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perspicuity, which does not appear the result of previous meditation. Whilst he speaks, he communicates universal animation. Every one who hears him participates his spirit; and is impressed, not as by the mere image and representation of things, but as if interested by the view of present and new created objects; the qualities therefore of ardour and of energy no one can deny him. Some there are, however, who, from a disposition hard to be satisfied, declare that he is entirely destitute of those happier powers of oratory which skilfully select and display the more florid beauties of eloquence; but these inferior, though pleasing ornaments, he avoids from judgment, not from their difficulty of attainment. Those sentiments which are introduced with propriety, and expressed with a force which captivates attention and impresses conviction, have, upon recollection or perusal, an appropriate beauty, not perhaps gaudy or meretricious, but what Cicero admires as genuine and permanent.
Mr. Fox possesses one admirable distinction; he is never known to violate the purity of the English idiom. Many who, in their attempts to shine, introduce foreign expressions—and disdaining the unaffected language of simplicity, acquire a strange and offensive dialect—are overpowered by his raillery, conveyed in the chaste terms of his own language. He well knows that the oratory which is obscure, can never be admired: he knows also, that those expressions which convey most information, have always most dignity, and frequently most beauty. He is sensible, withal, that the thunder of his eloquence can never be successfully employed, unless under the direction of a certain regulated force; for which reason he sometimes uses such full continuity of expression, as seems in a manner to disdain the preciseness of connection,butin reality defies the torture of the severest criticism. Sometimes he separates his speech into minuter sentences, which have nevertheless a certain order and rhythm. In these instances he may be thought negligent, but they excite no prejudice against him; they mark a man more solicitous to satisfy the judgment than captivate the ear. Yet he is particularly careful not to maim or weaken his sentences: he never violently inserts pompous but unmeaning words to fill up, as it were, some cavity. He never fatigues or oppresses the attention by vain and idle ornaments; a subterfuge which the judgment rejects with all possible disdain. He is consequently neither diffuse nor confused, neither impotent nor disjointed.
When he is about to conclude, he varies his powers with uncommon dexterity; and is either open or reserved, as circumstance requires.
So much has Mr. Fox been benefited by thought and by experience, that his knowledge appears to extend to every place; and he not only perceives in a moment what is worthy his pursuit, but he discerns where it is to be obtained: to which we should add, that he is perfectly familiar with all the forms of law, the subtleties of logic, and the application of both. Whenever any subject involving them is to be discussed, we have to admire his genius and sagacity; he can either explain or discuss them copiously, or dispute minutely and perspicuously concerning them. What is separate and disjointed, he can connect and contract; what is abstract and obscure, he can scientifically unfold: not with imperfect, unconvincing hesitation; nor by the aid of pompous and ostentatious language; but in a manner prompt, clear, satisfactory; and in terms adapted to every judgment, and intelligible to the meanest capacity.
If he does not forcibly impress his audience at the commencement of his speeches, his strong and varied power, as he proceeds,progressively rouses and fixes attention. His introductory skirmishes, if we may so term them, are so contrived—not for insulting parade in imitation of the Samnites, who did not use in battle the spears which they brandished before—but so as to be of the greatest advantage to his purpose, when he appears more particularly anxious after victory. When strenuously pressed, he retreats, not as if he had thrown away, or even dropped his shield ; but he seems wholly collected in himself, and merely to be making use of a feint, whilst selecting a better situation. When his object is to refute his opponents, he accumulates all his power. Sometimes he applies the more compressed weapons of logic, and with their extreme acuteness harasses those who are most versed and most obstinate in contest. Sometimes he expands himself, and lets loose all the reins to that species of eloquence, which is more diffusive, more magnificent, and more splendid. But all the superior greatness of his genius is then apparent, when unresisted he takes possession of what seemed capable of a
vigorous defence; when he describes the opinions and manners of mankind; when he applies examples; when he alarms his adversaries with apprehensions of the future; when he denounces vengeance against crimes, or renders praise to virtue; when he passes the limits which restrain ordinary speakers; when he expresses the emotions of supplication, of hope, of detestation.
The complacent respect of an audience is principally excited by the dignity of the speaker, his actions, and his moral reputation. The great opponent of Mr. Fox, although in this respect he possesses no actual superiority, is yet so circumspect in the regulation of his conduct, as to appear an honest, upright, moral character. However this may be, Mr. Fox possesses all the perfection and wisdom of eloquence; he never wastes his time in idle disputations, buthas wholly employed his abilities in the study of political business. When he has once satisfied his mind about the rectitude of an action, he directs with vigilance and strict propriety all the talents of his mind, all the powers of art, to the accomplishment of his purpose; for which reason he always appears to me to feel himself, with all imaginable force, the impression he endeavours to communicate.
Wisdom, as of all other arts, is the foundation of eloquence; but the man whose scientific attainments have received the maturity of experience, will not be retained where the obscure streamlet of eloquence meanders, but rushes forward to where the full torrent of the tide bursts forth. But Mr. Fox, and in a manner which exceedingly becomes him, frequently assumes the humbler
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part of minutest explanation. Whenever he condescends to this, he obtains all that he can wish; but he can in a moment resume his dignity, and ascend, through every gradation, to the height of all which claims admiration. His oratory is at times so very rapid, that it appears somewhat obscure, from its extreme acuteness and celerity; but it still would not be easy to adopt expressions more significant, or more full of meaning: yet, in all that he says, there is an obvious vigour and beauty peculiar to himself. He seems withal to exhibit that artificial shade, which makes such beauties more conspicuously observable: he possesses in common with Demosthenes the faculty of keeping his object constantly in view, and of impressing it, with the wished for effect, on the minds of his audience.
I would wish such to understand, who have been misled by erroneous representation, that the very circumstance which is urged in diminution of Mr. Fox's excellence, is equally a proof of his skill and of his genius. His sentences, if minutely examined, are so exquisite and so profound, that they seem rather the result of philosophical investigation, than borrowed from the schools of rhetoric. They are sometimes confined to disquisitions of a personal nature; at others, they involve the history of past, or the occurrences of modern times; occasionally they comprehend subjects of a universal nature. The better to excite and fix the attention, he disposes them in various points of view. With infinite skill he accommodates his speeches to the different tastes and prejudices of different hearers: