First Published: September 2012
Revised (substantive): 15 January 2017
S O R R Y, but this e-publication page — with an HTML transcript of Thomas Hobbes’s “highly condensed summary of classical advice ... heavily based on Aristotle,” first printed c.1637 with the title A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique — is still under construction.
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E D I T O R ’ S I N T R O D U C T I O N
A Note on the webessay which follows: I have discovered new information relating to the first 4 English editions of Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique, and believe I can now establish that the undated duodecimo comprising the 1st English edn. of Hobbes’s Latin digest of Aristotle’s Rhetoric was indeed printed c.1637 (and that the printing in 1651 was not the 1st, but rather a 2nd, edition). As such, I am in the process of completing an extensive re-write of the opening section of this editor’s introduction (to be embellished with several illustrations) which will document this new claim and correct several errors in paragraphs 2–6, immediately following (up to the first * * * separator).
This is Hobbes’s free translation of what he considered the most important parts of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, as dictated to his young pupil, William Cavendish (1617–1684), 3rd earl of Devonshire (not to be confused with his kinsman, the William Cavendish — bap. 1593, d. 1676 — quoted below, who was Margaret’s husband, and the 1st duke of Newcastle). The young earl recorded Hobbes’s extemporaneous Latin translation of Aristotle’s Rhetoric (from the original Greek) in his dictation book (which is still extant), and an English translation of Hobbes’s Latin “briefe” eventually made its way into publication, “Printed by Tho. Cotes, for Andrew Crook,” Hobbes’s publisher. (Andrew Crooke and/or William Crooke published most, perhaps all, authorized works by Hobbes printed from 1637 until 1679.)
The authoritative Short-Title Catalogue of Books assigned to Hobbes’s undated A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique a publication date of “1637?” which is what I use here, because it is conventionally accepted. My own feeling, though, is that the English translation may not have appeared until about 15 years after this. Hobbes’s original Latin digest of Aristotle’s Rhetoric was certainly delivered to his pupil in or before 1637, which was when his tutorial duties with the young earl of Devonshire (who attained his majority the next year) ended. The two stayed in contact, however. While on his European tour with Hobbes from 1634 to 1637, the young earl had met Galileo, which helped shape his intellectual interests; he would continue to associate with leading men of science and philosophy throughout his maturity, and was a founder member of the Royal Society.
Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique was reissued posthumously in 1681, this time by William Crooke, who took over for Andrew Crooke as Hobbes’s literary agent and man of business in 1673. After Hobbes died in 1679, William Crooke sought out his literary remains, and in 1681–2 he issued two volumes of Hobbes’s tracts, including Behemoth, and The Art of Rhetoric, with a Discourse of the Laws of England (1681). Of note, in his preface “To the Reader,” Crooke comments that the text of the Rhetorique is
... now Publish’d from his [Hobbes’s] own true Copies, an advantage which some of his works have wanted ...
(William Crooke, “To the Reader,” The Art of Rhetoric, with a Discourse of the Laws of England, 1681, A3r–v)
and further that Hobbes’s Rhetorique,
being an abridgment containing the most useful part of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, was written some thirty years since. Mr. Hobbes in his Book of Humane Nature had already describ’d Man, with an exactness almost equal to the original draught of Nature; and in his Elements of Law, laid down the constitution of Government, and shewn by what Arm’d Reason it is maintain’d. And having demonstrated in the State of Nature, the Primitive Art of Fighting to be the only medium whereby Men procur’d their ends; did in this design to shew what Power in Societies has succeeded to reign in its stead. I mean the Art of speaking, which by use of Common places of Probability, and knowledge in the manners and passions of Mankind, throu the working of Belief is able to bring about whatsoever Interest.
How necessary this Art is to that of Politic, is clearly evident from that mighty force, whereby the Eloquence of the Ancient Orators captivated the minds of the People. Mr. Hobbes chose to recommend by his Translation the Rhetoric of Aristotle, as being the most accomplish’d work on that Subject, which the World has yet seen, having been admir’d in all Ages, and in particular highly approv’d by the Father of the Roman Eloquence, a very competent Judge. To this he thought fit to add some small matter relating to that part which concern’s Tropes and Figures; as also a short discovery of some little tricks of false and deceitful Reasoning.
