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Young men may, indeed, be expected both to speak more copiously, and to use more daring expressions. But there is nothing in the nature of things which unfolds itself all at once, or exhibits in one moment all its constituent parts: if therefore the immature brow of the orator be precipitately hardened, if he assume rashly the more obnoxious qualities, what might have been produced and prepared in the best part of life, with the happiest effect, is altogether abased. For I would ask, are not the seeds of arrogance planted? Does not a rash confidence anticipate the powers of the mind? Does not the orator become tumid, self-conceited, and eloquent, to the injury of the public?
Whether Hume was possessed of that sagacity which almost claims the appellation of divine, I pretend not to determine; but I well know this is not the character which that philosopher esteemed the pride and the ornament of a listening senate. They who are versed in these things, and who form their judgment with cool deliberation, will, I doubt not, afford me their cheerful assent, when I declare that the words of Cicero, as applicable to some recent affairs, seemed marked by a prophetic spirit. "When he who as an orator had often been moderate, and sometimes had risen to excellence, omitting the study of wisdom, had obtained nothing beyond oratorical ability; it happened that, in the opinion of the multitude and himself, he was deemed a proper person to guide the helm of government *."
If we seriously contemplate this young man's character, we shall see him at one time conceitedly vain of his very absurdities; at another, in the midst of difficulties, perplexed and ignorant: and are obliged to confess that no individual was ever so unlike himself. Upon other occasions he is vehement and irritable, scattering his insolent reproaches around him, and attempting the possession of his object by the most hostile violence. In some things he resembles the character of Lancaster, as described by Shakspeare's Jolly Knight, whose facetiousness and goodly stuffed body, the servile companions of him whom we describe, hold in deadly abhorrence. "This same young sober-blooded boy doth not love me: nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine. There's never any of these demure boys come to any proof; for their drink doth so overcool their blood, and making many fish meals, that they fall into a kind of male green sickness t".
The one day he appears so tied down and constrained by certain prejudices of sentiment, that, like the ancient dogmatists, he is compelled, that his dignity or firmness may not be questioned, to vindicate what it is impossible he should approve. The morrow perhaps effects a total change in his opinions; and he thinks nothing so indiscreet, so unbecoming the gravity of a wise man, as to defend with perseverance what he has not very seriously investigated. Then again, like the daw, bold and gaudy in its borrowed colours, he scrupies not to insult with vulgar contumely the ears t Henry IV. Part n. Act iv. Sc. 7.
of them to whose sagacity he owes whatever is pure and prudent in his counsels.
He has learned from Minucius to consider him as the first character, who is himself competent to determine wisely; the next is he who is obedient to wise instructors. He therefore takes every possible means to make it appear, that he is fully capable of conducting with discretion his own concerns, and still not averse to listen to advice. It makes, however, a wonderful difference, whether you take from another modestly what may be applied to your own advantage, or whether you snatch it with indecent violence. When domestic resources are poor and contracted, necessity may prompt, and somewhat extenuate an attack upon the property of others. But it is the mark of a mean and invidious disposition, of a mind equally reluctant to yield, and unable by fair and honourable contest to obtain the victory, to load those with vindictive reproaches who have been the instruments of our benefit*. He who does not disdain being instructed by an enemy, should at least allow that enemy the merit he deserves. Dr. Parr.
THE RIGHT HON. R. B. SHERIDAN.
It cannot, however, be denied that there are some amongst his adversaries (Mr. Pitt's) with whom he consistently avoids the encounter: for he fails in obtaining the applause even of his friends, whenever he opposes himself to that man « Virgil.
(Mr. Sheridan), whose talents as an orator, or a disputant, are so eminently great; who penetrates into every subject of whatever nature, and understands every weapon exercised in its defence; who rivals Hyperides and Lysias in acuteness, and Menander and Aristophanes in wit.
From the above character Mr. Pitt, with conscious inferiority, sometimes recedes, as if anxious for a pretext to avoid controversy. When he is unable to do this, he forsakes his sarcastic and twisted mode of disputation, and begins to render praise to his opponent, in a manner which shows how greatly he fears him. It would be surprising, indeed, if he, and especially a young man, who contends with Sheridan, did not throw away his weapons, and spare his unavailing powers. The more subtle and inveterate disputants, it becomes either to be silent altogether, or to listen with respectful deference; for, to a profound knowledge of affairs, Sheridan unites all the essential accomplishments of the orator. His vein of humour is great and delightful; his erudition is polite, elegant, and extensive; his quickness of apprehension, and acuteness of reply, are really wonderful; besides which, he upon all occasions discovers the most ingenuous and exquisite urbanity.
It is believed that an orator', however moderately accomplished, if he has any merit at all, can secure the attention of his audience. For my part, great as is the crowd of the minister's friends, I have seldom met with one who can, in aDy respect, compare with Sheridan. I have among them found several not defective in ability, but without oratorical ability. The attainments of some of them are very scanty indeed; their natural talents much more so: they are so far from being eloquent speakers, that they do not merit the appellation of speakers at all. Others of them are obscure and new made men; becoming orators very suddenly, and distinguished by their rude vulgarity of style. We will therefore suffer the crowd, the bold Gyas, and 'the bold Cloanthus, to pass unnoticed, as men who cannot speak with elegance, ind are inadequate to the labour of thinking. There are two whom I place in the same scale with Sheridan; one of whom may be called the leader of the combat, the other is the second part actor.
The celerity of the minister in action is ever so prompt and so prepared, that nothing can possibly be more specious. But Sheridan excels him in acuteness, and sometimes in diligence; always in poignancy and wit.
Next to the minister, but with a long interval of distance—next to him, however, is Grenville; who, unequal, and indeed vanquished in the contest, has still carried from it the no mean honour of having contended with Sheridan. This young man has a sufficient share of learning, a prudent and careful considerateness, and a commendable share of industry. But to him, in expediting and perfecting affairs, Sheridan is far superior; and combines, what is very difficult indeed to accomplish, conciseness with ornament.
There may be orators of very great excellence, who differ essentially from each other. We will therefore venture to compare Sheridan with some
Vol. n. 11