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ART. XI. Exires Completes de Demosthene' et d'Eschine, eres
Grec et en Français. Traduction de L'Abbé AUGER, de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres de Paris. Nouvelle Edition. Revue et corrigée par J. PLANCHE, Profeso seur de Rhetorique au Collége Royal de Bourbon. Paris. Année, 1819.
W ITHOUT any ostentation of profound reflection or philoso
phical remark-with few attempts at generalization without the glare and attraction of prominent ornaments-withextreniely few, and those not very successful, instances of the tender and pathetic-with a considerable degree of coarseness, and what we should call vulgarity, particularly in his great oration-and, absolutely, without any pretension to wit or humour, to have acquired the reputation of the Greatest Orator:
vered with the presumption which is called pedantry and arrogance, when accompanied with learning ; but which is truly laughable when bottomed in sheer ignorance and conceit. One sample may suffice. He persists in saying, that the offence of conspiring to levy war within the realm, is a Misdemeanour; and cites Judge Foster, with an air of consummate self-satisfaction, to show that it is so. He then proceeds, in a truly edifying manner. to exult over us, -as if he must be right, and we wrong, because he has that great authority on his side. Never was there a happier illustration of the maxim, that a little learning is a dangerous thing: and never did hapless author labour more effectually to illustrate by examples the remarks of his critie. We had blamed him for interfering in legal disputes, where he must needs be ill-informed”; he gives us a new and striking proof how full of risk such an interference is to the half learned. In Judge Foster's time, the offence in question was only a Misdemeanour; but in 1795 it was made High Treason by a Statute in force' at the time in question. So much for this Reverend controversialist..
As for Mr Davison, he has had the good sense to keep'where he was : But we truly regret to hear of his ill-advised speculation of writing down the Radicals, by editing a Periodical Paper; called the Englishman's Adviser. Of this we have seen some Numbers; and a more complete failure is not upon record. Mr Coleridge's · Friend' was only tiresome, like some others who call on us weekly, under the same' title. But the · Adviser' will never irritate like so many of his namesakes“; for he will never be 'listened to for a moment. In short, it is a truly melancholy failure; and may stand at the head of such impotent attempts to go beyond our own line, and force nature. -Mr Cobbet is far better qualified to read lectures at Oxford; than Mr Davison to write a weekly newspaper.
whom the world has ever produced, is a peculiarity which belongs to the character of Demosthenes. In no other instance, in the whole range and circle of the Fine Arts, is the same ascendency admitted with the same degree of unanimity. "Of the three Poets,' for instance, in three distant ages born,' what critic has ever pretended, with any success at least, to class and place them in their due rank and order of merit? Is it not notorious, that, with one reader, the vigour and freshness of the father of poetry have superior charms; with another, the delicacy of taste and passion preeminent in the Roman poet; and, with a third, the learned copiousness of our own countryman?. Not to mention the partisans of Dante, of 'Tasso, and of Ariosto, who se' verally contest, for these distinguished Italians, the point of precedence with the three, most usually admitted, Princes of Epic Poetry. To the Tragedians of antiquity, the same observation applies. The gorgeous declamation of Æschylus, the passionate eloquence of Euripides; and the measured stateliness of Sophocles, attract to each their several admirers and advocates, without being able to procure an admitted superiority. The same thing may be said of the Greek and Roman, and (if there be any who do not shrink from the comparison of the modern Historians also. Nobody affects to say which is the best. -To take one instance more.--In a case, in which, amongst every description of readers in this kingdom, learned and unlearned, there is a more perfect (and we doubt not, in the main, just) agreement, than upon any other subject of criticism whatever,we mean the alíost üniversally prevalent opinion of the unrivalled excellence of our own Shakespeare-is not this very', preference of the Poet of Nature considered, by our refined and fastidious neighbours, whose Capital, our Editor and Translator M. Planche, with no apparent doubt of its being universally acquiesced in; modestly terms the Athens of modern Europe, as a decisive proof of the remains of barbarism,-the vestigia ruris' amongst us? To Demosthenes alone, in that faculty which is common to the whole species, and one of its highest distinctions; and in which all mankind must have been, in some degree, his competitors, is the palm conceded by (nearly) the unanimous consent of ancient and modern times.