(William Crooke, “To the Reader,” The Art of Rhetoric, with a Discourse of the Laws of England, 1681, A3v–A4r)
This implies that the English version of Hobbes’s Rhetorique was originally compiled and printed in the early 1650s, which was one of his most prolific periods. While Hobbes was still living in Paris, his “major treatise on psychology, politics, and religion, Leviathan,” was published at London in May 1651. He left Paris for “home” (England) in December 1651, and
Hobbes soon returned to the service of the earl of Devonshire, who stayed frequently at Latimers, a country house in Buckinghamshire. But it seems that his [Hobbes’s] duties were slight, and that he spent much of his time during the 1650s in London, pursuing his own studies. De corpore was finally published there in 1655 (an English translation, supervised by Hobbes, appeared in the following year); De homine followed in 1658. Hobbes was able to renew some old friendships—with, for example, the physician William Harvey—and make some new ones. John Aubrey, a friend of Harvey’s, became personally acquainted with Hobbes at some time in the early 1650s.
(ODNB entry for Hobbes by Noel Malcolm, n. pag.)
The renewed contact with the earl of Devonshire, soon after publication of the politically-charged Leviathan, may well have prompted Hobbes to re-work his Latin translation of Artistotle’s Rhetoric for a broader English audience beyond his young patron-pupil. No doubt, he felt the fledgling commonwealth had need of its lessons.
Still more evidence for my conjecture that A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique first appeared c.1652–3 comes from Aubrey, who consulted with William Crooke about Hobbes’s bibliography when writing his life of Hobbes (Brief Lives, ed. by Andrew Clark, i. 360). Aubrey considered Crooke a reliable source when it came to dating Hobbes’s publications, and so do I.
* * *
Hobbes defined rhetoric as
... that Faculty, by which wee understand what will serve our turne, concerning any subject, to winne beliefe in the hearer.
(T. Hobbes, A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique, c.1637, 4)
noting at the start of Book 1 that
Rhetorique is an Art consisting not onely in mooving the passions of the Judge; but chiefely in Proofes. And ... this Art is profitable.
(T. Hobbes, A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique, c.1637, 1)
To Hobbes, rhetoric attempted a scientific study of the human being, and he considered Aristotle’s methodical inquiry an unsurpassed guide to knowledge of human nature and the art of managing “the passions.” Although innumerable volumes had been written concerning the faculties, passions, and manners of men,
... [no] man at this day [doth] so much as pretend to know more than has been delivered two thousand years ago by Aristotle ...
opined Hobbes early on in The Elements of Law (a scribal publication completed in 1640). And Aubrey confirmed this sentiment, reporting that
I have heard [Hobbes] say that Aristotle was the worst Teacher that ever was, the worst Politician and Ethick — a Countrey-fellow that could live in the World would be as good: but his Rhetorique and Discourse of Animals was rare.
(J. Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. by Andrew Clark, 2 vols., 1898, 1.357)
The contemporary Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge — wrongly accused by critics across the centuries of being anti-Aristotelian and anti-rhetoric — is also on record as holding Aristotle’s Rhetoric in high esteem. Thus, in “A Preface to the Third Year of these Tracts” comprising the oldest continuous scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, that journal’s editor and publisher, Henry Oldenburg, singled out Aristotle’s Rhetoric as a “very valuable” work for the fledgling scientific body:
And yet (in short to convince and reclaim as many as are hopeful) I dare, without leave, but with sincere affections, in behalf of the Learned Virtuosi, undertake to joyn issue with them, and to offer fair proof, That, whereas they [scholastics and other Aristotelian critics of the new experimental philosophy] pretend to Aristotle as their Grand Oracle, we have a true and higher esteem for his true worth, than these Pretenders do effectually manifest.
We say, his Logicks and Rhetoricks are very valuable. His Ethicks and Politicks, for the most part, sound. His Metaphysicks in many Notions acute. But all these are generally overwhelmed and degraded by the swarms of Insectile Systemes and dilute Commentaries.
And as for the other more useful Volumes of Aristotle, his Tracts of Animals (which did cost Great Alexander so many Talents for the furniture, and an ample Salary for encouragements) his Mathematical Discourses, and Mechanicks, these they never salute. They weed out his onely defects and animosities, his Velitations with his Elders and Compeers about Atomes and darker Principles; a Matter, which is neque quid, neque quantum, neque quale, a Formal and Substantial (a word too hard for Cicero to translate) and Privation, a Principle as good as the rest; his Definitions of Causes and Affections; his Quaternion of grosse Elements and grosser Mixtures, and insipid Compositions and Qualities, lesse significant than the popular Air: All of them much fitter to beget Eternal Controversies, than to administer any satisfaction to a reasonable Understanding. These they gather up for the sweetest Posies and fairest Garlands, wherewith to adorn their Brows and Temples; and so they take their leave of Aristotle at the very Threshold.
