Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 8 - Introduction

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A plain and simple method of teaching to be preferred, § 1-5. Recapitulation of the precepts given in the preceding parts of the work, 6-12. Style and delivery require more ability and study than other parts of oratory, 13-15. Excellence in them attained by study and art, 16, 17. Yet a speaker may be too solicitous about his language, 18-26. Necessity of practice, 27-30. We must not always be striving for something greater and higher, 31-33.

1. IN the observations which are thrown together in the last five books is comprehended the method of inventing and of arranging what we invent, and though to understand this method thoroughly and in all its parts is necessary to the attainment of the height of oratorical skill, to beginners it is better communicated rather in a shorter and simpler way. 2. For otherwise, learners are apt to be deterred by the difficulties of a study so various and complicated; or their faculties, at an age when they require to be strengthened, and to be fostered with some degree of indulgence, are debilitated by being devoted to a task too burdensome for them; or they think that, if they acquire skill in these matters only, they are sufficiently qualified to become truly eloquent; or, again, as if they were bound to certain fixed laws of speaking, they shrink from every attempt to do anything for themselves. 3. Hence it has happened, as some think, that those who have been the most diligent writers of rules on the art, have been farthest from attaining true eloquence. Yet it is necessary to point out a way to those who are entering on the study; but that way should be plain to be pursued, and easy to be shown. Let the able teacher, therefore, such as I conceive in my mind, choose the best precepts out of all that have been given, and communicate at first only such as he approves, without occupying his time in refuting those of an opposite mind. Pupils will follow where the master leads, and, as their minds are strengthened by learning, their judgment will also increase. 4. Let them suppose at first that there is no other road than that by which they are conducted, and discover afterwards that it is the best. The principles, however, which writers, by a pertinacious adherence to their respective opinions, have rendered embarrassing, are in themselves by no means obscure or hard to be understood. 5. In the whole treatment of this art, accordingly, it is more difficult to decide what to teach, than to teach it when a decision is made upon it; and in these two departments, especially, invention and arrangement of matter, there are but very few general rules, and if he, who is under instruction, shows no repugnance or inability to attend to them, he will find the way open to the acquirement of everything else.

6. I have already spent much labor on this work, with a view to show that oratory is skill in speaking well; that it is useful; that it is an art, and a virtue; that its subjects are everything on which an orator may be required to speak; that those subjects lie mostly in three species of oratory, the demonstrative, the deliberative, and the judicial; that all speech consists of matter and words; that, as to matter, we must study invention, as to words, elocution, and as to both arrangement; all which particulars memory must guard and delivery recommend. 7. I showed that the duty of an orator was comprised in the three arts of persuading, exciting, and pleasing; that, for persuading, statement and argument are most efficient, and for exciting, appeals to the feelings, which may be dispersed through the whole of a speech, but should be used chiefly at the beginning and the end; while to please, though it depends on both matter and words, belongs chiefly to elocution. 8. I observed that some questions are indefinite, others definite, or limited to the consideration of persons, places, and occasions; that in regard to every thing there are three points to be considered, whether it is, what it is, and of what nature it is. To these remarks I added that demonstrative oratory consists in praising and blaming; that, in speaking of a person's character, we must notice what was done by the person himself of whom we speak, and what took place after his death, and that this kind of oratory was employed about the honorable and the useful. 9. To deliberative oratory I observed that a third part is added, dependent on conjecture, as when we inquire whether that, which is the subject of our deliberation, is possible, and whether it is likely to happen. In this department of oratory too, I said that it ought above all to be considered what is the character of the speaker, before whom, and on what subject, he speaks. As to judicial causes, I remarked that some depend on one point, some on several; that in some a mere attack or defense is sufficient; and that all defense consists either in denial, (which is of two kinds, as we may dispute whether the fact in question really happened or whether that which happened was of the nature attributed to it,) or in justification, or in exception. 10. I added that questions in a cause relate either to something done, or something written; that in regard to anything done, we consider its probability, its nature, and its quality, and in respect to anything written, the meaning or intention of the words; in contemplating which, the nature of whole causes, criminal and civil, has to be regarded; all of which are included under the heads of letter and intention, syllogism, ambiguity, or contradictory laws. 11. I stated, moreover, that in every judicial cause there are five parts; that the judge is to be conciliated in the exordium; that the cause is set forth in the statement of facts, supported by evidence, and overthrown by refutation; and that the memory is to be refreshed, or the feelings excited, in the peroration. 12. To this I added the topics for argument and addresses to the passions, and showed the means by which judges must be roused, appeased, or amused. Last of all was subjoined the method of division. But let him who shall read this work for improvement feel assured that the course of proceeding laid down in it is one in which nature ought to do much of herself even without learning; so that the various heads which I have spoken should seem not so much to have been invented by teachers, as to have been noticed by them according as they presented themselves.

13. What is to follow requires more labor and care, since I have now to treat of the art of elocution, which is, as all orators are agreed, the most difficult part of my work; for Marcus Antonius, of whom I have spoken above, when he said that he had seen many good speakers, but none of them truly eloquent, understood that it is sufficient for a good speaker to say just what is proper, but to speak in an ornate style belongs only to the most eloquent. 14. If such excellence, accordingly, was found in no speaker down to his time, and not even in himself or in Lucius Crassus, it is certain that it was wanting in them and in preceding speakers, only because it was extremely difficult of acquirement. Cicero himself, indeed, is of opinion, that invention and arrangement are in the power of any sensible man, but eloquence only in that of the complete orator; and it was on this account that he gave his chief attention to the rules for that accomplishment. 15. That he acted rightly in doing so, is shown by the very name of the art of which we are speaking; for elogui, "to speak forth," is to express whatever has been conceived in the mind, and to communicate it fully to the hearers; an art, without which all preceding attainments are useless, like a sword sheathed and clinging to its scabbard. 16. Eloquence, therefore, requires the utmost teaching; no man can attain it without the aid of art; study must be applied to the acquirement of it; exercise and imitation must make it their object; our whole life must be spent in the pursuit of it; it is in this that one orator chiefly excels another; it is from this that some styles of speaking are so much better than others. 17. For we are not to suppose that the Asiatics, or other speakers in any way faulty, were unable to invent matter or to arrange it; or that those whom we call dry were void of understanding or perspicacity in their pleadings; but the truth is that the first wanted judgment and moderation in expressing themselves, and the second energy; and hence it is evident, that in expression lie the faults and excellences of oratory.