It is not our intention to do more than make extracts spar-' ingly from the many things which have been written upon this subject; but we shall notice some of the most remarkable. The opinion delivered by Humé (in which he has been implicitly followed by Dr Blair) in his celebrated Essay upon Eloquence, iš; of course, familiar to our readers. By no other writer, not
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merely has a more decisive judgment been pronounced in favour of Demosthenes, but by none are the peculiar qualities and distinguishing properties of his style more vigorously and happily, though briefly, portrayed, than by this most acute and ingenious Critic. After remarking that his manner is more chaste and austere than that of Cicero, he proceeds thus- Could it • be copied, its success would be infallible over a modern as, 6 sembly. It is rapid harmony exactly adjusted to the sense : . It is vehement reasoning without any appearance of art: It
is disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, involved in a continued • stream of argument: And, of all human productions, the • Orations of Demosthenes present to us the models which ap• proach the nearest to perfection.' How well this agrees with the testimonials of antiquity, we shall see hereafter; for the present we shall only remark, that this commendation of Demos thenes is in a style of decision, and even of animation, very different from the balancing and cautious system habitually adopted by our reserved and dispassionate countryman. It is manifest he must have felt very strongly, before he would have ex-, pressed himself so warmly.
Longinus is, obviously, a writer for effect. The different authors, who are the subjects of his criticisin, are, in truth, little more than instruments for forwarding his principal purpose, which is to let his readers see what he himself can do in the sublime. In his often quoted, and, we suppose we must add, celebrated description of the Greek and Roman orators, for instance, in which he is pleased to compare the one to a thunderbolt, and the other to a conflagration, what precise idea of their particular qualities can be collected—what distinct or individual picture of the leading features and characteristics of those great masters is presented to the mind ? Apart from the principal purpose of showing off, we believe he might as usefully have compared them to Frost and Snow. This writer, however, in his general criticism upon Demosthenes, after having contrasted him with Hyperides, and, apparently, intimated a pretty strong opinion in favour of the latter, (as to the correctness of which opinion we have no direct means of judging, but as Cicero is against him, we doubt not he is wrong), concludes with the following laboured and remarkable passage.
Ana' zhduaeg, opás, Tá nea Jolées xocha, sj si torná. "Ouws celleyeon xao speedón un poulos, (Anglicè, sober at heart') ágyad, xde lov årçoalan nesuão sãvld, gdéis yžy Twegionu ayegyvárawy poßeilar-'o de padev stay 78 ByAoQues141% xài con cá lac quy 10kAsơ-vay-bayoeias 12vay, logo mobin, wigiscías, ayxívoicv, sáxos, — 5Derd", (ó xuqsov) Teijo és acon azgóooJoy deivórnleć xi durapsy, śwhidin Taula, onpede ws Seoauale Tovou dweupeala (ö goeg
ing centy strong in opiniothing, we doubt remarkable para
FIZJAV geperlov cv partiye) eo góce és fuvlèv Sowetos, dice qšto, os free xcedors, azaalas La Vĩxa, xa vs ạ @y 8% KH, QGT gà xa1a8eo]ã xoài xalaperty= 789 απ' αιώνος ρήτορας"- και θάττον άν τις κεραυνόις φερομένους ανlανοϊζαι Ια οριμαία δύναλο, ή ανθοφθολμήσαι τοις έπαλλήλοις εκέινε σαθεσιν.
Forasmuch, however, as the beauties of the one (Hyperides) although numerous, are not great in their kind,--are the productions of a person of no excitement,--are inefficient, and such as permit the hearer to remain unmoved, no one, for this reason, who reads Hyperides, is impassioned. But the other (D.) having acquired qualities of the highest order, and improved them to the highest pitch of perfection,-a tone of sublimity,-heart-felt passion,-a richness and copiousness of style,-justness of conception, rapidity, and, in addition to these,—that which is his peculiar characteristic, a force and power which none have ever approached ;- having, I say, appropriated to himself in abundance these, which ought rather to be deemed gifts vouchsafed to him from the Gods, than human qualities and excellencies, he thereby always surpasses all competition; and, as a compensation for his defects, he strikes down before him, as if with a thunderbolt, all orators of all times, and consumes them in his blaze. For it would be easier for a man to behold, with undazzled eyes, the lightning flashing upon him, than to contemplate without emotion his successive and various passions.'
