Chapter VI. Logic and Rhetoric in the English Renaissance
1. The Content of Classical Rhetoric Carried Over into Logic
But among serious people the painted and perfumed Dame Rethoryke of Lydgate and Hawes was in disrepute. She had turned over her business in life to the kings and devoted too much attention to ornament. Such a serious person was Rudolph Agricola, who, in his treatise on logic, accepted the mediaeval tradition that rhetoric was concerned only with smoothness and ornament of speech and all that went toward captivating the ears, and straightway picked up all the serious purpose and thoughtful content of classical rhetoric which mediaeval rhetoric had abandoned, to hand them over to logic. Consequently, in a work which he significantly entitles De inventione dialectica, he defines logic as the art of speaking in a probable manner concerning any topic which can be treated in a speech. According to Agricola's scheme, rhetoric retains “elocutio,” style; and logic carries over “ inventio,” as his title shows, and “dispositio.” His whole-hearted disgust with the stylistic extremes of rhetoric he shows by denying to oratory any aim of pleasing and moving. Of Cicero's threefold purpose, to teach, to please, and to move, he retains only teaching as pertinent to effective public speech. “Docere,” to teach, he uses in the classical sense which includes proof as well as instruction. Thus he says it has two parts: exposition and argument. The parts of a speech he reduces to the minimum proposed by Aristotle: the statement and the proof. Thus although Agricola admits that rhetoric is most beautiful, he will have none of her.
Following this lead, Thomas Wilson, the English rhetorician and statesman, defines logic and rhetoric as follows:
Logic is occupied about all matters, and doeth plainlie and nakedly set
forth with apt wordes the sum of things, by way of argumentation.
Rhetorike useth gaie painted sentences, and setteth forthe those matters
with freshe colours and goodly ornaments, and that at large.
According to Agricola and Wilson logic has supplanted rhetoric in finding all possible means of persuasion in any subject. Following Peter Ramus, Wilson finds that logic has two parts: judicium, “Framyng of thinges aptlie together, and knittyng words for the purpose accordynglie,” and inventio, “Findyng out matter, and searchyng stuffe agreable to the cause.” Hermagoras and others had in antiquity considered judicium, or judgment, as a part of rhetoric, although Quintilian thought it less a part of rhetoric than necessary to all parts. Inventio, of course, has always been the most important part of rhetoric. This same carrying over of the content of classical rhetoric into logic is further illustrated by Abraham Fraunce, who divides his Lawiers Logic (1588) into two parts: invention and disposition.
2. The Persistence of the Mediaeval Tradition of Rhetoric
But while the survival of the mediaeval notion that rhetoric was concerned mainly with style thus gave over in the English Renaissance inventio and dispositio to logic, there naturally remained nothing of classical rhetoric but elocutio and pronuntiatio. A brief survey of the English rhetorics of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries will show that this was the case. Richard Sherry devotes an entire book to style in his “Treatise of Schemes and Tropes” (1550). He begins by defining “eloquucion, the third part of Rhetoric,” as the dressing up of thought. Rhetoric to him had not in theory become style, but style is the only part which he finds interesting enough to treat. His schemes and tropes are of course the rhetorical figures; but let him explain them in his own artless way. “A scheme is the fashion of a word, sayyng or sentence, otherwyse wrytten or spoken then after the vulgar and comon usage. A trope is a movynge and changynge of a worde or sentence, from thyr owne significacion into another which may agree with it by a similitude.” Henry Peacham's Garden of Eloquence, Conteyning the Figures of Grammer and Rhetoric (1577) likewise deals only with the rhetorical figures.
In the anonymous, The Artes of Logike and Rhetorike (1584), rhetoric is denned as “an arte of speaking finelie. It hath two parts, garnishing of speach, called Eloqution, and garnishing of the manner of utterance, called Pronunciation.” Thus by definition rhetoric includes only style and delivery. Under garnishing of speech the author treats only the rhetorical figures. This restriction of style to figures is characteristic. The rhythm of prose upon which classical treatises on style lavished such enthusiastic pains is practically ignored in those English treatises. The comma, colon, and periodus which to classical authors signified rhythmical units in the sentence movement had already come to mean to most people only marks of punctuation. Garnishing of utterance Fenner does not discuss at all.
