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A BRIEF outline of the pripcipal part of the following Work was sketched.cut zeferal ycars ago for the private use of some courg, friends ; and from that MS. chiefly, the Article “ Rhetoric” in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana was afterwards drawn up. I was induced to believe that it might be more useful if published in a separate form; and I have accordingly, with the assistance of some friends, revised the treatise, and made a few additions and other alterations which suggested themselves; besides dividing it in a manner more convenient for reference.
The title of “ Rhetoric,” I have thought it best on the whole to retain, as being that by which the Article in the Encyclopædia is designated; though it is in some respects open to objection. Besides that it is rather the more commonly employed in reference to public Speaking alone, it is also apt to suggest to many minds an associated idea of empty declamation, or of dishonest artifice.
The subject indeed stands perhaps but a few degrees above Logic in popular estimation ; the one being generally regarded by the vulgar as the Art of bewildering the learned by frivolous subtleties; the other, that of deluding the multi tude by specious falsehood. And if a treatise on Composition be itself more favourably received than the work of a Logician, the Author of it must yệt lạbour, under still greater disadvantages. He may be thought:co:challenge criticism; and his own:performances may be condemned by a reference. to.basown precepts; or, on the other fiand, his preciepts may be undervalued, through his own failures in their application. Should this take place in the present instance, I have only to urge, with Horace in his Art of Poetry, that a whetstone, though itself incapable of cutting, is yet useful in sharpening steel. No system of instruction will completely equalize natural powers; and yet it may be of service towards their improvement. The youthful Achilles acquired skill in hurling the javelin under the instruction of Chiron, though the master could not compete with the pupil in vigor of arm.
It may perhaps be hardly necessary to observe, that the following pages are designed principally for the instruction of unpractised writers. Of such as have long been in the habit of writing or speaking, those whose procedure has been conformable to the rules I have laid down, will of course have anticipated most of my observations: and those again who have proceeded on opposite principles, will be more likely to censure, as it were in self-defence, than laboriously to unlearn what they have perhaps laboriously acquired, and to set out afresh on a new system. But I am encouraged, partly by the result of experiments, to entertain a hope that the present System may prove useful to such as have their method of composition, and their style of writing and of delivery to acquire. And an author ought to be content if a work be found in some instances not unprofitable, which cannot, from its nature, be expected to pass completely uncensured.
Whoever indeed, in treating of any subject, recommends (whether on good or bad grounds) a departure from established practice, must expect to encounter opposition. This opposition does not indeed imply that his precepts are right; but neither does it prove them wrong; it only implies that they are new; since few will readily acknowledge the plans on which they have long been proceeding, to be mistaken. If a treatise therefore on the present subject were received with immediate, universal, and unqualified approbation, this circuinstance would not indeed prove it to be erroneous, (since it is conceivable that the methods commonly pursued may be altogether right,) but would afford a presumption that there was not much to be learnt from it.
On the other hand, the more deep-rooted and generally prevalent any error may be, the less favourably, at first, will its refutation (though proportionably the more important) be for the most part received.
With respect to what are commonly called Rhetorical Artifices-contrivances for “making the worse appear the better reason,”-it would have savoured of pedantic morality to give solemn admonitions against employing them, or to enter a formal disclaimer of dishonest intention; since, after all, the generality will, according to their respective characters, make what use of a book they think fit, without waiting for the Author's permission : but what I have endeavoured to do, is, clearly to set forth, as far as I could, (as Bacon does in his Essay on Cunning,) these sophistical tricks of the Art; and as far as I may have succeeded in this, I shall have been providing the only effectual check to the employment of them. The adulterators of food or of drugs, and the coiners of kase money, keep their processes a secret, and dread no one so much as him who