Thus they reject the Harmony, and waste all their time in tuneing the Instrument, and are best pleased, even ravish’d, with those strokes which glance below the Bridge, by which they sharpen and turn their Spirits habitually, and set the teeth of their disciples on edge; and then
Quo semel est imbut a recens, servabit, &c.
We take leave to ask, Whether Aristotle did not illustrate his best Conceptions in his Works, with Mathematical Demonstrations? In this, Blancanus will initite their Observations with sufficient indulgence. We ask further, Which of the Philosophers of note, for any thing else but honest Moralities, did neglect the Mathematicks? What free-born Child, or yet what Slave, of any promising hopes, was not entered into these Disciplines, before they could number ten years of their Age. If these men would addict their palats to the pure fountains, and not wander after every poluted stream, then they would find more leasure for better things, to do some good for themselves and others: Then they would taste the pleasure, and reap the profit of their old Rule,
Dulcius ex ipse fonte, &c.
And withal they would have better understood their best friends.
Certainly; If Aristotle had been so happy, as to have enjoyed our Opticks, and other Instruments of Arts, and such Engins as we now employ, He would have been quite of another spirit than these [scholastics and Royal Society critics] are; and would have acknowledged a greater variety and more curious contexture, and more brisk Mechanicks in the Insectiles, which were in those dayes invisible, than in all the Animals, that were then known, or than are yet to be found in a far wider circumference; and would have confest the productions of our Pyrotechnical Furnaces to excell all, that could be reasonably expected from his own vast Fiery Region.
We say heartily, Read Aristotle, read him in his own Stile; read him entirely and fully; not feeding onely on his Ulcers and Excrescencies; nor taking up your rest in his Un-intelligible Heavens, at their Adamantine Gates, or about their Flaming Walls: Embrace his calm rayes, and his dis-interessed [disinterested] Reasonings: chuse his best Vertues, examine and weigh all his Mathematical Illustrations, descend to his particulars. And then hasten to our Christian Philosophers, and they will forth-with acquaint you with the true Works and wonderful Contrivances of the Supreme Author, and with the Discoveries, which by his indulgent Providence and his benigne Inspirations have been in former and later Ages afforded, for the benefit, and the sincerely grateful acknowledgements of humane race.
’Tis our main business, as well to retrive all valuable Antiquities, as to supply fresh Discoveries: to recover good Old Helps, as well as to devise New. All our Artifices are designed, and appropriated, to unlock all the Repositories of Nature, To draw out her most concealed Operations and Rarities, To produce them with their best Advantages, and in their fairest Ornaments, for all good occasions: And whatever we find excellent in old Greece, or Rome, or in more ancient Monarchies, or in any one more happy part of the World, That in due season to communicate all over the World, to as many, as have the Ingenuity to give them a hearty Entertainment.
(H. Oldenburg, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 2.23, 11 March 1666, 412–14)
Not surprisingly, Margaret Cavendish also shared the natural philosophers’ assessment of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, writing in her book of Philosophical and Physical Opinions that as
for excellent disputants, that make Aristotle their church of reason, that cannot erre, and will maintain his nonsense against reason, I leave them to their ignorance, and wish they would rather follow his Logick, and his Rhetorick, then his natural Philosophy, for their own sakes.
(Margaret Cavendish, The Philosophical and Physical Opinions, 1655, 81)
And in her tale “Heavens Library, which is Fames Palace purged from Errors and Vices,” Cavendish asserted the worth of Aristotle’s behavioral science for all eternity when she chose to keep his Rhetoric in her ruthlessly purged library of truth & virtue, while removing the works of eloquent rhetors such as Cicero (aka “Tully”), about whose art she was more ambivalent:
As for the Philosphers, the first shall be Plato, and his Works shall be all kept, but for his Commonwealth; and that shall be put out, by reason it was so strict it could never be put in use, nor come into practise: The rest that were nam’d, were Pythagoras, Epicurus, Socrates, and Aristotle. As for Physicians, only Hippocrates, and Galen; and Paracelsus for his Medicines; and Reymund Lully for the Philosopher’s-stone: for although their Records be lost in the Rubbish of the Library, yet old Father Time shall be employed to find them out, and other Records that are buried in the dust, which are worthy of perspicuous places. Also Aristotle’s Logick and Rhetorick was kept; and for Gramar, Lilly.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1671 rev. edn., 710)
... The next sort were Orators and Law-makers: As for Law-makers, there were Moses, Lycurgus, and Solon kept: for Orators, only Thucydides and Demosthenes: as for Tully, he was a vain Boasting Fellow, and Seneca a meer Pedant, and a dissembling, pretending Philosopher; and therefore they shall out. For Politicks, only Achitophel and Machiavel.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1671 rev. edn., 711)
Like Hobbes, Cavendish believed in rhetoric as behavioral science. In “The Dialogue of the Wise Lady, the Learned Lady, and the Witty Lady”, Wisdom reminds Wit and Learning (and the reader) that behavioral science should be our first care:
We ought not to spend our time in studying of the Motions and Heat of the Sun, as the Motions and Passions of the Heart.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1656, 180)
But oratory is excluded from what Cavendish elsewhere called “profitable Arts and Sciences” (M. Cavendish, Philosophical Letters, 1664, a2v). In this same dialogue between Wisdom, Learning, and Wit, Learning argues that
Profitable Arts are Geometry, Geography, Cosmography, Arithmetick, Navigation, Fortification, Architecture, Fire-works, Water-works, Winde-works, Cultivating, Manuring, Distilling, Extracting, Pounding, Mixing, Sifting, Grinding, as Maulting, Brewing, Baking, Cooking, Granging, Carding, Spinning, Weaving, Colouring, Tanning, Writing, Printing.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1656, 180)
and she lists oratory among the vainglorious arts:
Vain-glorious Arts are Oratory, Pleading, Disputing, Proposing, Objecting, magnificent Entertainments, great Revenues, sumptuous Palaces, and costly Furnitures.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1656, 179)
Also like Hobbes, Cavendish was deeply suspicious of suasory eloquence. In her book of stories first printed in 1656, an idealized alter ego, the She Anchoret, tells an awe-struck audience that
The Root of Oratory is Logick, the Branches are Rhetorick, and the Fruit is Magick, which charms the Senses, and inchants the Soul: wherefore it ought to be banished from the Barr of Justice, lest it should incircle Justice-Seat, excluding Right and Truth that comes to plead.
For Oratory is chiefly employ’d
For to prefer the Wrong, and Falshood hide.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1671 rev. edn., 629)
Cavendish knew all too well that the abuses of oratory extended from law to politics:
I perceive all those that make Orations in the Field to their Soldiers, repeat their Victories from the first descent, of the foundation of their Cities, Kingdoms, and Commonwealths, and the Renown of their Ancestors; but never their Losses, their Treacheries, or their Follies; they strive to bury them in oblivion: for, though it be a good Policy, yet it is not a clear Honesty, to present a half-faced Glass for a whole. But this is not so great a fault, but it may be excused, when it is to a good End, as to defend what is rightly their own, or to gain back what unjustly they lost, or to revenge an unpardonable Wrong, or to punish a wicked Crime, or to take the part of the Helpless Innocent; otherwise it is a Dishonesty not excusable, as when it is used for Treason, Rapine, or the like.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1671 rev. edn., 632)
Cavendish was enough of a pragmatist to value the art of oratory when used to achieve an end of which she approved. But she had witnessed first-hand its dangers when used for ends which she did not approve, and was alarmed by what another Founder member of The Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, John Evelyn, called “the Eloquence of Demagogues, and power of Oratory.” (J. Evelyn, Numismata ... to which is added A Digression Concerning Physiognomy, 1697, 329)
In your last Letter you were pleased to Condemn me for Admiring Words, so much, as to prefer Eloquence before all other Musick; but pray, Madam, mistake me not, for I do not Admire the Words, but the Sense, Reason, and Wit, that is Exprest, and made Known by Words; neither do I Admire Formal Orators, that speak Premeditated Orations, but Natural Orators, that can speak on a Sudden upon any Subject, whose Words are as Sweet and Melting as Manna from Heaven, and their Wit as Spreading and Refreshing as the Serene Air, whose Understanding is as Clear as the Sun, giving Light of Truth to all their Hearers, who in case of Perswasion, speak Sweetly, in case of Reproof, Seasonably, and in all cases, Effectually. And, Madam, if you do Consider well, you cannot chuse but Admire, and Wonder at the Power of Eloquence, for there is a strange hidden Mystery in Eloquence, it hath a Magical Power over mankind, for it Charms the Senses, and Inchants the Mind, and is of such a Commanding Power, as it Forces the Will to Command the Actions of the Body and Soul, to Do, or to Suffer, beyond their Natural Abilities, and makes the Souls of men the Tongue’s Slaves; for such is the power of an Eloquent Speech, as it Binds the Judgement, Blindfolds the Understanding, and Deludes the Reason; also it Softens the Obdurate Hearts, and causes Dry Eyes to Weep, and Dryes Wet Eyes from Tears; also it Refines the Drossy Humours, Polishes the Rough Passions, Bridles the Unruly Appetites, Reforms the Rude Manners, and Calms the Troubled Minds; it can Civilize the Life by Virtue, and Inspire the Soul with Devotion. On the other side, it can Enrage the Thoughts to Madness, and Cause the Soul to Despair. The truth is, it can make Men like Gods or Devils, as having a Power beyond Nature, Custom and Force, for many times the Tongue hath been too Strong for the Sword, and often carried away the Victory; also it hath been too Subtil for the Laws, as to Banish Right, and to Condemn Truth; and too hard for the Natures of Men, making their Passions its Prisoners: and since Eloquence hath such Power over Arms, and Laws, and Men, as to make Peace or War, to Compose or Dissolve Commonwealths, to Dispose of Souls and Bodies of Man-kind; wherefore those men that are indued with such Eloquence, and overflowing Wit, are both to be Fear’d and Lov’d, to be highly Advanced or utterly Banished; for those whose Eloquent Wit out-runs their Honesty, are to be Punished, but those that employ their Eloquent Wit, and Elegant Graces, to the service of the Commonwealth, are to be Esteemed, Respected, and Relied upon, as Pillars of the Commonwealth....
