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QUINTILIAN (MARCUS FABIUS QUINTILIANUS), a celebrated Roman rhetorician and critic; born at Calagurris, Spain, about A.D. 35; died about 95. He was educated at Rome, where he became an advocate and teacher of oratory, and opened a school, which flourished for more than twenty years under his charge. Among his pupils were the younger Pliny and two grandnephews of Domitian, who invested him with the consular dignity. He also had a large allowance from the imperial treasury, granted by Vespasian, the father of Domitian. He has come down to after ages by his “Institutiones Oratoriæ.” This work, which is divided into twelve books, comprises a complete system for the training of a young orator from the time when he is placed in the care of a nurse, through school, and his strictly professional studies, until he is fairly launched into practice.
ON THE EARLY PRACTICE OF COMPOSITION.
(From the “ Institutes.") FROM boys perfection of style can neither be required nor expected ; but the fertile genius, fond of noble efforts, and conceiving at times a more than reasonable degree of ardor, is greatly to be preferred. Nor, if there be something of exuberance in a pupil of that age, would it at all displease me. I would even have it an object with teachers themselves to nourish minds that are still tender with more indulgence, and to allow them to be satiated, as it were, with the milk of more liberal studies. The body which mature age may afterwards nerve, may for a time be somewhat plumper than seems desirable, – hence there is hope of strength; while a child that has the outline of all his limbs exact commonly portends weakness in subsequent years. Let that age be daring ; invent much, and delight in what it invents, though it be often not sufficiently severe and correct. The remedy for exuberance is easy : barrenness is incurable by any labor. That temper in boys will afford me little hope, in which mental effort is prematurely restrained by judgment. I like what is produced to be extremely copious, profuse even beyond the limits of propriety. Years will greatly reduce superfluity ; judgment will smooth away much of it; something will be worn off, as it were, by use, if there be but metal from which something may be hewn and polished off,and such metal there will be if we do not make the plate too thin at first, so that deep cutting may break it. That I hold such opinions concerning this age, he will be less likely to wonder who shall have read what Cicero says: “I wish fecundity in a young man to give itself full scope.”
Above all, therefore, and especially for boys, a dry master is to be avoided, not less than a dry soil, void of all moisture, for plants that are still tender. Under the influence of such a tutor they at once become dwarfish; looking, as it were, towards the ground, and daring to aspire to nothing above every-day talk. To them leanness is in place of health, and weakness instead of judgment; and while they think it sufficient to be free from fault, they fall into the fault of being free from all merit. Let not even maturity itself, therefore, come too fast; let not the must, while yet in the vat, become mellow; for so it will bear years, and be improved by age.
Nor it is improper for me, moreover, to offer this admonition : that the powers of boys sometimes sink under too great severity in correction ; for they despond, and grieve, and at last hate their work, - and what is most prejudicial, while they fear everything they cease to attempt anything. There is a similar conviction in the minds of the cultivators of trees in the country, who think that the knife must not be applied to tender shoots, as they appear to shrink from the steel, and to be unable as yet to bear an incision. A teacher ought therefore to be as agreeable as possible, that remedies which are rough in their own nature may be rendered soothing by gentleness of hand: he ought to praise some parts of his pupils' performances, to tolerate some, and to alter others, giving his reasons why the alterations are made; and also to make some passages clearer by adding something of his own. It will be of service at times, also, for the master to dictate whole subjects himself, which the pupil may imitate and admire for the present as his own. But if a boy's composition were so faulty as not to admit of correction, I have found him benefited whenever I told him to write on the same subject again, after it had received fresh treatment from me, observing that “ he could do still better;" since study
is cheered by nothing more than hope. Different ages, however, are to be corrected in different ways; and work is to be required and amended according to the degree of the pupil's abilities. I used to say to boys when they attempted anything extravagant or verbose, that “I was satisfied with it for the present; but that a time would come when I should not allow them to produce compositions of such a character.” Thus they were satisfied with their abilities, and yet not led to form a wrong judgment.
ON NATURE AND ART IN ORATORY.
(From the “ Institutes.") I am aware that it is also a question whether nature or learning contributes most to oratory. This inquiry, however, has no concern with the subject of my work, for a perfect orator can be formed only with the aid of both; but I think it of great importance how far we consider that there is a question on the point. If you suppose either to be independent of the other, nature will be able to do ́much without learning, but learning will be of no avail without the assistance of nature. But if they be united in equal parts, I shall be inclined to think that when both are but moderate, the influence of nature is nevertheless the greater ; but finished orators, I consider, owe more to learning than to nature. Thus the best husbandman cannot improve soil of no fertility, while from fertile ground something good will be produced even without the aid of the husbandman; yet if the husbandman bestows his labor on rich land, he will produce more effect than the goodness of the soil of itself. Had Praxiteles attempted to hew a statue out of a millstone, I should have preferred it to an unhewn block of Parian marble; but if that statuary had fashioned the marble, more value would have accrued to it from his workmanship than was in the marble itself. In a word, nature is the material for learning; the one forms and the other is formed. Art can do nothing without materials ; material has its value even independent of art: but perfection of art is of more consequence than perfection of material.
ON EMBELLISHMENT OF STYLE.
(From the “ Institutes.") I COME now to the subject of embellishment; in which, doubtless, more than in any other department of oratory, the speaker
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