IN the systematic pursuit of science, one of the most important points is a steady attention to order and arrangement. No just survey of any complicated whole can be taken, without keeping a watchful eye both upon the division and upon the combination of its parts. It is the essential advantage of scientific over desultory knowledge, that it discovers to us the various channels and communications between things, which are separated without being severed, and disjoined, but not disconnected. In the construction of the human body, the unlearned observer can scarcely conceive the possibility, that a puncture in the heel should stiffen the jaw, or that a blister between the shoulders should remove an oppression upon the lungs. The anatomist examines the internal fabric, discovers at once the texture and the coherence of the parts; but, to perceive their mutual influence and operation upon one another, every fibre must be noticed, not only in its positive existence, but in its relative situation; as the cooperating parcel of an organized body, no less than as one distinct, entire, and individual member.
The lectures, which I have hitherto given, from the beginning of the course have been rather preliminary, than didactic. They consisted, first of a definition and division of the subjects, upon which, by the rules of the institution, I am required to address you. Next of a vindication of rhetoric and oratory from the objections, which are often urged against them; and lastly of a short historical review of the principal rhetoricians of ancient Greece and Rome. These were naturally preparatory to a consideration of the science of rhetoric, upon which we are now about to enter; and which, in conformity to the authority of Cicero and Quinctilian, I shall divide into five constituent parts; invention, disposition, elocution, memory, and pronunciation, or action.
A concise and general definition of these terms is contained in the following passage from Cicero. “The parts of rhetoric, as most writers have agreed, are invention, disposition, elocution, memory, pronunciation.
“Invention is the discovery by thought of those things, the truth, or verisimilitude of which renders the cause probable.
“Disposition is the orderly arrangement of the things invented.
“Elocution is the application of proper words and sentences to invention.
“Memory is the firm perception by the mind of the things and words, applied to invention. And
“Pronunciation is the management of the voice and body, conformably to the dignity of the words and things. [sic]
This explanation however is hardly sufficient to convey clear and precise ideas either of the terms themselves, or of the motives for distributing the whole science among them.
There is one important observation, which it will be necessary for you to bear in mind through every part of these lectures, and which is essential for the dear understanding of those terms, which designate the great compartments of the rhetorical science. It is, that in every systematic art there are certain words, which bear a specific technical meaning, very different from that, which is annexed to them in ordinary discourse. A continual attention to this remark becomes the more necessary, when, as in the instances now before us, there are other sciences, in which the same terms are used to indicate a very different modification of ideas, or when the colloquial or vulgar meaning of the word has become prevalent, by a misconception of its technical sense, or a considerable deviation from it.
To illustrate this, trace the word invention to its original source, and compare its primary meaning with the various senses, which it bears in the art of poetry, in mechanics, in ordinary conversation, and in rhetoric.
It was originally compounded from the two Latin words, in venire, to come in, to enter. By the natural progress of all languages from the literal to the metaphorical meaning, it came in process of time to signify discovery; invenire, to find; inventio, finding. Such is the ordinary meaning of the words in the Latin language. But, in undergoing this transformation of the sense, the verb was at the same time transferred from the neutral to the active class. In its primary meaning the coming in was the action of the external object; and, as applied to thought, supposed the idea active and the mind passive; the thought came into the mind. But, in its transmuted sense, the action was changed from the idea to the person; and invenire, to find, implied not the coming of the thought into the mind, but the going of the mind in search of the thought. This is the sense, in which rhetorical invention is understood. But invention, when applied, as by its most frequent usage it is in ordinary discourse, to the mechanic arts, supposes still greater activity of the mind. It means a higher degree of ingenuity; a more powerful exertion of intellect. In the language of Solomon it is in this sense declared to be the immediate operation of wisdom herself. “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.”*
But in the language of poetry invention aspires still higher, and lays claim not merely to the praise of finding, but to the glory of creating. Poetical invention disdains the boundaries of space and time. She ranges over worlds of her own making, and takes little heed of being found out by wisdom, or of dwelling with prudence. Her powers are delineated in that exquisite passage of Shakspeare [sic], which you have all heard a thousand times, but which no repetition can make uninteresting.
