our years, that you explain your sense of what you perceive is the matter in question.
WHY really, says Antonius, I perceive very plainly that I am caught; not only by my opinion being asked, as to points in which I have neither knowledge nor experience, but because they will not suffer me now to get off from the thing in the world I have always most avoided at the bar; which was, speaking after you, Crassus. But I will enter the more boldly upon the task you impose upon me, from this consideration, that I hope the same thing will happen to me in this discourse, as usually happens to me at the bar, that no embellishments of language are expected; for I am not now to speak of an art I never learned, but of my own practice; and the very observations I have entered into my common-place book, are of such a nature; they were not imparted to me by any study, but employed in the practice of business and causes: if they are not approved by men of your great learning you must blame your own unreasonableness in demanding to know from me what I did not know myself. At the same time, you ought to do justice to my complaisance, since, not from my own choice, but to oblige you, I so readily obey your commands. Says Crassus, do you, my friend, only proceed; I will venture to answer for it, that you will deliver nothing but with so much good sense, as will give us no reason to repent of our having forced you to talk upon this subject. For my part, replies the other, I will proceed, and do what in my judgment ought to be previously done in all disputes; which is, that the subject of dispute should be cleared up, lest the debate should be obliged to wander, and go out of the way, if the disputants have not the same notions of their subject. For, supposing it were asked, what is the art of a general, I should think it right, in the first place, to fix what is meant by a general; who, as he is appointed, as it were, the manager of a war, we may then add what relates to an army, to a camp, to marching troops, to engagements, to sieges, to convoys, to forming and shunning ambuscades, and other matters that properly belong to the management of a war. And whoever had a turn for, and a perfect knowledge of these, I would pronounce such a man to be a general. I would bring the examples of the Africani and Maximi; and instance Hannibal, Epaminondas, and such other heroes. But were I asked who is the man, that in affairs of government has employed his experience, knowledge, and study; I would define such a man thus; the man who knows, and employs the advantages by which the welfare of a state is acquired and improved; I would insist upon it, that such a man ought to be reckoned the guardian of a government, and the source of public counsel; and here I would recommend the examples of Publius Lentulus, who once was the leading man in Rome; the elder T. Gracchus, Q. Metellus, P. Africanus, C. Lælius, with an infinite number of others, both in Rome and other states. But if it were asked me, who can properly be termed a lawyer? I would answer; the man who knows how to give his advice upon, and to apply, in the most cautious manner, those laws, and that constitution, that private men are directed by in a state; I would name S. Ælius, M. Manilius, and P. Mucius, as men of this stamp.
BUT, (that I may now come to the studies of less important arts,) if the definition of a musician, of a grammarian, or a poet, were asked, I would in like manner explain myself as to what each of them professes; and the precise qualifications, than which nothing more can be required. In short, the philosopher himself, who alone challenges to his own power and sagacity almost the monopoly of all good qualities, may yet be defined as a person who endeavours at the knowledge of the powers, the nature, and the principles of all subjects, divine and human, with the possession and practice of the whole system of living well in the world. But as to the orator, since he is the immediate object of our inquiry, indeed I do not conceive him to be such a person as Crassus would have him; for he seems to me to engross to the single duty and profession of an orator, the whole compass of knowledge and arts. At the same time, I think he is a person who, in causes at the bar, and such as are common, knows to adapt to his pleading the words that have the happiest effect upon the ear, and those expressions that are most suited to render his cause probable. Such a man I define to be an orator; and I would, at the same time, have him master of accent, action, and a certain species of wit: but our friend Crassus seems not to confine an orator to the bounds of that art, but to those of his own genius, which is next to infinite. For his discourse put into the hands of an orator the helm of government; and I own, Scævola, I was a good deal surprised that you granted him this concession; for I have very often seen the senate brought in by a very short home-spun speech of yours to agree with you upon the most important affairs of state. But if M. Scaurus, who I hear is at this country seat not far from this, a man deeply seen in the affairs of government, were to hear you, Crassus, challenge to yourself all the weight of his dignity and political knowledge, take my word he would soon be with us in person, and by his look and air frighten us out of all this prating. For though he is no contemptible speaker, yet in matters of consequence he trusts more to his good sense than his eloquence. Give me leave to say further, that supposing a man possessed of both accomplishments, supposing him a leading man in public debates, and an excellent senator, he may not for all that be a good orator; or supposing another possessed of eloquence, and at the same time of political knowledge, no part of his knowledge is the consequence of his skill in speaking. These qualities are widely different, disjointed and separated from each other, nor did M. Cato, P. Africanus, Q. Metellus and C. Lælius, who were all of them eloquent men, by the same means attain to their excellence in speaking, and their dignitiy in government.
FOR there is no prohibition, either from the nature of things, or from any law or custom, to hinder one man from being master of no more than one art. If Pericles therefore was a most eloquent man, and at the same time the leading man in all the public deliberations of the state for many years; yet we are not from thence to conclude that his abilities in both are owing to the same cause. Nor if P. Crassus was a good speaker and lawyer at the same time, that the knowledge of the civil law is therefore inherent to eloquence. For if every man who is eminent in some one art or profession, shall likewise associate, with that, another art, the consequence will be, that the art thus associated shall seem but, as it were, a branch of that art in which he is eminent. Otherwise, we ma pretend, that to play at tenuis, and the twelve pebbles, is a property of the civil law, because P. Mucius is very dextrous at both. And by the same rule, the gentlemen whom the Greeks term [phusikoì,] naturalists, ought to be accounted poets, because Empedocles the naturalist wrote a very fine poem. Even the philosophers themselves, who pretend to engross every thing as their own and peculiar to their profession, dare not maintain that geometry and music are the qualities of philosophers, because it is allowed that Plato was in the highest degree master of those arts. However, if you will insist upon subjecting all arts to eloquence, you had much better say, that as eloquence ought not to be hungry and naked, but bespangled and diversified by, as it were, a pleasing medley of different subjects, he is a good orator who has taken in many objects with his ears, many with his eyes, and run over a vast number in thinking, reflecting, and reading. That he does not possess them as indispensable, but as auxiliaries to his own profession; for I own that an orator ought to be an artful kind of a fellow, no notive, no blunderer, no foreigner, no stranger is the management of affairs.
NOR indeed, Crassus, am I at all affected with these pathetic touches of yours, with which the philosophers made so much ado; I mention this, because you said that no man could either inflame, or, when inflamed, allay the passions of an audience, effects by which the chief power and importance of an orator is discerned, but a man who has a clear insight into the nature of things, the manners, and views of mankind; in which case, philosophy becomes the necessary study of an orator; a study in which we have known men even of the most consummate genius, and the greatest leisure, waste their whole lives; men, whose variety and extent of knowledge and learning I am so far from despising, that I admire them; but, as for us, whose business lies with this people, and in the forum, it is sufficient for us to know and talk of just so much of the manners of mankind as may shew us to be no novices in the ways of the world. For did ever any great or grave orator, when he wanted to render the judge angry with his antagonist, boggle at this, because he did not know whether anger was a heat of the mind, or the desire of punishing resentment? Was there ever a man, who, when he wanted to raise a whirl and agitation in the other affections of the soul, either in judges or people, expressed himself in the same terms which philosophers use, some of whom say that the mind ought not to be susceptible of any emotions, and that they who in pleading touch the passions of the judges are guilty of detestable practices. Other of them, who want to appear not so rigid, and to accommodate themselves to real life, maintain, that the emotions of the mind ought not to be very violent, or rather, that they ought to be very gentle. But an orator, by his expression, magnifies and aggravates every thing, that in the common practice of life, is, of itself, evil, troublesome, and to be avoided. At the same time, he amplifies and embellishes, by his eloquence, those objects, which to the generality of mankind are inviting and lovely: nor does he want to be thought so very wise among fools, as that his hearers should take him either for a coxcomb or a Greekling; for while they approve of the genius, and admire the good sense of the orator, they will take it very ill that they are treated like a pack of fools. But he roves through the passions of mankind; he so tunes their affections and senses as not to want the definitions of philosophers, or to make any disquisitions whether the chief good is seated in the soul or the body; whether it is to be defined by virtue or pleasure, or whether these two can unite or coalesce; he is much further from entering into an inquiry as to the opinion which some hold, that we can have a certain knowledge or thorough comprehension of nothing: all these are points, I confess, of great and extensive learning, and admitting of many copious and various reasonings. But, Crassus, we are in search of a different, a very different, subject; we want a clear-headed man, artful by nature and practice; one who has good sense enough to trace what are the wishes, the sentiments, the opinions and the hopes of his countrymen, and the person to whose understandings he addressed his discourse.
HE ought, as it were, to possess the springs of every kind, age, rank, and to enter into the minds and affections of those with whom he either deals, or is to deal. But as to the writings of philosophers, let him reserve those to the leisure and repose of a Tusculan retirement such as this; lest if he should at any time be obliged to speak upon justice and honour, he should borrow from lato; who, in endeavouring to explain these points in his writings, created a new kind of a state, to be found only in his books; so widely did his sentiments of justice differ from the customs of life, and the manners of states. But if these maxims are to be approved of by states and people, who, Crassus would have pardoned you, a man of the greatest eminence, and of the greatest interest in the state, for expressing yourself in this manner in a very great assembly of your countrymen. Deliver us from our CALAMITIES; deliver us out of the JAWS of those whose cruelty cannot be satiated with our blood; suffer us not to be SLAVES to any but you all, to whom we both can pay and do owe submission. I do not touch upon those calamities into which, as they maintain, a brave man cannot fall. I do not take notice of those jaws, from which you wanted to be delivered, lest your blood, by an inquitous proceeding, should be sucked out; a circumstance which, according to them, cannot happen to a wise man; but you ventured to go so far as to say that not only you, but all the senate, whose cause you were then pleading, were subjected. Can virtue, my friend, be subjected according to those authors whose dictates you comprehend in the office of an orator? virtue, the only thing that is eternally free; virtue that, while bodies are captive by the chance of war, or pinioned in fetters, ought still to assert her own authority and unquestioned liberty in every circumstance. But what did you say further? that the senate not only could, but ought to be the slaves of the people. What philosopher is so effeminate, so spiritless, so absolutely dependent upon bodily pleasure and pain for happiness or misery, as to admit of this doctrine? That the senate should be the slaves of the people, they to whom the people have entrusted, as it were, the reins and checks of government over themselves?
THEREFORE I say, I thought that while you spoke this, you spoke divinely, but P. Rutilius Rufus, a learned man, and one who has applied to philosophy, maintained that what you said was not only unseasonable, but scandalous and profligate. The same person used to blame Servius Galba, whom he said he remembered very well, because upon an action brought against him by L. Scribonius, he had worked the people to compassion, when M. Cato, the severe and implacable enemy of Galba, declaimed against him with great bitterness and vehemence before the people in a speech which he himself has published among his antiquities. The circumstance, however, for which Rutilius blamed Galba, was because he had reared almost upon his shoulders the young son of Caius Sulpicius Gallus, who was his relation; and thereby drew tears from the people, upon their remembering how dear his father had been to them; and recommended himself and his two infant sons to the guardianship of the Roman people; and had made a kind of a soldier's will; by which, without observing any of the usual formalities, he had left the people of Rome the guardian of their orphan state. Rutilius said, that by those touching circumstances, though Galba was both hated and detested by the people at that time, he was acquitted; and I find the same thing said in the writings of Cato, who observes that, had it not been for the children and his tears, he had certainly been condemned. Rutilius expressed great indignation at all this, and said, that banishment, nay death itself, was preferable to such meannesses. nay, he not only said it, but proved by his practice, that he thought as he spoke; for, (though you know it,) he was a mirror of innocence, and though no man in Rome had cleaner hands, or a purer heart, he not only refused to be a suppliant to his judges, but to make use of any ornament or liberty in his defence, other than the simple language of truth. He allotted some part of his defence to Cotta, a most eloquent youth, the son of his sister. Q. Mucius likewise had some share in that defence, and spoke in his own way, without pomp, but with purity and perspicuity. But if you, Crassus, who a little while ago maintained that an orator, in order to accomplish himself in eloquence, must have recourse to the disputations of philosophers, had then pleaded; and had you been at liberty to have spoken for Rutilius, not as a philosopher, but, in your own way, as an orator; though those ruffians had been, as they really were, the plagues of the state, and deserved severe punishment; yet the power of your eloquence had rooted all the hardened guilt from the very bottom of their souls; now we have lost the man who, in making his defence, spoke as if he had been tried in Plato's Utopian commonwealth. Not a groan was heard; not a rapture of approbation broke from any of the advocates; not a pang was felt; not a complaint put up; nobody implored the state; nobody interceded for the accused. In short, nobody so much as stamped on the ground with his foot; for fear, I suppose, lest it might give offence to the stoics.
THIS consular Roman imitated the famous Socrates, who, as he possessed the greatest wisdom and purity of any man alive, when he was tried for his life, spoke in such a manner, that he appeared not as a suppliant or a prisoner, but the lord and the master of his judges. Insomuch, that when Lysias, that most eloquent orator, had brought him an oration ready penned, which, if he pleased, he might have got by heart, and repeated in his defence; he cheerfully read it, and owned that it was prettily wrote; but, said he, if you brought me Sicyonian shoes that were very neat, and just fitted me, I should refuse to wear them, because they do not become a man; so I think that this oration is eloquent and rhetorical, but not strong and manly. The consequence of this was, that he too was condemned; not only in the first votes, by which the judges only determine whether they shall condemn or acquit, but in the sentence which, by their laws, they are afterwards obliged to pass. For at Athens, when the accused was condemned, if it was not for a capital fault, the punishment admitted, as it were, of a valuation. When, in consequence of the first sentence, the accused was left to the power of the judges, he was asked, what he could chiefly plead as a plea for the mitigation of his punishment? Socrates being asked this question, answered, that he deserved to be distinguished with the highest honours and rewards; and that victuals should be publicly and daily served up to him in the Prytaneum; which in Greece is looked upon as the highest mark of honour. This answer so much exasperated the judges, that they condemned to death that most innocent person, who, if he had been acquitted, (which I own nothing to us, however I wish, on account of his great genius, that he had,) how can we bear with these philosophers, who now (though Socrates was condemned for no other crime but his want of eloquence) pretend, that all the rules of speaking are to be sought from them? I will not dispute with them about the superiority or truth of the two professions, I say only, that eloquence is different from philosophy, and may, without it, be perfect.
