previous next
1 From this we can clearly see what a scandalous dereliction of duty it is for the schools of rhetoric to abandon this department of their work, which was not merely its first, but for a long time its sole task. [10] What is there in those exercises of which I have just spoken that does not involve matters which are the special concern of rhetoric and further are typical of actual legal cases? Have we not to narrate facts in the law-courts? Indeed I am not sure that this is not the most important department of rhetoric in actual practice. [11] Are not eulogy and denunciation frequently introduced in the course of the contests of the courts? Are not common-places frequently inserted in the very heart of lawsuits, whether, like those which we find in the works of Cicero, they are directed against vice, or, like those published by Quintus Hortensius, deal with questions of general interest such as “whether small points of argument should carry weight,” or are employed to defend or impugn the credibility of witnesses? [12] These are weapons which we should always have stored in our armoury ready for immediate use as occasion may demand. The critic who denies that [p. 211] such matters concern an orator is one who will refuse to believe that a statue is being begun when its limbs are actually being cast. Some will think that I am in too great a hurry, but let no one accuse me of thinking that the pupil who has been entrusted to the rhetorician should forthwith be withdrawn from the teacher of literature. [13] The latter will still have certain hours allotted him, and there is no reason to fear that a boy will be overloaded by receiving instruction from two different masters. It will not mean any increase of work, but merely the division among two masters of the studies which were previously indiscriminately combined under one: and the efficiency of either teacher will be increased. This method is still in vogue among the Greeks, but has been abandoned by us, not perhaps without some excuse, as there were others ready to step into the rhetorician's shoes.

II. As soon therefore as a boy has made sufficient progress in his studies to be able to follow what I have styled the first stage of instruction in rhetoric, he should be placed under a rhetorician. Our first task must be to enquire whether the teacher is of good character. [2] The reason which leads me to deal with this subject in this portion of my work is not that I regard character as a matter of indifference where other teachers are concerned, (I have already shown how important I think it in the preceding book), but that the age to which the pupil has now attained makes the mention of this point especially necessary. [3] For as a rule boys are on the verge of manhood when transferred to the teacher of rhetoric and continue with him even when they are young men: consequently we must spare no effort to secure [p. 213] that the purity of the teacher's character should preserve those of tenderer years from corruption, while its authority should keep the bolder spirits from breaking out into licence. [4] Nor is it sufficient that he should merely set an example of the highest personal self-control; he must also be able to govern the behaviour of his pupils by the strictness of his discipline.

[5] Let him therefore adopt a parental attitude to his pupils, and regard himself as the representative of those who have committed their children to his charge. Let him be free from vice himself and refuse to tolerate it in others. Let him be strict but not austere, genial but not too familiar: for austerity will make him unpopular, while familiarity breeds contempt. Let his discourse continually turn on what is good and honourable; the more he admonishes, the less he will have to punish. He must control his temper without however shutting his eyes to faults requiring correction: his instruction must be free from affectation, his industry great, his demands on his class continuous, but not extravagant. [6] He must be ready to answer questions and to put them unasked to those who sit silent. In praising the recitations of his pupils he must be neither grudging nor over-generous: the former quality will give them a distaste for work, while the latter will produce a complacent self-satisfaction. [7] In correcting faults he must avoid sarcasm and above all abuse: for teachers whose rebukes seem to imply positive dislike discourage industry. [8] He should declaim daily himself and, what is more, without stint, that his class may take his utterances home with them. For however many models for imitation he may [p. 215] give them from the authors they are reading, it will still be found that fuller nourishment is provided by the living voice, as we call it, more especially when it proceeds from the teacher himself, who, if his pupils are rightly instructed, should be the object of their affection and respect. And it is scarcely possible to say how much more readily we imitate those whom we like.

[9] I strongly disapprove of the prevailing practice of allowing boys to stand up or leap from the seats in the expression of their applause. Young men, even when they are listening to others, should be temperate in manifesting their approval. If this be insisted upon, the pupil will depend on his instructor's verdict and will take his approval as a guarantee that he has spoken well. [10] The worst form of politeness, as it has come to be called, is that of mutual and indiscriminate applause, a practice which is unseemly, theatrical and unworthy of a decently disciplined school, in addition to being the worst foe to genuine study. For if every effusion is greeted with a storm of ready-made applause, care and industry come to be regarded as superfluous. [11] The audience no less than the speaker should therefore keep their eyes fixed on their teacher's face, since thus they will learn to distinguish between what is praiseworthy and what is not: for just as writing gives facility, so listening begets the critical faculty. [12] But in the schools of to-day we see boys stooping forward ready to spring to their feet: at the close of each period they not merely rise, but rush forward with shouts of unseemly enthusiasm. Such compliments are mutual and the success of a declamation consists in this kind of applause. The [p. 217] result is vanity and empty self-sufficiency, carried to such an extent that, intoxicated by the wild enthusiasm of their fellow-pupils, they conceive a spite against their master, if his praise does not come up to their expectation. [13] But teachers must also insist on receiving an attentive and quiet hearing from the class when they themselves declaim. For the master should not speak to suit his pupil's standard, but they should speak to suit his. Further he should, if possible, keep his eyes open to note the points which each boy praises and observe the manner in which he expresses his approval, and should rejoice that his words give pleasure not only for his own sake, but for that of those who show sound judgment in their appreciation.