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
This is poetic invention, described with more than poetical truth. For observe, gentlemen, that in bodying forth the forms of things unknown, in giving to airy nothing what it cannot have, the poet’s eye must be rolling in a fine frenzy; his mind must be released from all the restraints of truth and reason, and his imagination emancipated from all the laws of real and even of probable nature. But from this rhetorical invention differs in her most essential characteristics. Truth, or at least the resemblance of truth, as you will perceive by the definition I have quoted from Cicero, is her most indispensable feature. Not that in the practice of orators she has always been thus rigorously confined; for, among the choicest darlings of eloquence, both ancient and modern, it would not be difficult to quote examples, in which they appear to have mistaken poetical for rhetorical invention, and to have measured the extent of their faculties by the wideness of their departure from truth. But this is no part of the science of rhetoric. Her end is persuasion; and her most irresistible instrument is truth. Poetical invention is the queen of love; arrayed in the magic cestus, and escorted by the graces; mingling in every gesture dissolute wantonness with enchanting attraction, and blending in every glance fascination and falsehood. Rhetorical invention is Minerva, issuing in celestial panoply from the head of Jupiter; beneficent as the morning beam, but chaste as the flake of falling snow; with the glow of beauty enkindling ardor; but with the majesty of deportment commanding veneration. Rhetorical invention however has this in common with the invention of poetry, that it is the most powerful test, both of the speaker’s genius and of his learning. Though confined within the regions of truth or of verisimilitude, the range of invention is yet coextensive with the orator’s powers. It consists in the faculty of finding whatsoever is proper to be said, and adapted to the purpose of his discourse; of selecting from the whole mass of ideas, conceived or stored in his mind, those, which can most effectually promote the object of his speech; of gathering from the whole domain of real or apparent truth their inexhaustible subsidies, to secure the triumph of persuasion.
Disposition is the order, or method, in which the thoughts of the speaker should be arranged. As invention is the standard, by which to measure his genius and learning, disposition is more especially the trial of his skill. The thoughts in the mind of an orator upon any subject, requiring copious elucidation, arise at first in a state, resembling that of chaos; a mingled mass of elemental matter without form and void. Disposition is the art of selecting, disposing, and combining them in such order and succession, as shall make them most subservient to his design. This faculty, though not of so high an order as invention, is equally important, and much more uncommon. You shall find hundreds of persons able to produce a crowd of good ideas upon any subject, for one, that can marshall them to the best advantage. Disposition is to the orator what tactics, or the discipline of armies is to the military art. And as the balance of victory has almost always been turned by the superiority of tactics and of discipline, so the great effects of eloquence are always produced by the excellency of disposition. There is no part of the science, in which the consummate orator will be so decidedly marked out, as by the perfection of his disposition. It will deserve your particular meditation; for its principles are applicable to almost every species of literary composition; and are by no means confined exclusively to oratory. It is that department in the art of writing, in which a young writer most sensibly feels his weakness; and I venture a conjecture, that it is a difficulty, to which many of you, my young friends, are no strangers. When called to write upon any topic, assigned you, I presume you have often been much more at a loss how to combine and arrange your thoughts, than. for the thoughts themselves; and often wanted more the disposing hand of art, than the genial fertility of nature. Elocution, says the definition of Cicero, “is the application of proper words and sentences to invention.” And here also you will perceive the necessity of distinguishing the meaning of the term from its ordinary acceptation, as now generally understood. Elocution, in the customary modern sense, means the act of speaking; the delivery. The very thing, which, in the division I have here made of rhetoric, is called pronunciation, or action. In this sense it is used by Sheridan and Walker, the best modem English writers and teachers upon the subject. In this sense it so generally prevails that I presume many of you are not aware, that among all the ancient rhetoricians it means a thing entirely different. It means what we now call style, or diction; the wording of the discourse. I intreat [sic] you to mark and remember this distinction, without which every thing, which I shall hereafter say to you upon elocution, will appear absurd or unintelligible. The elocution, of which I shall speak to you, belongs not to the delivery, but to the composition of the discourse. It is the act, not of the voice but of the pen. It is the clothing of the thoughts with language; and applies to all written. compositions. So that the elocution may be good or bad, of a discourse, which never was spoken, as much as of one, that was. Now the other sense of the word, which makes elocution to consist in speaking, is so much more familiar to you, I have hesitated, whether I ought in these lectures to use the word in the ancient sense. But, as those of you, to whom the science has a peculiar interest, wiI1 naturally recur to the ancient fountains; as you never can understand Cicero and Quinctilian without first knowing, that they always annex to the word this signification; and as the rules of this institution prescribe the consideration of this subject under that meaning; I have thought best not to discard it, but to explain to you so explicitly the sense, in which I am to employ the expression, that you may be in no hazard of mistaking it for any other. Elocution then is the act of committing your discourse to writing.
Memory is the firm possession and ready command in the mind of the thoughts, arrangement, and words, into which the discourse has been reduced.
Pronunciation is the delivery of the discourse by speech. It is also called action; and, as I have already observed, is the same thing, which, in ordinary acceptation, and by the modern English oratorical writers, is called elocution. But both these words, pronunciation and action, furnish fresh instances of the utility you will derive from fixing in your minds, with philosophical precision, the meaning of these important terms, which limit the great divisions of the science. Pronunciation for instance you would probably suppose to indicate only the utterance of a. single word. Action you would imagine could only be expressive of the speaker’s gestures. Yet this is not the sense, in which either of these words is to be understood in their application here. Here, and among all the ancient rhetoricians and orators, pronunciation and action are used indiscriminate1y to signify that, which consists of their combination; that is, delivery.