FOR now I receive, Crassus, why you so violently extolled the civil law; while you were speaking of it, I did perceive it. In the first place, you put yourself under the tuition of Scævola, whom we have all of us the greatest reason to love, for his exceeding sweetness of temper. His art, which you found undowered, unattended, and undressed, you enriched by the wealth and ornament of words. In the next place, as you had bestowed a great deal of pains and labour upon this art, while Scævola was the prompter of your studies, and your domestic tutor, you were afraid, if you did not exaggerate its praise by your eloquence, that you had lost your labour. But I do not even find fault with that art; let it have all the importance you have ascribed to it. For without doubt, it is great, diffusive, generally interesting, highly honoured, and our most eminent citizens are now at the head of that profession. But take care, my friend, while you want to dress the study of the civil law, lest your strip and bare it of those ornaments that are appropriated to it. Now, if you had expressed yourself so as that the professions of law and eloquence were reciprocal, then you should have laid the foundations of two eminent arts, equal in themselves, and sharing the same dignity. But, by the argument you just now formed, you confessed that a man may be, as many have been, a lawyer, without that eloquence which is the subject of our present inquiry; but you deny that without the knowledge of the civil law it is possible to form an orator. Thus, you make a lawyer in himself nothing, but a sly cunning limb of the law, a crier of actions, a bawler of forms, and a word-catcher. But, because an orator in his pleading often makes use of law, therefore you have joined the study of the law to that of eloquence, as if the former were the waiting-maid of the latter.
BUT, as you have expressed your surprise at the impudence of those advocates, who with very little knowledge make very great professions, or in causes presume to treat of the most important points in the civil law, though they are both ignorant of them, and never have learned them; both these seeming absurdities may be very easily and readily defended. For we are not a bit surprised that a man who is ignorant of the very forms of a contract, should be capable of defending a woman who has been contracted; though the art of navigating a great and a small vessel is the same; yet it does not follow that a man who is ignorant of the form of drawing up an agreement, should for that reason, be incapable of pleading a cause upon the distribution of the estate of a family. As to your bringing as instances some of the principal law causes tried before the court of the Centumviri, what cause among them could not have been very eloquently spoken to by a man of eloquence, though unskilled in the law? In all those causes indeed there was a very great disagreement of opinion among the greatest men of the law; especially in that of Manius Curius, which was lately pleaded by you; in the case of C. Hostilius Mancinus, and of the boy who was born of a second wife, without any intimation of the father's intention to marry being sent to the former wife. I should, therefore, be glad to know what assistance the knowledge of the law can be to an orator in those causes, where in the lawyer, who has the superiority, succeeds not by means of his own, but of a foreign professions; I mean he is supported, not by his skill in law, but by eloquence. Indeed I have very often heard this that when Publius Crassus stood for the edileship, and was favoured by Ser. Galba, who was his elder, and of consular dignity, because he had contracted the daughter of Crassus to his own son Caius, that a certain country fellow applied to Crassus for his advice: after he had taken Crassus aside, and laid the matter before him, he was dismissed with a very just answer, but less favourable than the situation of his affairs required: that when Galba saw him look melancholy, he called him by name, and asked him what the nature of the case was upon which he had consulted Crassus? After the man had told him with a visible concern what it was; I see answered Galba, that Crassus hath given you his opinion while his mind was perplexed and busied. He then took Crassus by the hand; hark ye, says he, how did you take it in your head to give such an opinion? Then that great man began to insist upon it, that his opinion was right and unquestionable. But Galba, with variety and plenty of allusions, brought a great many parallel cases, and talked a good deal in defence of equity against law; that Crassus being no match for Galba, though he was a well-spoken man, but not at all comparable to the other, he ran to his books, and brought the writings of his brother Publius Mucius, and the commentaries of Sextus Ælius, as vouchers for what he advanced; yet at the same time he owned that Galba had formed a very plausible, and almost a very just, argument.
YET causes that are of such a nature, that no doubt in point of law can arise in them, never use to be tried in courts. For who sues for an estate upon the right of a will, which a father had made before his son was born? Nobody, because such an event sets the will aside; so that cases of this kind admit of no dispute in law. An orator therefore may without any blame be ignorant of this part of the law in actions, a part that without doubt is by far the greatest. But, in law cases, that are canvassed by men of the greatest skill in their profession, it is no difficult matter for an orator to find some authority to support the part that he defends; from which, after he has received the missile weapons, he himself shall direct them by the force and nerves of eloquence. But, (I speak this under correction of my very good friend Scævola,) when you defended the cause of your father-in-law from writings and rules of law; did you not rather seize the province of defending equity, wills, and the destination of the deceased? But give me leave to say, as I was often present and heard you, you won over the greatest part of the votes by your wit, your humour, and your delicate touches of raillery. When you played upon the mighty discovery made by Scævola, and admired his penetration when he found out, that a man before he dies must be born; when you made many collections from the decrees of the senate, from common life and common talk, not only with great subtilty, but with great humour and wit; but all tending to prove, that if we are to follow the letter more than the spirit of a deed, nothing can be effected. Therefore the trial had in it a great deal of mirth and pleasantry, nor can I understand that the knowledge of the civil law was of any service to you; but the noble energy of eloquence, worked up with so graceful a spirit, was of great. Mucius himself, the defender of paternal authority, that champion, as it were, for a paternal inheritance; when he pleaded against you in that cause, what did he display that seemed to be taken from the study of the civil law? What statute did he quote? What obscurity did he clear up to the unlearned in any part of his speech? Why, the whole of his discourse turned upon this single point, that the letter of a deed ought to have greatest weight. But what is this more than every school-boy practises with his master; when in their exercises they are taught in causes of this kind, sometimes to defend the letter, and sometimes the equity of a deed? And is it likely that in the cause of the soldier, had you either appeared for the heir or the soldier, that you would have placed the stress of your pleading upon the precedent of Hostilius, and not in the power and the address of eloquence that is so peculiar to yourself? Had you defended the testament you would have pleaded in such a manner, as that the whole system of the law of wills should have seemed to be attacked in the trial; or had you defended the cause of the soldier, you would in your own way have raised his father from the grave; you would have placed him before your eyes; he would have embraced his son, and with tears in his eyes would have recommended him to the protection of the Centumviri. By heavens! he would have forced the very walls and flints to have wept and cried, so that the whole uti lingua noncupasset should not have seemed to be written in the twelve tables, which you prefer before all the libraries in the world, but part of an old ballad.
NOW, to your charge of indolence against young men who neglect to study this very easy art. As for its easiness, let them look to that who, upon the very arrogance of knowing it, strut about as if they had compassed the most difficult task in the world. In the next place, do you look to it; for you say that it is a very easy art, but that some time or other, if somebody should learn another art for reducing this into an art, then it would be an art. In the next place, as to its being full of delight, these gentlemen will freely make over to you all their part of the pleasure, and the contented to be without it; nor is there one amongst them, who having any thing to study would not choose to commit to memory the Teucer of Pacuvius, than the statutes of Manilius upon bargains and sales. As to your opinion, that the love of our country ought to be the motive of our studying the learning of our ancestors, do not you see that the old statutes either are become obsolete, or repealed by new laws? But you think that the civil law renders men good, because it enacts rewards for virtue, and punishment for vice. I always was of opinion that if virtue can be communicated by reason, it is to be communicated through precept and persuasion, and not by threats, force, and terrors. For even without the knowledge of any positive law we may be sensible of the beauty of this maxim, to guard against evil. But with regard to myself, whom you make an exception to, as if I were the only man who can acquit myself in causes without the least knowledge of the law, my answer, Crassus, is, that I never either studied the civil law, nor was I even sensible of my loss for not knowing it, in those causes which I was capable of managing in our courts. For it is one thing to be an artist in a certain way and craft, and another to be neither a dunce nor a novice in common life, and the general practice of the world. Who amongst us may not make a circuit around our estates, or to look into our affairs in the country, either for profit or delight? Yet there is no man who is so void of sight and sense as to be absolutely ignorant of all that relates to seed-time and harvest, of pruning of trees and vines, at what time of the year, and after what manner they are done. Therefore if any gentleman was to survey his estate, or to give any orders to his steward or his manager in the country upon agriculture, must he make himself master of the works of Mago the Carthaginian? Or ought we to be contented with the common knowledge we have acquired on this subject? Why therefore, in like manner, may we not be sufficiently skilled in the civil law, especially as we are worn out in causes in the business and practice in the forum, so far, at least, as not to seem foreigners and strangers in our own country? But if some more obscure cause were laid before us, do you imagine it would be very difficult for us to consult with our friend Scævola, though the very people who laid their causes before us bring every thing to us ready consulted and prepared? But if the dispute shall happen upon a matter of fact, upon marches which lie at a distance, upon deeds and prescriptions, we then must study some crooked, and often some difficult points. If we are to canvass the laws or the opinions of men skilled in law, are we to be afraid, though we have no studied the civil law from our youth, that we shall not be able to make ourselves master of these?