[14] I do not approve of boys sitting mixed with young men. For even if the teacher be such an one as we should desire to see in charge of the morals and studies of the young, and can keep his youthful pupils under proper control, it is none the less desirable to keep the weaker members separate from the more mature, and to avoid not only the actual charge of corruption but the merest suspicion of it. [15] I have thought it worth while to put my views on this subject quite briefly. For I do not think it necessary even to warn the teacher that both he and his school must be free from the grosser vices. And should there be any father who does not trouble to choose a teacher for his son who is free from the obvious taint of immorality, he may rest assured that all the other precepts, which I am attempting to lay down for the benefit of our youth, will be absolutely useless to him, if he neglects this.

III. I do not think that I should pass by in silence [p. 219] even the opinion of those who, even when they regard boys as ripe for the rhetorician, still do not think that they should at once be placed under the most eminent teacher available, but prefer to keep them for a while under inferior masters, on the ground that in the elementary stages a mediocre instructor is easier to understand and to imitate, and less reluctant to undertake the tiresome task of teaching the rudiments as being beneath his notice. [2] I do not think that I need waste much time in pointing out how much better it is to absorb the best possible principles, or how hard it is to get rid of faults which have once become engrained; for it places a double burden on the shoulders of the later teacher and the preliminary task of unteaching is harder than that of teaching. [3] It is for this reason that the famous piper Timotheus is said to have demanded from those who had previously been under another master a fee double the amount which he charged for those who came to him untaught. The mistake to which I am referring is, however, twofold. First they regard these inferior teachers as adequate for the time being and are content with their instruction because they have a stomach that will swallow anything: [4] this indifference, though blameworthy in itself, would yet be tolerable, if the teaching provided by these persons were merely less in quantity and not inferior in quality as well. Secondly, and this is a still commoner delusion, they think that those who are blest with greater gifts of speaking will not condescend to the more elementary details, and that consequently they sometimes disdain to give attention to such inferior subjects of study and sometimes are incapable of so doing. [5] For my part I regard the [p. 221] teacher who is unwilling to attend to such details as being unworthy of the name of teacher: and as for the question of capacity, I maintain that it is the most capable man who, given the will, is able to do this with most efficiency. For in the first place it is a reasonable inference that a man blest with abnormal powers of eloquence will have made careful note of the various steps by which eloquence is attained, and in the second place the reasoning faculty, [6] which is specially developed in learned men, is all-important in teaching, while finally no one is eminent in the greater things of his art if he be lacking in the lesser. Unless indeed we are asked to believe that while Phidias modelled his Jupiter to perfection, the decorative details of the statue would have been better executed by another artist, or that an orator does not know how to speak, or a distinguished physician is incapable of treating minor ailments.

[7] “Yes” it may be answered “but surely you do not deny that there is a type of eloquence that is too great to be comprehended by undeveloped boys?” Of course there is. But this eloquent teacher whom they fling in my face must be a sensible man with a good knowledge of teaching and must be prepared to stoop to his pupil's level, just as a rapid walker, if walking with a small child, will give him his hand and lessen his own speed and avoid advancing at a pace beyond the powers of his little companion. [8] Again it frequently happens that the more learned the teacher, the more lucid and intelligible is his instruction. For clearness is the first virtue of eloquence, and the less talented a man is, the more he will strive to exalt and dilate himself, just as short men tend to walk on tip-toe and weak [p. 223] men to use threats. [9] As for those whose style is inflated or vicious, and whose language reveals a passion for high-sounding words or labours under any other form of affectation, in my opinion they suffer not from excess of strength but of weakness, like bodies swollen not with the plumpness of health but with disease, or like men who weary of the direct road betake them to bypaths. Consequently the worse a teacher is, the harder he will be to understand.

[10] I have not forgotten that I stated in the preceding book, when I urged that school was preferable to home education, that pupils at the commencement of their studies, when progress is as yet but in the bud, are more disposed to imitate their schoolfellows than their masters, since such imitation comes more easily to them. Some of my readers may think that the view which I am now maintaining is inconsistent with my previous statement. [11] But I am far from being inconsistent: for my previous assertion affords the strongest reason for selecting the very best teachers for our boys; since pupils of a first rate master, having received a better training, will when they speak say something that may be worthy of imitation, while if they commit some mistake, they will be promptly corrected. But the incompetent teacher on the other hand is quite likely to give his approval to faulty work and by the judgment which he expresses to force approval on the audience. [12] The teacher should therefore be as distinguished for his eloquence as for his good character, and like Phoenix in the Iliad be able to teach his pupil both how to behave and how to speak. [p. 225]

1 3. vi. 96).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (Harold Edgeworth Butler, 1920)
load focus Latin (Harold Edgeworth Butler, 1920)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: