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It is then indispensably our duty so to manage our discourse, that it may be beneficial both to ourselves and others, we not incurring the censure of being thought vain-glorious or arrogant by any; to be always readier to hear than to teach; and, especially, so to abate and moderate all vehemency and passionate quarrelling about trivial questions, as that we may cease to attend and manage disputations with the same indifferency as you may have seen some exercise hurlbats and cudgelling,—that is, so as to leave the stage with more satisfaction for having had a true hit or coming off conqueror, than for having either learned ourselves or taught our antagonist any manner of skill by the engagement.

An evenness and mildness of temper in all such affairs, which never will suffer us to enter the lists with vehemency and passion, nor to be hot and concerned in settling an argument, nor to scold and give bad words when we have vanquished our adversary, nor to be very much dejected if we chance to be quite baffled, is (I think) a true sign of a great proficient in virtue. Aristippus was a great example of this; for when in a set disputation he was baffled by the sophistry and forehead of an impudent, [p. 460] wild, and ignorant disputant, and observed him to be flushed and high with the conquest; Well! says the philosopher, I am certain, I shall sleep quieter to-night than my antagonist.

Not only upon the close and event of our philosophical contests, but even in the midst of disputation, we may (privately) take an estimate of this good quality in us, which is a sign of a true proficient; for example, if, upon a greater appearance of auditors than was expected, we be not afraid nor in confusion; if, at the thinness of the congregation, when there are but a few to hear us, we be not dejected and troubled; and lastly, if, when we are to speak before a numerous or honorable assembly, we do not, for want of fitting preparation, miss the opportunity for ever.

It is reported that two as famous orators as ever were, Demosthenes and Alcibiades, were somewhat weak and faulty in this point. The timorousness of the former is known to every school-boy; and as for Alcibiades, though he was (as must be confessed) as sagacious and happy in his thoughts as any man whatever, yet, for want of a little assurance in speaking a thing, he very often miserably lost himself in his pleadings; for he would falter and make pauses in the very middle of his orations, purely for want of a single word or some neat expression, that he had in his papers but could not presently remember. To give you another instance of the prince of poets, Homer; he was so blinded with an over-confidence of his abilities in poetry, that he has slipped a false quantity, and left it on record, in the very first verse of his Iliads.

Seeing then the learnedest men and greatest artists have failed and may fail for want of caution or confidence, it ought more nearly to concern those that earnestly follow virtue, not to slip the least opportunity of improvement, either by company or otherwise; and not overmuch to [p. 461] regard the throng or applause of the theatre, when they do exercise or make any solemn harangue.

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