In The Arcadian Rhetorike (1588), Abraham Fraunce treats both. “Rhetorike,” he says, “is an Art of Speaking. It hath two parts, Eloqution and Pronuntiation. Eloqution is the first part of Rhetorike, concerning the ordering and trimming of speech. It hath two parts, Congruity and Braverie.” Congruity (as pertaining more to grammar) he does not discuss. “Braverie of speach consisteth of tropes or turnings, and in figures or fashionings.” The remainder of the first book deals with meter and verse forms, baldly of prose rhythm, epizeuxis, conceited verses, and various rhetorical figures. The second book deals with the voice and gestures. This rhetoric of Fraunce's, then, complements his Lawiers Logike of the same year, the latter dealing with the finding out and arrangement of arguments in a speech, and the former with style and delivery. Rhetoric is thus concerned only with stylistic artifice in verse as well as in prose.
The same tradition is upheld by Charles Butler, who in his Latin school rhetoric (1600) defines rhetoric as the art of ornate speech and divides it into elocutio, a discussion of the tropes and figures, andpronuntiatio, the use of voice and gesture. And John Barton is worse. In his Art of Rhetorick (1634) he says:
Rhetorick is the skill of using daintie words, and comely deliverie,
whereby to work upon men's affections. It hath two parts, adornation and
action. Adornation consisteth in the sweetness of the phrase, and is
seen in tropes and figures.
There are foure kinds of tropes, substitution, comprehension,
comparation, simulation. The affection of a trope is the quality whereby
it requires a second resolution. These affections are five: abuse,
duplication, continuation, superlocution, sublocution. A figure is an
affecting kind of speech without consideration had of any borrowed
sense. A figure is two-fold: relative and independent,
and he names over in his jargon the six figures which are of each kind. If this be rhetoric, perhaps there was justification for John Smith's The Mysterie of Rhetorique Unvailed (1657), which continued the fallacious tradition by dividing rhetoric into elocution and pronunciation.
This perversion of rhetoric which considered it as concerned only with style, or aureate language, was not restricted to the school books. The popular use of rhetoric as synonymous with “fine honeyed speech,” is seen in a passage from Old Fortunatus, where it carries the modern connotation of a meretricious substitute for genuine feeling, as where Agripyne says,
“Methinks a soldier is the most faithful lover of all men else; for his
affection stands not upon compliment. His wooing is plain home spun
stuff; there's no outlandish thread in it, no rhetoric.”
3. The Recovery of Classical Rhetoric
A half century before Smith unveiled the mysteries of rhetoric, Bacon had in his Advancement of Learning (1605) pointed out the fallacies of the renaissance obsession with style. He briefly traces the causes of the renaissance study of language and adds:
“This grew speedily to an excesse; for men began to hunt more after
wordes than matter, and more after the choisenesse of the Phrase and the
round and cleane composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of
the clauses, and the varying and illustration of their workes with
tropes and figures, then after the weight of matter, worth of subject,
soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgement.”
Sooner or later the school books had to reform. The Latin school rhetoric of Thomas Vicars (1621), after one has perused the treatise of his predecessors and contemporaries, is so conservative as to appear startling. It has all the air of a novelty. Yet all he does is to return to the classical tradition by defining rhetoric as the art of correct or effective speech having five parts: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronuntiatio . And Thomas Farnaby, whose Index Rhetoricus appeared in six editions between 1633 and 1654, gives a fairly proportioned treatment of inventio, dispositio, elocutio, and actio.Memoria he omits, following here, as elsewhere, the sound leadership of Vossius.
4. Channels of Classical Theory
This perversion of rhetorical theory in the middle ages and early renaissance had resulted not from mere wrong-headedness on the part of the rhetoricians, but from the limited knowledge of classical tradition during the middle ages. Especially was this true in those parts of western Europe, such as England, which were remote from the Mediterranean countries which better preserved the heritage of Greece and Rome. Moreover, the most important classical treatises on the theory of poetry—by Aristotle and Longinus—were almost unknown throughout the middle ages, and the rhetorical writings of Cicero and Quintilian were known only in fragments.
Servatus Lupus (805-862), Abbot of Ferrieres and a learned man, was unusual in his scholarship; for he knew not only the rhetoric Ad Herennium which was believed to be Cicero's but also the De oratoreand fragments of Quintilian. The current rhetorical treatises of the middle ages were Cicero's De inventione, and the Ad Herennium. The De oratore was used but slightly, and the Brutus and theOrator not at all. What little classical rhetoric there is in Stephen Hawes was derived from the Ad Herennium.