BUT you will ask, is the knowledge of the civil law of no benefit to an orator? I cannot affirm this of any study, especially with regard to the person whose eloquence ought to adorn the different subjects he treats of; but those qualities that are indispensable to an orator are so many, so great, so difficult, that I am unwilling his application should be diverted into too many studies. How can any one deny that an orator in his attitude and deportment while he speaks, may not be improved by the action and grace of Roscius, yet it never came into any man's head to persuade any of those young gentlemen who study rhetoric to practise the airs of a player, while they are learning how to behave. To an orator what is so necessary as a good voice? Yet nobody who wishes to speak well, shall ever have my advice to be a slave to his voice, like the Greeks and the tragedians, who for many years together declaim in their seats, and every day before they pronounce a word, in their beds gradually raise their voice, and when they have done pleading sit down and shift, and, as it were, make it go through a scale, from the sharpest to the fullest accent. Were we to follow such practice, our clients would lose their causes as often as we attempted it, before we could get half through the scale. But if it is improper for us to be at much pains about our gesture, which is of great service to an orator, and our voice, which of itself is the greatest recommendation and support of eloquence; and if, in improving both, we are to consult our conveniency, we are to consult the leisure which we have from our daily practice; of how much less importance is it for us to demean ourselves to making ourselves masters of the study of the civil law? which, in general, can be both understood without learning, and is so far different from these matters, in that, the voice and action cannot, upon any emergency, be brought or borrowed from elsewhere; whereas all the utility of the civil law in any cause, let us have ever so short notice, may be known either from books or its professors. Therefore, those most eloquent men have their understrappers, who are skilled in law affairs, though they themselves know nothing of the matter, and those fellows, as you told us a little while ago, are called Solicitors. But, in this respect, our countrymen take a much better method in guarding the laws and the rights of their country by the authority of the most eminent men. But the Greeks, if they thought it necessary that an orator himself should be skilled in the civil law, and not leave every thing to a solicitor, would never have neglected this precaution.
AS to what you say about old age being fenced against solitude, by the knowledge of the civil law, that may very well be, for they commonly make a great deal of money by it; but the subject of our inquiry is not upon what is useful to us, but what is necessary to an orator. And, because we derive from one artist in his way a great many properties resembling those of an orator; the same Roscius used to observe, that the older he grew he would render the notes of the music, and the recitative, more slack and slow; but if he who was bound down to a certain quantity of numbers and feet studied how to indulge his old age, how much more easily may we not only relax, but even alter the whole chime? For you, Crassus, must be sensible of the multiplicity and variety of the kinds of eloquence, and I do not know but you yourself prove this, since you have long spoke a great deal more slowly and gently than you used, and yet the smoothness of this grave manners is as much approved of as all the commanding power of energy you formerly exerted; and there have been many speakers, who in the manner said to be used by Scipio and Lælius, always delivered themselves in a smooth manner, and never, like Servius Galba, rending their throats and their sides. But, supposing you are neither willing nor able to practise this at such a time of life, would you be afraid that your house, the house of such a man, such a citizen, if unfrequented by the lovers of wrangling, would be deserted by others? Indeed I am so far from that opinion, that I not only think that the comfort of old age is not to be placed in the multitude of those who come to consult upon law affairs; but I would long for your dreaded solitude, to be as it were a harbour of repose; for I look upon leisure from company to be the most charming comfort of old age. As to the other points, even though they are auxiliaries, I mean the knowledge of history and the municipal law, the progress of antiquity, and variety of precedents; if I at any time have occasion for these, I will borrow them from my friend Longinus, who is both a very worthy man, and extremely well versed in such matters; neither shall I be against the advice which you just now gave, their reading and hearing every thing, their applying to every commendable study, and every branch of polite learning. But, upon my word, Crassus, if they should take it in their heads to follow your dictates, I do not see what time they can have for going through them; you likewise seem to me as to lay too severe a task upon gentlemen of that age, though I own it is almost necessary for their attaining to what they purpose. For both sudden practisings upon causes that are proposed, and correct, digested declamations, together with the exercise of the pen, which, as you have well observed, both finishes and directs the orator, are tasks of great difficulty; and the comparison which you mentioned one ought to make betwixt his own foreign compositions, with the extempore practice of praising of taking to pieces; of defending or refuting, upon reading the writing of another author, is no easy matter, either for the memory or the judgment to compass.
BUT there was another thing that was quite frightful; and, upon my word, I am afraid that it will tend more to discourage than to promote this study; for you insisted upon each of us being, as it were, a Roscius in his profession; you said that what was excellent did not meet with such applause, as what was faulty gave lasting distaste; yet I do not think that our performance is examined so critically and nicely as is that of a player. To prove this, I have often seen an audience profoundly attentive to gentlemen of our profession, even though they were hoarse; because the subject itself, and the cause, fixes them; but, if Æsopus has got but a little hoarseness, he is hissed. For when people look for nothing more than to please their ears, they are shocked at every circumstance that in the least takes off from that pleasure. But in eloquence there are many properties that are interesting enough to please them; and if all of these are not of the greatest, as most of them are of great, consequence, it necessarily happens that those which are so should appear wonderful. That I may, therefore, return to our first proposition; let an orator be a person, as as Crassus has described him, who knows the most proper method of persuading; but let him be confined to the usual practice of this city and forum; and quitting all other studies, be they ever so inviting and noble, let him, as I may say, night and day, be pressing to this mark; let him imitate Demosthenes, the famous Athenian, who is allowed to be a most excellent orator, whose indefatigable study and application was such, as is said, that in the first place, by habit and perseverance, he corrected the defects of nature. For having such an impediment in his speech, that he could not pronounce the R, which is the first letter of the art he was studying, he grew so perfect by his practising before-hand, that he was thought to pronounce it as well as any man of his time. In the next place, as he was naturally short-winded, yet by keeping in his breath, he came to so great perfection in speaking, that in one continued period, as may be seen in his works, he twice raised and lowered his voice. We are further told, that putting pebbles into his mouth, he used at one breathing to pronounce a number of verses with a loud voice, and that too not standing, but walking, and mounting a steep ascent. I am, Crassus, entirely of the same opinion with you, that young gentlemen ought to be quickened to study and application by such motives as these. As for the other accomplishments, which you have collected out of different professions and arts, though you are master of them all yourself, yet I think they are quite distinct from what is properly the business and duty of an orator.
