A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Corrupt Eloquence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Corrupt Eloquence.

[a] The urbanity with which the Dialogue is conducted, and the perfect harmony with which the speakers take leave of each other, cannot but leave a pleasing impression on the mind of every reader of taste.  It has some resemblance to the conclusion of Cicero’s Dialogue DE NATURA DEORUM.  In both tracts, we have a specimen of the politeness with which the ancients managed a conversation on the most interesting subjects, and by the graces of style brought the way of instructing by dialogue into fashion.  A modern writer, whose poetical genius cannot be too much admired, chooses to call it a frippery way of writing.  He advises his countrymen to abandon it altogether; and this for a notable reason:  because the Rev. Dr. Hurd (now Bishop of Worcester) has shewn the true use of it.  That the dialogues of that amiable writer have an intrinsic value, cannot be denied:  they contain a fund of reflection; they allure by the elegance of the style, and they bring us into company with men whom we wish to hear, to know, and to admire.  While we have such conversation-pieces, not to mention others of the same stamp, both ancient and modern, the public taste, it may be presumed, will not easily be tutored to reject a mode of composition, in which the pleasing and useful are so happily blended.  The present Dialogue, it is true, cannot be proved, beyond a controversy, to be the work of Tacitus; but it is also true, that it cannot, with equal probability, be ascribed to any other writer.  It has been retained in almost every edition of Tacitus; and, for that reason, claims a place in a translation which professes to give all the works of so fine a writer.


The Author of these volumes has now gone through the difficult task of translating Tacitus, with the superadded labour of supplements to give continuity to the narrative, and notes to illustrate such passages as seemed to want explanation; but he cannot lay down his pen, without taking the liberty of addressing a few words to the reader.  As what he has to offer relates chiefly to himself, it shall be very short.  He has dedicated many years of his life to this undertaking; and though, during the whole time, he had the pleasure and the honour of being acquainted with many gentlemen of taste and learning, he had no opportunity of appealing to their opinion, or guiding himself by their advice.  Amidst the hurry of life, and the various pursuits in which all are engaged, how could he hope that any one would be at leisure to attend to the doubts, the difficulties, and minute niceties, which must inevitably occur in a writer of so peculiar a genius as Tacitus?  He was unwilling to be a troublesome visitor, and, by consequence, has been obliged, throughout the whole of his work, to trust to his own judgement, such as it is.  He spared no pains to do all the justice in his power to one of the greatest writers of antiquity; but whether he has toiled with fruitless industry, or has in any degree succeeded, must be left to the judgement of others.

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A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Corrupt Eloquence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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