Obrazy na stronie


Aristotle's Rhetoric, a model for philosophical treatises on the Arts - Compared with other works on that subject. — Longinus on the sublime. His character and merits - How explained by modern Philosophers.-Fine writing, according to Aristotle According to Longinus and his followers.— Mr. Knight's Source of the Sublime considered. - Objections to the doctrine of dramatic delusion — Answered.· Objection to Aristotle's rule concerning the dramatic characters of Women Answered.. The nature and end of Tragedy. Why Aristotle preferred Tragedy to Epic Poetry. Conclusion.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



a model for philosophical trea tises on the


ACCORDING to Aristotle, philosophy consists in the in- Aristotle's vestigation of causes, to which inquiry the present treatise is chiefly directed. The author's drift is, to obtain a principle, and to demonstrate its power. When this is done clearly and convincingly, in the simplest cases, and with regard to objects the most familiar, he often leaves its operation to be extended, by the reader's reflection, to examples more alluring, and to matters more complicated. The "Art of Rhetoric," is therefore a didactic work; and, in this view, is a model of the best manner, in which all practical arts, founded in nature, are to be either improved or explained. Men are naturally rhetoricians; but how is this natural aptitude to be converted into art? By observing when a speaker or writer has happened to attain his aim, and then tracing to the general principles of human nature the causes of

his success, that, from the knowledge of these causes, rules may be derived productive of like success in all similar cases. To be sound and right, art must thus be built on the broad basis of experience, to the rejection of all narrow notions, all pre-conceived judgements, and all priori reasonings.


son of it

with pre

subsequent works on the same subject.

By adherence the most scrupulous to this inductive method, Aristotle's Rhetoric threw into the back-ground ceding and the flimsy theories of Gorgias, Pamphilus, Callippus, and all preceding writers on the same art. Cicero says, that it had done this so completely in his time, that the use of those writers was totally superseded, and that no scholar thought of having recourse to any of them, but applied to Aristotle solely '; and this decided superiority over all his precursors, procured for him the utmost reverence from all succeeding writers, Greek and Roman, on what they deemed the same important subject. The most copious of the Greeks was Dionysius of Halicarnassus, though most of his works are now reduced to mere fragments. 2 He extols Aristotle for his perspicuity and energy; and for qualities which this rhetorician equally admired his sweetness and elegance. Quintilian, a critic equally judicious, regards the Stagirite as the prince of philosophers; and knows not what part of his character most to admire, the extent and variety of his knowledge, the multiplicity of his writings, the acuteness of his inventions, the suavity and brightness of his diction. 4 But of all his eulogists,


1 Cicero de Invent. Rhetor. l. ii. c. 2.

2 The most complete of his works is the treatise De Structura Nomninum-The collocation of words in reference to harmony, of which I have spoken in my History of Ancient Greece, P. i. vol. i. c. 5. p. 239, et seq. 6th edit.

Εξετασις των Αρχαίων, p. 70. Edit. Sylburg.

Conf. Quintilian. Inst. Orator. 1. i. c. 1. 1. x. c. 1.,, I. xii. c. 11.

Cicero stands at the head"; and the sincerity of Cicero is attested in his own immortal works. I will not say, that the treatise" De Oratore," the most elaborate of all those works, is disposed into three books, to correspond with the three books respectively into which Aristotle had divided his Rhetoric; but I will affirm, that both by Cicero and Quintilian, Aristotle is closely followed, and in essential points exactly copied the same divisions and definitions, the same topics of argumentation in the three kinds of oratory, the same analysis of passions and affections, the same delineation of manners and characters, the same grounds of theory, and the same rules of practice.

with those

Several of these rules, both in rhetoric and poetry, were Contrasted enforced with too much rigour by critics, about the of others. beginning of the last century. The Bossus, the Batteux, the Daciers, and the Dennises, demanded a scrupulous compliance with Aristotle's rules, by no means exacted by their original proposer; who never ceases to inculcate, that practical matters neither require nor admit of metaphysical precision. But if the critics of those times erred on the side of intension and severity, those of our day err still more dangerously on that of relaxation and indulgence. Instead of exhorting the student who aspires to excellence, to dive with the Stagirite into the inmost recesses of the heart and understanding, they tell him, "that we arrive at a perfect knowledge of our

5 There was this difference, he said, between Aristotle and other teachers of Rhetoric, "quod ille eadem acie mentis qua rerum omnium vim naturamque viderat, hæc quoque aspexit quæ ad dicendi artem pertinebant. De Orator. 1. ii. c. 38. Pope probably thought of this passage when he said, that poets

stood convinc'd 'twas fit,
Who conquer'd nature, should preside o'er wit.

« PoprzedniaDalej »