WHEN Antonius had done speaking, it is very certain, that Cotta and Sulpicius seemed to be puzzles to find out on whose side the truth lay. Then, said Crassus,d you have formed a mechanical orator, my friend, though I do not know but that you think otherwise, and are now practising upon us that wonderful and unrivalled talent you have in confuting; a practise that is one part, indeed, of an orator's profession, but has, for some time, been taken up by philosophers, especially those who use to talk on both sides of any question that is proposed, with great readiness and flow: but it never entered into my head to think, that all I had to do, especially in this company, was to lay before you the qualifications of a fellow, who dwells in the lower forms of a court, and never rises above what the immediate emergencies of his causes require. No, I had my eye upon a higher object, when I gave it as my judgment, that an orator, especially a Roman orator, ought to be void of no accomplishment. But as you have confined the profession of an orator within certain narrow bounds, it will be the more easy for you to explain to us what you require, as to his duties and learning. But I think we may refer that to another day; for this day we have said enough: at present, let Scævola, because he proposed to go to Tusculanum, rest a little till the heat is abated, while we, since the time of the day requires it, take care of our own health. When this was agreed to by the whole company, indeed, says Scævola, I wish that I had not made an appointment to see Lælius at Tusculanum to day; I should have heard Antonius with great pleasure; and, as he was rising, why, really, said he, with a smile, it did not give near so much pain, that Antonius pulled our profession of the civil law in pieces, as it gave me pleasure that he confessed he knew nothing of it.
- THE END OF THE FIRST DAY'S CONFERENCE
- Sound government] The Latin has it optima republica, by which Cicero means a constitution without any innovations from corruption or power; the sentiment here is worthy a Roman patriot, who had seen the constitution of his country subverted by a concurrence of both; and we may observe he insinuates that no honour could be employed with satisfaction to the possessor, if it was not attended with public liberty.
- There is here in the original an allusion to the chariot races, which being frequent and familiar to the Romans, were extremely beautiful in that age, but such a metaphor would appear lifeless and insipid, if we should pretend to adopt it exactly in a translation.
- Any person who is ever so little acquainted with the Roman history must be sensible, that Cicero entered upon life just at the period when the Roman liberty began to receive those blows that afterwards subverted it, and in which he himself was a deep sharer.
- This possibly alludes to his fine seats, which upon his banishment were sold and demolished by the interest and fury of Clodius and his party.
- The billows] It is plain, that the enemies of Cicero would have found it difficult to have affected him legally, had it not been for the incautious part which he appears to have acted in the Catilinarian conspriacy in putting the friends of Catiline to death; a conduct, which though he conceived to be warranted by necessity, was by no means agreeable to the principles of the Roman government.
- Ever pay] One cannot help observing with what art Cicero reconciles good manners to affection, and admiring a friendship so disinterested, yet so delicate, so full at once of respect and love. There are few passages that I would sooner venture to recommend to a reader than this, since it is certain, that the decay of the passion of friendship among the moderns is in a great measure owing to that fulsome freedom, and want of delicacy which prevails among friends, and which often renders the strictest connexions nauseous and cold. The avoiding this I am convinced was the true secret that produced such instances of exalted friendship among the ancients.
- A conference] So much has been said by our best writers in commendation of the manner of treating a subject by dialogue, that it is needless to insist upon its uses here, any further than to observe, that this subject particularly required to be treated in this manner; since Cicero thereby avoided that dogmatical air which his treating this subject must otherwise have given him.
- I am sorry to observe, that this remark of our author has in it very little solidity, though it is excellently well calculated for displaying his eloquence. Besides, great part of what he afterwards says is the common cant of all writers upon the arts they excel in, or want to recommend, and out author has, by varying the expression a little, recommended philosophy, as attended with the same excellencies he ascribes to eloquence here. Vid. Qu. Tusc. lib. v. §. 5.
- Few good orators] Suetonius, or whoever wrote the lives of famous orators, accounts for this in a way that it is probable Cicero by no means thought for the honour of his country; for, we are told there, the Roman government was so jealous of the effects of oratory, that neither it, nor grammar were suffered to be taught in Rome; and that under the consulate of Fannius Strabo and Vallerius Messala, who by the bye were consuls 98 years before our author, all philosophers and orators were expelled Rome by a decree of the senate. And indeed such a conduct was extremely agreeable to the maxims of a government which by that time had reason to be jealous of the effect which eloquence might produce upon the minds of a people impatient of living under a severe aristocracy, and watchful of every opportunity to shake it off, or at least lessen their dependance on the senate. The experience of after-ages proved that this jealously was but too well founded.
- First principles] The terms here used by our author are extremely expressive in the Latin, but cannot bear a translation into English. Pervestigationi Scientiæ can only signify reasoning from effects to first causes, the noblest philosophy, known to the ancients, and but little attended to among the moderns, who, till lately, for many ages were bewildered into the jargon of favourite systems.
- A musician] As no opinion upon our author can have equal weight with that of Quintilian, whose institutes are indeed the superstructure of that foundation which Cicero has so well laid down in this treatise, I shall take the liberty to transcribe into English a passage or two from him, which proves what opinion the ancients had of music: “Every one knows, that in former ages this art was not only studied, but adored, and its professors were esteemed prophets and sages. Were not Orpheus and Linus (to name no more) believed to be descended of the gods? And it is told of the first of these, that he not only quieted and charmed the passions of men and the fury of wild beasts, but even made the very stones and woods dance after him by the power of his music. Timagenes says, that music is the most ancient of all arts. The most famous poets are likewise of the same opinion; for they introduce musicians at the feasts of kings singing the praises of the gods and heroes. Thus in Virgil, Jopas is singing errantem Lunam, Solisque labores, by which that admirable poet asserts, that music is even joined with the knowledge of divine things.”
But these are only a part of the lavish praises he bestows on music. Soon after he says, “Hitherto I have been only speaking in praise of music, but have not shewn its connexion with oratory; I shall now proceed and shew, that among the ancients grammar and music were always joined together. Thus Archytas and Aristoxenus were of opinion that grammar was subject to music, and tell us, that both were taught by one master, &c.” Inst. lib. i. cap. 8.
- Yet small] Though I very much doubt of this fact, yet admitting it to be true, it may I think be easily accounted for. Eloquence is an art, of which there is not one species that can be universally adapted to all places, ages, and governments: for instance, the species that prevailed in Greece was different from what prevailed at Rome, (see the Preface to the Orations) that kind which Cicero used was different from that used by Pliny; the eloquence of the French is different from that of the English, and that of the Italians different from both. Whereas the language of great actions in a hero, of harmony in a musician, of genius in a poet, or proportion in a mathematician, is a language understood at all times, by every people, and in all ages; it is a language not depending, as success in oratory does, upon the form of a government, the manners of a people, or the caprice of a judge, but founded on principles, and to be examined only by truth.
But what accounts still better for this observation of our author is, that the true source of perfection in eloquence is emulation. If at a bar of any supreme judicature nobody should appear but those who neglect the ornaments of discourse, a man with equal knowledge of the laws, and very little application to the study of eloquence, may be the best pleader at such a bar, and yet not a good orator; therefore in reality, good orators have only appeared in ages when emulation prompted them to study; when several great men applying themselves to the same art, each endeavoured to outvie another, till one by his success and popularity eclipsed the glory of the rest, and that happy man in after-times was looked upon as the only orator, and engrossed the palm of eloquence to himself. Nothing can better illustrate this observation than the fate of those orators who lived in the time of Cicero, who are now known only in his writings.
If it is objected, that poets are subjected to the same disadvantages, I answer; they are, when their case if that of orators, viz. when by the nature of their study they are led into an emulation of each other; for then the fame of the most excellent will swallow up that of the rest; and though the Roman empire in the Augustan age was crowded with poets of all kinds, yet the works of none have come to our hands, but those that in their own age were allowed to excel: but it is possible for two or three poets to live in the same age, and yet not clash with one another. Horace had no jealousy of Virgil; both excelled in a different way, and therefore both have been transmitted to posterity: whereas the others who attempted epic and lyric poetry in that age, and who were longo proximi intervallo, have been distanced by time, and shut out of the career of fame. A great deal more might be said on this subject, perhaps I should not have said so much, were it not that Cicero appears in this passage to be very partial in favour of his beloved art. Upon the whole, we may venture to say, that this paradox of our author may be accounted for by the circumstances attending the profession of ancient eloquence rather than any extraordinary compass of learning, and difficulty that attends the study itself.
