Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

TO

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

THOMAS LORD ERSKINE, K, T.

ETC. ETC. ETC.

THESE

Anecdotes of Eloquence

ARE

RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED,

BY HIS LORDSHIP'S

MOST DEVOTED AND

MOST OBEDIENT

HUMBLE SERVANTS,

Shorte Jarcy Raulandsrey.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

THE

Percy Anecdotes.

ANECDOTES OF ELOQUENCE.

Animoque supersunt
Jam prope post animam.”

APOLL. SIDON

DEMOSTHENES.
“Quem mirabantur Athenæ
Torrentem, et pleni moderantem fræna theatri.”

JUV. SAT. X.
DEMOSTHENES has been styled, by one second only
to himself in the gift of eloquence, “ the Prince of
Orators ;" and the rank which Tully conferred, the
common consent of the learned of all succeeding ages
has amply confirmed. How delightful would it be,
were we able to add, that while a “
Orators,” he was also a “ Prince among Men.” But
truth, always most stubborn when it treats of great
examples, shuts its book on the willing encomium.
In the life of this Prince of Orators, we see un-
happily exemplified almost every thing which is a
reproach to the reputation of this noble faculty,

Every thing which is most calculated to

Prince among

ORATO

[blocks in formation]

make its importance to the interests of society undervalued and despised. We see in Demosthenes the first great instance of an orator without courage ; an orator without honesty; an orator without principle. We see in the story of his life, eloquence alternately exalted and debased ; now exerted for the noblest of purposes; the next moment silenced for the basest. We see a man whose philippics seem animated by the purest spirit of patriotism, afterwards sacrificing the honour of his country for a paltry bribe. We see a man who is a very hero in rousing others to fight bravely for their rights, the veriest poltroon himself in the field. We see, finally, a man who made it the pride of his life to animate others to die for their country, pusillanimously flying from the evils which environ him, and resolved to die for himself alone, seeking the coward's refuge in a suicide's grave. But, gentle reader, we forget that our business is not to expatiate, but to narrate.

His dastardly flight from the battle of Cheronæa--

His skulking from the presence of Alexander, when commissioned to propitiate his clemency--

We dwell not on these facts; they are circumstances which display more of the weakness than of the wickedness of human nature.

When Harpalus, one of Alexander's officers, after betraying his master, and purloining his treasures,* made bis escape to Athens, it became a question with the Athenians whether they should give the traitorrobber shelter ? Demosthenes, to whose opinion the people looked up with reverence, declared at first that they ought on no account to disgrace the character of the republic, by affording refuge to one so infamous.

A day was appointed for the solemn decision of the matter, and in the mean time Harpalus, sensible how much his success depended on gaining over “ the Prince of Orators” to his side, sought and obtained an opportunity of shewing Demosthenes the precious store of goodly things of which he had robbed his royal master. The orator was particularly struck with the sight of a massy golden cup, and poising it in his hand, he asked Harpalus, " What was its weight?” Harpalus replied, “To you it shall weigh twenty talents.” When Demosthenes had departed, the cup was accordingly sent after him to his house, along with twenty talents in money. Next day, when the case of Harpalus came on for consideration, Demosthenes appeared in the assembly with his throat muffled up, and when called on to speak, he made signs that he had lost his voice !

To the honour of Athens, this act of abominable venality was not allowed to pass unpunished. It was the cause of a fine of fifty talents being imposed on the orator, to avoid the payment of which he fled to Ægina, where he remained in exile until an emergency in the affairs of the republic produced his recal.

Demosthenes once observed to Phocion, who was at the head of a party of orators whom Philip had bribed over to his interest, that “the Athenians would one day murder him in a mad fit.”

“Take care,' replied Phocion, “ that they do not murder you in a sober one."

The warning was prophetical. The Athenians, as the price of their reconciliation with Antipater, were obliged to pass a decree, condemning Demosthenes to death. The orator fled for refuge to the temple of

« ZurückWeiter »