The survival and popularity of the Ad Herennium during this period is one of the most interesting phenomena of rhetorical history. Of the classical treatises on rhetoric which survive to-day it undoubtedly arouses the least interest and can contribute the least to modern education or criticism. Yet it is the most characteristic Latin rhetoric we possess. It is a text-book of rhetoric which was used in the Roman schools. In fact, Cicero's De inventione is so much like it that some suspect that Cicero's notes which he took in school got into circulation and forced the publication of his professor's lectures. Aristotle's philosophy of rhetoric, Cicero's charming dialog on his profession, Quintilian's treatise on the teaching of rhetoric—none of these is a text-book. The rhetoric Ad Herennium is. It is clear and orderly in its organization. It defines all the technical terms which it uses, and illustrates its principles. As one might expect, it delights in over-analysis, in categories and sub-categories, the four kinds of causes, the three virtues of the narratio. In the hands of a skilled teacher of composition, however, and with much class-room practice, it undoubtedly would get rhetoric taught more effectively than would more philosophical or literary treatises. Thus in Guarino's school at Ferrara (1429-1460) the Ad Herennium was regarded as the quintessence of pure Ciceronian doctrine of oratory, and was made the starting point and standing authority in teaching rhetoric. In more advanced classes it was supplemented by the De oratore, Orator, and what was known of Quintilian. The Ciceronianus of Erasmus testifies that by the next century the scholarship of the renaissance had discovered that the Ad Herennium was not from the pen of Cicero, and that the De inventione was considered apologetically by its famous author, who wrote his De oratore to supersede the more youthful treatise. But six years after the publication of the Ciceronianus of Erasmus, the edition of Cicero's Opera published in Basel in 1534 still incorporates theAd Herennium, and Thomas Wilson in England owes most of his first book and part of the second of his Arte of Rhetorique to its anonymous author, whom he believed to be Cicero. For instance in his section on Devision as a part of a speech, Wilson says, “Tullie would not have a devision to be made, of, or above three partes at the moste, nor lesse then three neither, if neede so required.”
“Tullie” says no such thing. Indeed, Cicero never considers divisio as one of the parts of a speech. But the Ad Herennium does make divisio a part of a speech, and does require not over three parts. As late as 1612, Thomas Heywood quotes the authority of “Tully, in his booke Ad Caium Herennium.”
The relative importance of Cicero's rhetorical works to the middle ages is well illustrated by a count of the manuscripts preserved. In the libraries of Europe today there exist seventy-nine manuscripts of the De inventione, eighty-three of the Ad Herennium, forty of the De oratore, fourteen of the Brutus, and twenty of the Orator. Thus in the University of Bologna the study of rhetoric was based on the De inventione and the Ad Herennium. The De inventione is the source for Alcuin's rhetorical writings, and was the only Ciceronian rhetoric known to Abelard or Dante. Brunette Latini translated seventeen chapters of it into Italian. Although mutilated codices of the De oratore and the Orator were known to Servatus Lupus and John of Salisbury, complete manuscripts of these most important works were not known previous to 1422. The Ad Herennium and the De inventione were first printed by Jenson at Venice in 1470. The first book printed at Angers (1476) was the Ad Herenniumunder the usual mediaeval title of the Rhetorica nova. The first edition of the De oratore was printed in the monastery of Subaco about 1466. The Brutus first appeared in Rome (1469) in the same year which witnessed the first edition of the Orator. Before its first printing the Orator was used as a reference book for advanced students by Guarino in his school at Ferrara.
Castiglione's indebtedness to the De oratore is well known, but few notice that his first paragraphs are a close paraphrase of Cicero's dedicatory paragraphs of the Orator.
But in England the first reference to the Orator appears in Ascham's Scholemaster (1570) one hundred years after its first printing. Thus the Ciceronian rhetoric of the middle ages was derived from the pseudo-Ciceronian Ad Herennium and from the youthful De inventione, not from the best rhetorical treatises of Cicero as we know them. Moreover the mediaeval tradition persisted in England for over a hundred years after it had been displaced in Italy.