18. Yet it is not to be understood that regard is to be paid only to words, for I must meet and stop those in the very vestibule as it were, who would take advantage of what I have just admitted, and who, neglecting to attend to the study of things, which are the nerves of all causes, consume their lives in an empty application to words, making it their object to attain elegance, which is, indeed, in my judgment, an excellent quality in speaking, but only when it comes naturally, not when it is affected. 19. Bodies that are in health, with the blood in a sound state, and strengthened by exercise, have their beauty from the same causes from which they have their vigor, for they are well-complexioned, of a proper tension, and with muscles fully developed; but if a person should render them artificially smooth, and paint and deck them in an effeminate fashion, they would be made eminently repulsive by the very labor bestowed in beautifying them. 20. A becoming and magnificent dress, as it is expressed in the Greek verse, adds dignity to men; but effeminate and luxurious apparel, while it fails to adorn the person, discovers the depravity of the mind. In like manner the transparent and variegated style of some speakers deprives their matter, when clothed in such a garb of words, of all force and spirit.

I would, therefore, recommend care about words, and the utmost care about matter. 21. The best words generally attach themselves to our subject, and show themselves by their own light; but we set ourselves to seek for words, as if they were always hidden, and trying to keep themselves from being discovered. We never consider that they are to be found close to the subject on which we have to speak, but look for them, in strange places, and do violence to them when we have found them. 22. It is with a more manly spirit that Eloquence is to be pursued, who, if she is in vigor throughout her frame, will think it no part of her study to polish her nails and smooth her hair.

23. It generally happens that the more attention is paid to such niceties, the more oratory is deteriorated; for the best expressions are such as are least far-fetched, and have an air of simplicity, appearing to spring from truth itself. Those which betray care, refuse to appear otherwise than artificial and studied; they fail to exhibit grace, and do not produce conviction; besides that they obscure the sense, and choke the crop as it were, with a superabundance of herbage. 24. What may be said simply, we express paraphrastically, from fondness for words; what has been told sufficiently, we repeat; what may be clearly signified in one word, we envelope in a multitude; and we often prefer to intimate our thoughts rather than express them. Indeed no natural expression now satisfies us, since none appears elegant that another speaker has used. 25. We borrow tropes or metaphors from the poets most corrupt in taste, and think that we are witty only when there is need of wit to understand us. Yet Cicero had plainly enough told us, that to depart from the ordinary style of language, and from the practice sanctioned by universal reason, is, in speaking, even the greatest of faults. 26. But Cicero, forsooth, was a harsh and unpolished orator; and we, to whom all that nature dictates is contemptible, and who seek, not ornament, but meretricious finery, know how to speak better than he; as if there were any excellence in words except as far as they agree with things; and if we are to make it the object of our whole life, that our words may be nice, and splendid, and ornate, and properly arranged, the whole fruit of our studies comes to nothing. 27. Yet we see most of our speakers hesitating about every word, seeking for expressions, and weighing and measuring them when they are found. Even if the sole object of their solicitude were that they might always use the best words, yet their unhappy care would deserve to be execrated, as it retards the course of their speech, and, from hesitation and diffidence, extinguishes the ardor of imagination. 28. He is but a wretched, and, I may say, a poor orator who can not endure to lose a single word. Yet not a single word, assuredly, will he lose, who shall first of all have learned the true principles of eloquence, and shall, by a long and judicious course of reading, have acquired a copious supply of words, and attained the art of arranging them; and who, besides, shall have made himself master of his stores by constant exercise, so that they may always be at hand and before his eyes. 29. To him who shall have done this, things and their names will present themselves at once; but for such excellence there is need of previous study and of an ability acquired and, as it were, laid up. For anxiety in seeking, judging, and comparing words should be used while we are learning, not after we have become speakers. Otherwise, as men who have not secured a fortune have recourse to occasional expedients, so such speakers, from not having previously studied sufficiently, will be at a loss for expressions. 30. But if resources for speaking have been acquired beforehand, they will be ready for our use, not seeming merely to answer exigencies, but to attend on our thoughts, and to follow them as a shadow follows the substance.

31. Yet in this kind of care we should set bounds to ourselves; for when our words are good Latin, significant, elegant, and properly arranged, why should we labor for anything more? But some speakers make no end of dissatisfaction with themselves, and of hesitating at almost every syllable; speakers who, when they have found the best terms, are anxious for something still more antique, far-fetched, and surprising; and who do not understand that in a speech of which the language is much extolled, the sense is too little regarded.

32. Let the greatest possible care, then, be bestowed on expression, provided we bear in mind that nothing is to be done for the sake of words, as words themselves were invented for the sake of things, and as those words are the most to be commended which express our thoughts best, and produce the impression which we desire on the minds of the judges. 33. Such words undoubtedly must make a speech both worthy of admiration and productive of pleasure; but not of that kind of admiration with which we wonder at monsters; or of that kind of pleasure which is attended with unnatural gratification, but such as is compatible with true merit and worth.


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