- All method] The reader may now perceive, that in Cicero’s opinion there is a great difference betwixt a well-spoken man and an orator. I own that I conceive a very high opinion of the eloquence of those brave Romans who must have spoken good sense and manly sentiments, before eloquence became an art, and in some measure a trade. Quintillian however has admirably well explained this point.
“Do not even the bees extract that fragrant taste which honey alone can impart to human sense, from very different flowers and juices? Is there any wonder that eloquence (which is the greatest gift heaven has given to men) requires many arts to perfect it? and though they do not all appear in an oration, or seem to be of any use, they nevertheless afford an inward supply of strength, and are silently felt in the mind; without these a man many be eloquent, but I want to form an orator; and none can be said to have all the requisites, while the smallest thing is wanting.” Inst. Orat. lib. 1. cap. 7.
- Capacities of Romans] This is so very wide of what Cicero himself knew to be the truth, that I am apt to think that he meant it ironically. Had he indeed lived some years later, he might have had some shadow of a pretence to have disputed the prize of excellency in eloquence and poetry with Greece in favour of Rome; but it is impossible he could be serious in what he says here. Architecture, eloquence, painting, music, mathematics, were arts in his time unknown to Rome, otherwise than as they were imported from Greece, who long before had brought them to the highest perfection. In short, he speaks here with a more than poetical license, for Virgil has given up the point.
- Orig. Legum aut juris civilis] By the first he means the laws of nations which were the foundations of general society. But the jus civile was appropriated to the citizens of Rome. A passage in our author de Officiis, lib. iii. cap. 17, explains this difference. Quod civile non idem continuo Gentium, quod autem Gentium idem civile esse debet. See the translation of de Officiis, and Note p. 183.
- Preferred to the Greeks] I am afraid this is not levelled so much at the Greek method of teaching oratory as at the Greek eloquence, which in itself was more simple, uniform, and natural than the Roman, and consequently did not require all the auxiliaries which Cicero demands in an orator.
- It is worth while to take a short view of the propriety and beauty with which Cicero introduces his drama in the three great dramatic circumstances, time, place, and characters: the time, when the cause of the nobility was on the point of being ruined by an overbearing consul, who ought to have been their patron and defender: the scene is Tusculanum, at a small distance from Rome, and the most beautiful retreat in the world: the persons, Crassus, Antonius, Scævola; the first two the greatest orators, and the last one of the great lawyers of their age; Cotta and Sulpicius, two young gentlemen of the most promising appearances and great quality, assisted at the conferences. Cicero, as some learned men observe, introduced these great personages as bearing their parts in this drama, that he might wipe off the imputation of eloquence being taught at Rome by men of no quality or consideration in the state. We shall only observe further, that Cicero puts his own sentiments with regard to eloquence in the mouth of Crassus.
- The original is retinere homines in civitate, see Oration for Milo, §. 3. where he applies the same expression to his circumstances. The Romans were very delicate with regard to mentioning punishments, especially those that were capital, and if possible softened the terms.
- Romulus.] Every body who is in the least acquainted with the Roman history knows that of this father of the Roman state; we may only by the bye observe, that the affairs of the infancy of their city were not looked upon as fabulous in Cicero’s days, whatever they have been since.
- L. Brutus.] Though this great man was no orator, yet if we may believe Livy, he was a very eloquent person.—There is however great reason to be of Scævola’s sentiments here, for it is probable that the fine speeches put in the mouths of his heroes are all owing to the fruitful vein of the historian.
- Tiberius and C. Sempronii.] Our author means the celebrated T. and C. Gracchi, whose great abilities, integrity, and eloquence have not had the good fortune to be transmitted to prosperity in that favourable light, which to any person who can without prejudice reflect upon the true maxims of Roman liberty, they must appear in.
- Transferred, &c.] This had been before effected with regard to four city tribes, and it was an excellent expedient to balance the ambition of the people.
- An action] The original is interdicto tecum contenderent, which is, that they would bring the pretor’s decree against him.
- Seize you as an interloper] There is another civil law term here; manum conserere was the form of challenging property; the person saying at the same time meum est.
- Unequal chance] Orig. justo sacramento contendere non liceret. Contendere sacramento was when both parties put a sum of money into the hands of the priest; upon the decision of the cause, the loser to forfeit his deposit to sacred uses, and the other to have his returned. Justum sacramentum was when the case was so doubtful it was hard to say who would be gainer.
- Academics] They were generally sceptics, and used to puzzle their antagonists by denying every thing, but that they knew nothing.
- The stoics and peripatecians] To describe these two sects of philosophers would take up more room than can be spared in these notes. There is an excellent account of them in Stanley’s lives of the philosophers.
- We are obliged to the learned Dr. Pearce for rectifying this name, which in former editions stood Carneades.
- The orator] In a state such as was that of Rome, the qualification of an orator only could be attained by a regular course of application to that single study; but I believe any man of tolerable sense must see that such an orator must be somewhat ridiculous in the present age, and be looked upon as a pedant. It is true, there is a certain species of the ancient eloquence still required, and no doubt has a very great effect, but the art of the speaker then will consist in his concealing his art. But as to the chief point in which a good speaker in Britain shines, which is that of debating, it is plain from many instances of the greatest men, that a speaker may excel without either study or application to the art of eloquence.
- The art of an orator] Cicero would never have advanced this position had it not been from the excessive passion he had for his own profession, since nothing is more plain from daily experience, than that a clear head and a comprehensive knowledge of a subject will make almost any man eloquent, though he should never read a word upon the art of an orator.
- Propriety and elegance] This in one sense may be true, but if we regard the ends of speaking, which are to move and persuade, we shall find that the true way to succeed is to feel. A man who is himself deeply interested in an event will, with equal capacity and no study, make greater impressions before a judging assembly than another with all the application and art of an orator that Cicero was ever able to lay down. The reader will perceive that I all along take it for granted, that Cicero in the person of Crassus gives us his own sentiments.
- The arsenal] Pliny, lib. vii. speaks of this arsenal, and tell us that it was so commodious, and so large, that 1000 ships might have been drawn up to it, and might have lain dry, without being exposed to the injuries of the weather, or the seas.
- Heromodorus] He was a famous ship carpenter.
- Aratus] This poet was a Sicilian patronised by Antigonus king of Macedon, and cotemporary with Menander and Callimachus. Cicero was so much in love with his writings, that he translated his Phænomena, some part of which translation is now extant.
As to the doctrine which our author here lays down, there is nothing more certain than that a poet may describe an art without studying it, or particularly applying to it. But I am afraid it will be found there is a difference betwixt writing in verse, where a very superficial knowledge is required to make a very fine episode; and speaking of them in prose, where it is expected all the terms made use of are to be clearly laid down, and in case of any difficulty or reply they must be explained, which can never be done without the speaker being perfectly master of his subject.
- In one respect] This is true with regard to the principles of eloquence laid down and practised by Cicero; but certainly it does not hold as to the Greek manner, where truth alone is the object, or at least appears to be so.
- Fence] The reader may observe there is somewhat very arch in the character of Scævola. Crassus has just done speaking of fencing-schools, and the other cannot help beginning his reply with a sneer.
- Accomplished orator] Our author’s inordinate passion for praise made him seize every opportunity of drawing his own picture as an orator; it would appear from this and many other passages in a few pages following; that he imagined it must have a likeness, if all the fine things that he could form in imagination were crowded into it; that it was impossible to over-do in this respect, and that the more beautiful it was it must bear the strongest resemblance.
- Seas were dangerous] In the original there are various readings, and the passage may be translated either as I have, or waiting for the opportunity of a ship.
- Corax and Tisias, both of them Sicilians, are the most ancient writers upon the arts. Quintilian Inst. lib. iii. cap. 1. Quintilian no doubt means that they were the first that treated the arts systematically, for there were many excellent authors in most arts before their days. They were contemporary with Hiero of Syracuse, 475 years before Christ.
- An orator] Cicero in the following part of this paragraph, as I have observed before, has sate to his own picture, and there is no manner of doubt but it has the most perfect resemblance of the original; si sic omnia dixisset! Had he known his foibles as well as he did his beauties; had he trusted for fame to his character as an orator, no man could ever have appeared to posterity with greater lustre. But alas! he wanted that steadiness of head, that inviolable adherence to principle, which alone can reconcile the character of the best citizen and magistrate to that of the best speaker that ever lived.
It has frequently been a surprise with the learned, that Horace and Virgil, who have paid compliments in their writings to much more obnoxious characters than that of Cicero, have taken no manner of notice of our author, when they had so many fine opportunities. I own I cannot account for it any other way than by imputing it to the disgust which his wavering timid conduct in public affairs left behind him. Which inclines me strongly to believe this is the famous character drawn by Horace in the following lines.
Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida, neque auster
Dux inquieti turbidus Hadriae:
Nec fulminantis magna manus Iovis.
Si fractus inlabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinæ.
Hac arte Pollux, &c.
The man resolv’d, and steady to his trust,
Inflexible to all, and obstinately just,
May the rude rabble’s insolence despise,
Their senseless clamours and tumultuous cries:
The tyrant’s fierceness he beguiles.
And the stern brow, and the harsh voice defies,
And with superior greatness smiles.
Not the rough whirlwind that deforms
Adria’s black gulph, and vexes it with storms,
The stubborn virtue of his soul can move;
Nor the red arm of angry Jove,
That flings the thunder from the sky,
And gives it rage to roar, and strength to fly.
Should the whole frame of nature round him break,
In ruin and confusion hurl’d.
He unconcerned would bear the mighty crack,
And stand secure amidst a falling world.
Such were the god-like arts that led
Bright Pollux to the blest abodes.
Besides the striking import of this character, there are in it two touches very characteristical of our author, that I am convinced it was meant as an apology for the orator owing no immortality to the poet; and though we have no hint of this from antiquity, yet if one will consider how intelligible allusions are in the time of the author, and how necessary it is thought to illustrate them, he will not be surprised why the intention of the author in this, and many other fine passages, is doubtful. The first hint I would take notice of in the foregoing lines is, dux inquieti turbidus Adriæ. The reader may compare this with the circumstances which we are told by Plutarch of Cicero; that this dread of the seas was the occasion of his abandoning his wise and generous resolution to go over to Brutus in Macedonia. That this dread further prevailed upon him to think of the mean-spirited design of throwing himself upon the clemency of Octavius. Further, that in one night he was of twenty minds, and quite distracted with irresolution. I say, if a reader will compare all these circumstances, he will find very little room to doubt that Horace, in drawing this portrait, and marking it so strongly, had our author in his eye.
The next passage I would take notice of, is the expression, hac harte Pollux, &c. which I am afraid glances at our author’s trusting so much to his qualifications in this art for immortality. Nay, I will venture to say that to a man who knows the beauties of Horace, and with what propriety he introduces every expression, it will appear that Horace could not but have intended an allusion to a particular character. I could say a great deal more to support what I have here thrown out, but perhaps I ought to make an apology for having said so much.
- The original is inhumanitate, perhaps it should be translated ill-manners. I have translated it as I thought Cicero meant it.
- Principles of this pretended art] Earum rerum quæ quasi traduntur in arte, say the common editions; quæ quasi in arte traduntur, says Dr. Pearce’s, and to be sure he is right; for the genius of the language will not suffer the first order of the words to admit of what Cicero certainly meant, as I have translated it.
- Administrations] In the original cretionibus. I have translated it by the nearest words I could light of in our language. The cretiones were of two kinds; the one vulgar, in which the words quibus scio poteroque were inserted; the other absolute, in which they were not inserted. Ulpianus, tit. 22.
- Whether any man there had any question to start] I am sorry to observe it, but it appears from this passage, that quackery in learning is of a very ancient date. These philosophers were a kind of intellectual prize-fighters; of such we have had great plenty since; one Crighton, a Scotchman, in the sixteenth century, was a perfect knight errant in this way; for he made the tour of Europe, and published placarts wherever he came, that he was ready to dispute with any man not only upon any subject, but in any language his opponent should choose. If I am not mistaken he likewise offered to dispute in prose or verse; so very indefatigable was he in rendering himself ridiculous.
- Nature and genius] Quintilian in his preface, §. 4. has a very beautiful expression upon this subject; illud tamen imprimis testandum est, nihil precepta atque artes valere nisi adjuvante natura. Quapropter ei cui deerit ingenium non magis hæc scripta sunt, quam de agrorum cultu sterilibus terris.
We must, says he, premise, that precepts and art can do nothing without the concurrence of nature. For those pages are no more wrote for the use of a person who has no genius, than a treatise upon agriculture can be supposed calculated for the improvement of barren ground.
- The chief point of art is gracefulness] The ancients had an exceeding beautiful allusion upon this head. In all undertakings say they, let us sacrifice to the graces. It was by observing this important lesson, rather than from any superiority of genius, that their writings have lived so long in esteem. An excellent English satirist has expressed the meaning of this allusion beautifully.
He who blots out, and blots not out the best,
Pours lustre in, and dignifies the rest.
But the poet, in these two lines, hints only at one cause which destroys the gracefulness of a performance produced by genius; and that is, the fondness of an author for his own work, and his being loath to blot what he thinks is well said, no matter with what propriety it comes in. There is another source of ungracefulness, which was the cause of all the gothicisms which infected the fine arts for 1200 years, and that was mistaking ornament for beauty, and thence aiming at an unnatural perfection. The Goths, observing the ancient architecture with a few ornaments was very beautiful, they concluded that if it had more ornaments it must be more beautiful, till at length all was ornament, and nothing beauty. The same fate, from the same cause, attended poetry, eloquence, painting, and statuary.
- Handling his pen] This precept will be found useful to all manner of speakers, and we have known some of the greatest men in our age and country owe the excellency of their eloquence to this precaution. The following simile of our author is extremely just and beautiful.
- Art as exercise] Our author no doubt means, that by exercise one may come into artful management and disposition of all the exterior circumstances of speaking.
- Tack the rules, &c.] The art of memory was in great vogue, and of a good deal of advantage among the Greeks. The moderns, especially the Germans, in the last age, wrote a great many books upon it; but if the ancients had not proceeded upon some principles that were more worthy the exercise of rational faculties than the Germans did, it is probable we should not have it recommended by Cicero.
- Dispute upon any side] I do not know if the rapidity with which Crassus speaks here can plead for an excuse for this expression. Quintilian, to his immortal honour, looked upon the profession of an orator in another light than we do upon that of a Swiss: he thought that no man could distinguish himself without great virtues as well as great qualities. I wish that we could say he had learned this from the precepts our author lays down in this treatise.
- Because the thing, &c.] The words I have put in capitals appear to have been part of the law.
- His brother Scævola] To understand the wit of this saying of Crassus it may be proper to observe, that the family of the Scævola, as he himself hints before in this dialogue, was famous for their knowledge of the civil law as was that of Crassus for eloquence; Scævola marrying the sister of Crassus gave the latter a handle for this saying. The Crassus here mentioned was not Marcus the famous triumvir, who was killed by the Parthians, and famous for his wealth, but another, who, according to certain authors in Gellius, had five several pre-eminences, viz. 1st, in riches; 2dly, in quality; 3dly, in eloquence; 4thly, in jurisprudence; and 5thly, in the sacerdotal college.