Our readers will not fail to remark, (and therefore chiefly the quotation is made)—we do not say what efforts the rhetorician makes, but into what agonies and convulsions he throws himself to give, if possible, an adequate idea of—what he seems to think, the more than human excellence of this Orator.
Cicero, to whose admirable proficiency and transcendent powers we have done no more than justice upon former occasions, and whose testimony, upon a subject of this nature, is almost conclusive, never speaks of his great predecessor and prototype, except in terms of the most unbounded and unaffected admiration. It is perfectly astonishing,' says he, how much Demosthenes is superior to all the Grecian orators. '--In Græcis verò oratoribus quidem admirabile est, quantum inter omnes unus excellat. Orat.-Upon another occasion, he thus expresses himself. Demosthenes you may, without difficulty, pronounce to be absolutely perfect, and deficient in no particular. '--* · Planè quidèm perfectum, et cui nihil admodùm desit, Demosthenem facilè dixeris.'--Not Plato more copious, not Lysias more simple, not Isocrates more finished, not Hyperides more acute,--not Athens itself more Attic.-7.Ne Athenas quidem ipsas magis credo fuisse Atticas.' Practically, and judging by experience, and with reference to any thing which
* De CI. Orat. 0
had existed, he pronounces him, as we have seen, absolutely perfect, and declares that what he (Cicero) was attempting, Demosthenes had achieved.'- " Vides perfectò illum multa perficere, nos multa conari ;-illum posse, nos velle quocunque modo Causa postulet, dicere.' Upon one occasion, he goes farther, and declares, as a reason for his preference, that Demosthenes had formed himself upon a model of imaginary excellence, and not of what had been known to exist in any person.'—6. Recordor me longè omnibus unum anteferre Demosthenem, qui vim accommodaret ad eam, quam sentiam, Eloquentiam, non ad eam quam in aliquo esse agnoverim.' Elsewhere, he does indeed complain, and it is with a sort of apology for his own unreasonableness, that he is so severe a critic, and so d fficult to be pleased, as not even to be satisfied by Demosthenes himself; who, though he admits him to be above all competition in every species of oratory, did not, as it seems, al wavs fill his ears ;—so greedy and capacious were they, and always longing after something immense and infinite.'.-i Tantùm abest ut nostra miremur, ut usque eò difficiles ac morosi sumus, ut nobis non satisfaciat ipse Demosthenes; qui quanquam unus emineat in omni genere dicendi, tamen non semper implet aures meas : ità sunt avidæ et capaces, et semper aliquod immensum infinitumq. desiderent. It seems then that this wonderful man, by his unwearied diligence,-his everlasting appliçation to one single object,-by constant reflexion and endless eff rts, in the Senate, in the Forum,-at Athens,—at Tusculum, had been able to frame to himself, with difficulty nevertheless, a possible excellence,--an imaginary perfection, - a beau ideal, beyond the performances even of Demosthenes.--Just as no degree of dignity or of loveliness can be supposed to exist, beyond which art may not be supposed to reach ; (the Olympian Jupiter was, we are told, a sort of concentrated Majesty, -and the Coan Venus a quintessence of Beauty);—or as in Geometry, no point, however remote, can be assigned, beyond which another may not be assumed in the vast and boundless regions of absolute space.
To Dionysius of Halicarnassus we refer. the more willingly; because, though inferior to none in powers of composition himself, or of forming a judgment on others, he is, for some reason or other, less known and admired than he deserves. This distinguished Critic, as many of our readers are aware, commences his Treatise on - The Oratorical Power of Demosthenes,' with a general definition of style, of which he (as does Ci