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“ Egeria ! sweet creation of some heart
Too much adoring ; whatsoe'er thy birth,
Of the perfections of bachelors' wives it is unneces sary to speak : they are so well known that no eulogy, even from the ablest pen, could do them any degree of justice. But the manner in which those sweet intellectual creatures entertain their solitary husbands, their conjugal conversations, and the manifold poetical graces and rational blandishments with which they render their society so delightful and endearing, are not generally known. We have therefore undertaken the agreeable task of informing the world with respect to topics so interesting, and we doubt not that, before our labours are completed, we shall have persuaded all our fair and gentle readers to emulate the fascinating intelligence of the faultless, the everplacent, ever-pleasant companion, Egeria.
ONE evening, soon after the marriage of our old chum Benedict, during the honey-moon, as his dear Egeria and he were sitting enjoying the beatitude of his lonely chambers in the Paper buildings, the conversation happened to turn on public speaking, Benedict being at the time ambitious to acquire distinction in that department, the lady, like a fond and faithful Wife, did all in her power to encourage his predilections for the art.
“ It has often been urged,” said she, “ as an objection against the study of eloquence, that it is a delusive art; unnecessary when it is employed on the side of truth and justice, which their own intrinsic weight and evidence will always sufficiently recommend; and when found in opposition to them, as, from the variety, and imperfection of human characters must frequently be the case, highly dangerous to society. In this objection, eloquence is considered as an engine for swaying the minds of men, not only independent of the moral character of the speaker, but of the truth or falsehood of the propositions he endeavours to inculcate ; and which may, with equal facility, be employed to give a gloss to false opinions, and to acts of treachery and injustice, as to enforce truth, or to support virtue. According to this view of the subject, there can be little doubt but that elo quence is an evil which ought to be banished from
the writings and discourses of men ; for though the advantages on both sides may seem equally balanced, as eloquence may as frequently be an auxiliary to truth as to error, yet truth and justice can much better support the absence of extrinsic ornament than falsehood and injustice, which never fail, when shewn in their true colours, to excite aversion and detestation.
“ It is, however, by no means clear that eloquence, or at least that noble and commanding species of it which we at present consider, is equally adapted to all characters and to all causes and circumstances. Eloquence, it would seem, depends, in a great measure, on the strength of the moral feelings; and I am strongly inclined to imagine that, wherever it produces its highest effects, it produces them only through the medium of those natural sentiments of equity and public spirit common to all mankind, which can seldom be excited but in a good cause. No man becomes eloquent but by having his mind roused and agitated by some ennobling sentiment or passion, which he communicates by sympathy to his hearers : but self-interest, however strongly it may urge a man to the accomplishment of his designs, wants power to excite that noble enthusiasm of mind which is essential to true eloquence. Even supposing this enthusiasm excited in the speaker's own breast, by what means is it to be conveyed to the minds of his audience? It is only the generous and social affections that are communicable by sympathy, and which circulate with rapidity from breast to breast ; interest, on the contrary, is a cold and solitary feeling, which shrinks from the eye of public
observation, and which every individual carefully conceals within himself.”
“ Your observations, my love,” replied the Bachelor, “ are exceedingly just as regards eloquence in general. In this country, however, where it is not used as an occasional engine, but is in fact one of the manufacturing machines of our multiform commerce, it is decidedly an art in which the power of persuasion consists in something distinct, both from the personal feelings and the personal character of the orator. Eloquence among us is the art of reasoning; we attain nothing, either at the bar or in parliament, by impassioned declamation, and scarcely more than a shout even on the hustings.”
“ You would imply by that, Benedict,” replied the nymph, “ that eloquence is not among us so eminent a faculty as it was among the ancients.”
“ It is so thought,” said he.
" It is so said, I allow," interrupted Egeria; “but how far justly is another thing. I am however inclined to think, that as it enters so much more largely into the management of public affairs in England than in any other country, either ancient or modern, it ought to flourish here in greater perfection than it ever did elsewhere."
“ But confessedly it does not,” said the Bachelor. “ We have had no orator to compare either with Demosthenes or with Cicero ; and until we have such, we must bow the head of homage to their genius, and acknowledge our inferiority.”
“ I do not see the question in that light, my dear,” replied the nymph. “We have had, it is true, no orators who exactly resemble them, but we have had