Is Crassus a Sempronio Asellione, et plerisque aliis historiæ Romanæ scriptor ibus traditur quinque habuisse verum bonarum maximo et præcipua, quod esset ditissimus, quod nobilissimus, quod eloquentissimus, quod jurisconsultissimus, quod pontifex maximus. Gell. Noct. Att. l. i. c. 13.
- Laws relating to application] The clientships among the Romans constituted a part of the estate of a great man. There is a remarkable passage upon this head in Aulus Gellius, which gives us a clear view of the subordination of civil relations among the old Romans; the first relation next to that of son and father, says he, is that betwixt a guardian and his ward; the second, that betwixt a patron and his client; the third, that betwixt a landlord and his guest; lastly, those of kindred and alliance. But the words of Gellius contain somewhat so express and diffusive that I cannot omit giving them to the learned reader, who I believe will agree that there are few more curious passages in all antiquity.
Conveniebat autem facile constabatque, ex moribus populi Romani, primum juxta parentes locum tenere pupillos debere fidei tutelæque nostræ creditos: secundum eos proximum locum clientes habere, qui sese itidem in fidem patrociniumque nostrum dediderunt: tum in tertio loco esse hospites; postea esse cognatos affinesque. Hujus moris observationisque multa sunt testimonia documentaque in antiquitatibus perscripta. Ex quibus unum hoc interim, de clientibus cognotisque, quod præ manibus est ponemus. M. Cato in oratione, quam dixit apud censores in Lentulum, ita scripsit. “Quod majores sanctius habuere defendi Pupillos, quam clientem non fallere? Adversus cognatos pro cliente testatur; testimonium adversum clientem nemo dicit: patrem primum, deinde patronum proximum nomen habere.” Gellius Noct. Att. l. v. c. 13.
- Capital causes] The English reader is often imposed upon by this expression in Roman authors. Therefore it may be necessary to take notice, that in very few instances the life of a Roman citizen could be attacked. The word caput here does not mean the natural life, neither did the expression capitalis causa import a capital cause in our sense of the words. Capitalis, says Modestinus, Latine loquentibus omnis causa existimationis videtur. That is, whatever cause could in its event affect the honour and reputation of a person, such cause was capital.
- Upon making up the rolls] This passage is proposed by some annotators as a very curious field for criticism. The original is ubi lustrum conditum. Camerarius informs us, that he saw a very old copy, where the whole passage runs thus. Cum quæritur is qui domini voluntate census sit, si non conditum lustrum sit, sit ne liber? Et continuone an tribus lustris conditis liber sit. I shall leave the discussion of the authority of the two readings to those who are inclined to pursue the matter further; it is sufficient to take notice here, 1st. That if a person was upon the rolls of the Census, it would appear that at the time of making up those rolls, every person whose name was contained in them could, and upon any future occasion might have appealed to them for proofs, that he was then a Roman citizen: for this see Cicero's oration for Archias the poet. 2dly. It would appear from his oration for Cæcina, that though a man was a slave, his being enrolled in the Census rendered him free. These two considerations seem to determine the reading of this passage as I have translated it. Condere lustrum was no other than finishing the rolls, at which time, we see by Livy, certain plays were celebrated.
- Grammar] It appears that the ancients by the study of grammar meant the study of what we call the Belles Lettres.
- The great pleasure and satisfaction] I believe Crassus may have the suffrage of all succeeding ages for what he has advanced here. There certainly never was so excellent a digest of laws formed, as was that of the twelve tables, for securing property; and had the public liberty obtained as strong a barrier, the constitution of the Roman governement, in some sense, might have been said to be immortal. In the mean time, though we justly wonder at the neglect which, as appears from the words of Cicero, prevailed at Rome, with regard to this study, we perhaps in England are as defective as to the civil law. This is a most miserable omission in the education of young gentlement who have a prospect of being one day members of the British Legislature, where the most important points as to peace and war turn upon the principles of the civil law, and where even many private causes and matters of right that come before them, can never be either understood or decided but by a knowledge of the civil law: in short, what Cicero here puts into the mouth of Crassus is but too applicable to our own time and country.
- The wisest of mankind] Our author here means Ulysses, whose ruling passion, according to Homer, was the love of his country, which, according to some critics, was not near so contemptible as Cicero makes it appear in this passage.
- Deliver us from our calamities] These are the words of Crassus in an oration which he pronounced before the people upon a different that happened betwixt the senators and the knights. This fragment is sufficient to shew the distress to which the senate was reduced upon that occassion
- I do not touch upon those calamities] The reader in this, and many other passages, will perceive, that Cicero alludes to the opinion of the stoics, who admitted of no mediocrity or trimming in principles, and made no allowances for passions and circumstances.
- P. Rutilius Rufus] Cicero has here introduced the character of a true stoic in the person of this Rutilius.
- Servius Galba] This Galba was a very artful, cunning, fellow; when he was governor in Spain he was guilty of great oppression and cruelty, and therefore impeached upon his return.
- Prytaneum] This was a place in Athens where their public affairs were transacted
- I did perceive it] There is a difference in reading here; same copies have it, tum quum dicebas non videbam.
- Cause of the soldier, &c.] Pontius, who had sent his son to the war against the Cimbri, persuaded by a false information that he was there slain, appointed by his will Torquatus for his heir, and died: but his son, his lawful heir, on his return from the army, got the will to be set aside by a decree of the senate.
- Uti lingua noncupasset] This was a part of law jargon that is impossible to be translated so as to give the reader any information of what is meant.
- Easy art] I have purposely preserved the repetition of the word art, because Antonius seems to intend that it should throw the reasoning of Crassus into a ridiculous light.
- Teucer of Pacuvius] This Pacuvius, the son of the famous poet Ennius, being himself an excellent tragedian, was born at Brundisium, and died in extreme old age; for, Quintilian says, he lived about ninety years. We have his epitaph in A. Gellius, ch. 24, thus wrote by himself, which may serve to shew his great modesty.
- Adolescens, tamen etsi properas, hoc te saxum rogat,
- Uti ad se aspicias; deinde quod scriptu'st legas.
- Hic sunt poetæ Marcei Pacuviei sita
- Ossa. Hoc volebam nescius ne esses. Vale.
- Adolescens, tamen etsi properas, hoc te saxum rogat,
- Virtue can be communicated] The Pagan philosophers as well as the Christian divines, had their disputes upon the subject of virtue; namely, if one could be virtuous by the assistance of nature alone, without the assistance of reason, or if they both contributed. Socrates was of the last opinion, but others declared for the first, saying, that virtue depended upon the constitution of our temper. The Peripatetics followed the mean between both extremes, for they taught that there is a seed of virtue implanted in our souls that flourishes by supernatural aid.
- Mago the Carthaginian] The author of eight and twenty books upon country affairs; which were judged to be of so great use, that Dionysius of Utica, by order of the sense, translated them into Latin. There remains to this day some fragment of the said work in the Vatican library at Rome.
- Before we could get half through the scale] All this passage for two or three lines before can be scarcely be translated; the original is pæanem aut munionem, which probably answers to our sol fa la.
- The same Roscius] It would appear from this, and many other passages of antiquity, that the Roman players, while they were acting, spoke to certain airs of music which accompanied their voice.
- The progress of antiquity] Cicero probably means by the expression of iter antiquitatis, which is in the original, the progress which the laws of the twelve tables made from one country to another, before they were digested and became the laws of Rome.