You will now be able to understand the real force of an anecdote, which has often been related of Demosthenes, and which a misconception of the meaning of one of those words has often occasioned to be erroneously apprehended. It is said, that, upon being once asked what was the first qualification of an orator; he answered action. What was the second; action. What was the third; still action. How many blundering comments, and how many sagacious misapplications have been made upon this story, on the supposition, that Demosthenes, by action, merely meant gesture; bodily motion! How many a semi-pedant, knowing just enough to be self-sufficient has, the plenitude of his wisdom, discovered by this anecdote that Demosthenes and the Athenians knew little or nothing of real eloquence! How many a petty babbler engrafting upon a kinder veneration of the Grecian orator the same misconstruction of his words, has made it an article of his creed, that eloquence consists in gesticu1ation; and, adapting his conduct to his belief, practised [sic] the antic postures of an [sic] harlequin, and fancied himself a Demosthenes! I have known even eloquent scholars and accomplished speakers perplexed to account for this opinion of the greatest of orators, and questioning the truth of the story, merely from the same inaccurate idea of his meaning. His meaning was, that the first, the second, and the third thing, to which a public speaker should attend, is his delivery; and although from a variety of circumstances the relative importance of this article was greater in that age, than in ours; yet even now those, who have witnessed in its full extent the difference of effect upon an auditory between a good and a bad delivery, will be at no loss to account for the opinion of Demosthenes, and see no cause to question his judgment.
Such then are the primary divisions, under which I am to treat of the science of rhetoric; and the order, in which I have mentioned them, is that, pointed out by the natural succession of things, in their application to the art of oratory. For suppose yourself called upon to speak in public upon some formal occasion, be it what it may; your first concern will be, what you are to say; what the reflections of your mind can suggest to you, suitable to your subject. This first conception of the thoughts will exercise your invention. Invention therefore is the first chapter in the book of rhetoric. Your next step will be to arrange the thoughts, which your invention has supplied; and this will be disposition. Then you will successively put into language, commit to memory, and pronounce, your discourse, which, it were superfluous to say, must be done in some order, by the means of elocution, memory, and pronunciation; and thus this division comprehends every thing, that can be included in the composition and delivery of an oratorical speech. But division like these are always in some sort arbitrary. Rigorously speaking, memory and pronunciation might with more propriety be considered, as subdivisions of elocution, than as constituting separate heads. As oratorial discourse may be written without being spoken; in which case pronunciation would not be included in the work. It may be spoken without being written; for it may be extemporaneous, or it may be read; the first of which is very common in legislative debates, and on judicial trials; and the last for the delivery of sermons and of lectures. Invention, disposition, and elocution, therefore are essential and indispensable to every oratorical performance. Memory and pronunciation are applicable only to some. The divisions of Aristotle then, who admits only invention, elocution, and disposition, are more conformable to the true principles of analysis, than those·of Cicero and Quinctilian; nor is it probable, that any deviation from it would have been made, but for that petty ambition of the minor rhetoricians to distinguish themselves, each by some novelty of his own; an ambition, which sacrifices science to selfishness, and multiplies the difficulties of the student, to gratify the vanity of the author.
To show you how exact the arrangement of Aristotle is, you will find on opening the bible, that it corresponds precisely with the process of the Creator in making the world. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; and the earth was without form and void.” Invention.
“And God said, let there be light.” Elocution.
“And God divided the light from the darkness; and God called the light day, and the darkness he called night.” Disposition.
Thus in the creation of the universe the same identical process is indicated, which Aristotle prescribes for the composition of a discourse. The power of positive creation belongs indeed exclusively to the supreme Creator; where he creates, man can only find. But he is.the fountain of all intelligence; and the highest excellence of understanding consists in the imitation, as far as the imperfection of human powers will permit, of his general, unvarying laws. The analytical divisions of Aristotle in this, as in all other instances, were formed on a profound investigation of the laws of nature; but as the later rhetoricians have converted memory and pronunciation into primary branches of the science, and as at all events they must be discussed with all the attention, which their importance requires, I have included them among the principal divisions of the subject, and shall treat of them separately from the others, and combined with them to complete the system.
Invention then is the discovery, by thought, of the things best adapted to obtain the purpose of the speaker; and one of the objects of the rhetorician is to indicate to the practical orator the means of sharpening this faculty, and of facilitating its exercise. To this end Aristotle appears to have been the first inventor of the principal subdivision under this article; and the test of his distinction was drawn from the nature of the purposes, to which the oratarical discourses of that age were applied: He considered, that all public speaking had an object of reference either to past, present, or future time; and with a view to something to be done or omitted. That all such questions must necessarily be subjects of deliberation; and he accordingly called them deliberative discourses. That those, which referred to time past, consisted of controversies in the courts of law, respecting rights previously existing, or wrongs previously committed. This kind of public speaking he therefore denominated judicial eloquence. That the third division consisted of all such speeches, as, having no reference either to deliberation for the future, or to adjudication upon the past, were engrossed by the present moment; and were usually adapted more to exhibition, than to business; rather to show, than to action. These therefore he called by a term indicative of show, and which, as translated by the Latin rhetorical writers and their successors are called demonstrative orations. This division has been universally adopted until very modern times; and is even prescribed in the rules and statutes of the Boylston professorship, as still to be recognized in this course of public 1ectures. Nor was this regulation injudicious. For, although the ancient classification in this case does not include all the modes of speaking, usual in modern times; yet it is of material importance, that you should know what that ancient classification was. It is essential to the understanding not only of all the ancient systems of rhetoric, but of many of the most celebrated orations. The rules, derived from these distributions, direct the special character, which marks all the diversities of Cicero’s eloquence; and one of the first questions which the profound student of his orations should ascertain, is, to which of the three kinds, the deliberative, the demonstrative, or the judicial oratory, each of the orations belongs.
The modern arrangement, adopted by the French rhetoricians, and after them by Blair, is into the eloquence of the pulpit, of popular assemblies, and of the bar. And this I suppose to be the division, with which you are most familiarly acquainted. There is one great advantage in it, arising from the circumstance, that two of the three departments are identically the same with those, established by the ancients; the eloquence of popular assemblies being but another word for deliberative, and the eloquence of the bar, for judicial oratory. The third modern division substitutes the eloquence of the pulpit, which to the ancients was altogether unknown, instead of their demonstrative oratory; but, in excluding this latter denomination altogether, they have left a numerous and in our country an important class of public discourses entirely destitute of a name. In the British dominions perhaps there may have been a propriety in omitting this kind of discourses, because they are not much in use among them. But we have resumed in these United States that particular style of speaking, which was so customary among the Greeks and Romans, but which in the island of Great Britain seems to be almost entirely unpractised [sic]. On the anniversary of our independence every city and almost every village of this Union resounds with formal discourses, strictly belonging to the demonstrative class of the ancients. There are many other occasions public and private, upon which we are accustomed to assemble in churches, and hear orations of the demonstrative kind. Many of the performances at all our public commencements are of the same description. Funeral orations, as distinct from funeral sermons, are very common among us; and in general the public taste for this species of public oratory is a distinguishing feature in our character. Yet the students, who collect their rules of rhetoric only from Blair, have no knowledge of the critical principles, upon which demonstrative orations ought to be composed. The proper style of eloquence, adapted to them, is therefore little understood, and, as far as my experience has observed, less practised [sic]. The great purposes of public benefit, to which these orations might and ought to be applied, that of stimulating genius, patriotism, and beneficence, by honorable eulogy; and that of teaching useful lessons of national virtue, by the honest artifices of eloquence, seldom discover themselves in those discourses, however deeply they may be impressed upon the speaker’s mind. We must therefore reinstate demonstrative oratory in the place, from which Doctor Blair has degraded it; and for the eloquence of the pulpit must assign a separate and very distinguished place by itself.
There is also another mode of public speaking, which has arisen from modern usages and manners, of which nothing could be said in the ancient rhetoricians, and which has been generally overlooked by the moderns. It may be termed the eloquence of the bench; and consists in the charges of magistrates to grand-juries, their addresses to petit-jurors, on summing up causes, and the assignment of reasons, which they often give for their decisions [sic]. It may be deemed perhaps only one modification of judicial eloquence, but its proper principles are altogether different from those, on which the oratory of the bar is founded; and, like that of the sacred desk, partake of all the ancient kinds, the deliberative, the judicial, and the demonstrative.
In adhereing [sic] therefore to these ancient distinctions, we are in no danger of wasting our hours upon the acquisition of any useless knowledge. Every one of the three ancient kinds of public speaking is in frequent and common use among us; and every precept, which ever could be useful in the exercise of oratory, remains useful in its utmost extent here. The eloquence of the divine and of the magistrate partakes of them all; and occasionally requires the arguments, appropriated to each of them separately. It has also suggested some additional principles, which we shall consider at the proper time. I shall now conclude with reminding you, that in this lecture you have the outline of all, that the whole course will comprize [sic]. That under the successive· articles of invention, disposition, elocution, memory, and pronunciation, whatever I have to say upon the science of rhetoric will be included; and that the primary division of oratory, drawn from the different ultimate purposes of the speaker, is into discourses demonstrative, deliberative, judicial, and religious.
* Prov. VIII. 12.