The Rhetoric of Aristotle was known to the middle ages only through a Latin translation by Hermanus Allemanus (c. 1256) of Alfarabi's commentary. The Greek text was first published in the Aldine Rhetores Graeci (1508), and was for the first time incorporated in the works of Aristotle published in Basel, 1531. As early as 1478, however, the Latin version by George of Trebizond had been published in Venice. This was frequently reissued in the Opera of Aristotle together with the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, long believed to be the work of Aristotle, in the Latin translation by Filelfo, and the Poetics in Pazzi's translation. As the true Rhetoric of Aristotle, known to the renaissance as the Ars rhetoricorum ad Theodecten, was so frequently published with the spurious Rhetorica, references to Aristotle'sRhetoric in the sixteenth century are likely to be confusing. Thus it is difficult to tell whether the Rhetoric required to be read by Oxford students in the fifteenth century is the one or the other. The surprising thing is, however, with all the editions and translations of Aristotle which were available, that the Rhetoric of Aristotle had so slight an influence on English rhetorical theory.
The De institutione oratoria of Quintilian was too long to be preserved intact. From the fourth to the seventh centuries, however, it was well known and highly valued by Hilary of Poitiers, St. Jerome, and Rufinus, and closely followed and abridged in their rhetorical works by Cassiodorus, Julius Victor, and Isidore of Seville. From the eighth century until Poggio discovered the complete manuscript at St. Gall in 1416, the world knew only mutilated fragments of the text. On the basis of an incomplete manuscript Etienne de Rouen prepared in the twelfth century an abridgment of Quintilian, and soon after an anonymous enthusiast made a selection of the Flores Quintilianei. Thus, while the rhetorical works of Aristotle were practically unknown, and the Ciceronian tradition rested on the De inventione and the Ad Herennium, the rhetorical ideas of Quintilian, as preserved in abridgments and in the treatises of Cassiodorus and Isidore, passed current throughout the middle ages. When the first edition was published by Campano in 1470, the world of scholars welcomed a familiar friend.
Other classical critical treatises filtered into England even more slowly. The De compositione verborum of Dionysius of Halicarnassus received its first printing at the hands of Aldus in 1508 and was edited again by Estienne in 1546, and by Sturm in 1550. Yet had Ascham not been a friend of Sturm's, it might not have been heard of in England as early as 1570, when the Scholemaster was published. Ascham says it is worthy of study, but shows no great familiarity with the text.
The De sublimitate of pseudo-Longinus has a similar history in England. Published by Robortelli in Basel in 1554, it was reissued three times, once with a Latin translation, before Langhorne edited it (1636) at Oxford. No Elizabethan writer alludes to it or seems to have been aware of its existence until Thomas Farnaby cites it as an authority for his Index Rhetoricus (1633). The advance of classical scholarship in England is indeed no better illustrated than by a comparison of Farnaby's cited sources with those of Thomas Wilson (1553). Wilson knew and used Cicero, Quintilian, Plutarch, Basil the Great, and Erasmus. Farnaby cites an imposing list of sources.
“Greek: Aristotle, Hermogenes, Sopatrus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus,
Demetrius Phal, Menander, Aristides, Apsinus, Longinus De
sublimitate, Theonus, Apthonius. Latin: Cicero, Quintilian, Martianus
Capella, Curio Fortunatus, Mario Victorino, Victore, Emporio, Augustino,
Ruffinus, Trapezuntius, P. Ramus, L. Vives, Soarez, J. C. Scaliger,
Sturm, Strebaeus, Kechermann, Alstedius, N. Caussinus, J. G. Voss, A.
Whether Farnaby had read the works of these gentlemen through from cover to cover is another matter. He at least knew their names, and had read in Vossius, whose footnotes would refer him to all these sources as well as to others, both classical and mediaeval.
With this evidence before us it is easy to understand why the traditions of the English middle ages persisted so long in the literary criticism of the English renaissance. The theories of rhetoric and of poetry in mediaeval England had in the first place, because of remoteness and the lack of easy transportation, become farther and farther removed from such classical tradition as was preserved in the Mediterranean countries. In the second place, the recovery of classical criticism in the Italian renaissance antedated by a hundred years the domestication of classical theory in England. Not until the seventeenth century, as has been shown, did rhetoric in England come again to mean what it had in classical antiquity. Subsequent chapters will show that classical theories of poetry, as published and interpreted by the Italian critics, made almost as slow head against English mediaeval tradition.