(Margaret Cavendish, Sociable Letters, 1664, 53–5)
Cavendish would champion a free-speech double standard her entire adult life, even while acknowledging that there were limits on an ignoble orator’s ability to stir the passions:
They asked her [the She Anchoret], Whether an Orator or a Poet had most power over the passions?
She answered, An Orator had power to betray the Passions, but could not make an absolute Conquest of them.
As for Poetry, saith she, it hath a double power; for all Poetry hath Oratory, but all Oratory hath not Poetry.
Wherefore, said she, Poetry hath an absolute power over the Passions; for Poetry is like a powerful Monarch, can raise, rally, and imbattle them at his command; and, like a skilful Musician, can set, tune, and play upon them as he pleases.
(Margaret Cavendish, Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, 1671 rev. edn., 629)
A rhetorical double standard and a principled tolerance for circumstantial tweaking of the truth — always on behalf of the governing class — were similarly championed by Margaret’s husband, William Cavendish, who addressed two scribal publications to the future Charles II (one written c.1638 for the young prince when the earl of Newcastle became his governor, and one written during the 1650s, just prior to the king’s restoration, when both men were in exile) advising the heir apparent about statecraft. At least one critic has remarked that Newcastle’s political writings express “the views of an overpractical Hobbes and thus form an instructive corollary to the Hobbesian theories by applying them more specifically.” (H. T. E. Perry, 128) But Newcastle’s ideas about statesmanship also owed much to Machiavelli (“... matchevile uppon Liveye, butt Espetialye his Prince ...”), as well as his own experience with Realpolitik, and the learned counsel of political theorists such as John Selden (1584–1654), the great jurist and historian who served as a legal consultant and a researcher for Francis Bacon (in particular, for the latter’s influential history of Henry VII), who was an MP in the 1620s and a member of the Long Parliament in the 1640s, and the man rumored to be the lover — and possibly husband — of Elizabeth Grey, countess of Kent. Described by contemporaries as “the glory of the English nation,” Selden was known for “his extensive European and Jewish studies and his advocacy of a mixed monarchy”:
His histories on European and British topics displayed a meticulous application of continental humanist methods and a masterful reading of English and continental sources and commentaries in imaginative, detailed narratives of great complexity. The meticulous results of his plunge into the complex realm of Jewish studies showed great respect for the integrity of rabbinic interpretations and an unparalleled understanding of Jewish texts, traditions, and history, all conveyed in subtle, empathetic studies that used the wisdom of the Jews to teach a Christian audience.
(ODNB entry for Selden by Paul Christianson, n. pag.)
Hobbes, too, studied Selden’s works, which were in the library of the 2nd earl of Devonshire, who also had been Hobbes’s pupil-patron until his sudden death in 1628. On behalf of the 2nd earl of Devonshire (only 2 years his junior), Hobbes attended 37 meetings of the governing body of the Virginia Company, between 1622 and 1624, where it is likely he would have met Selden. After Leviathan was published in 1651, Hobbes sent Selden a copy, and the two men remained in contact.
The classical tradition of “rhetorised psychology” (Struever, 13) that Hobbes so valued and passed on to the monarchists of the Cavendish Circle, and beyond, enjoyed a wide cultural currency, having influenced authors of the speculum principis (or prince’s handbook, written to advise a ruler on the principles of good government) as varied as Christine de Pizan, Machiavelli, and Erasmus. As Robert Hariman has pointed out,
The mentality of calculative prudence will be familiar to political scientists. Disciplinary histories often attribute the discovery of this mode of reasoning to Machiavelli, but the distinction is clear in Aristotle: “Now virtue makes the decision correct; but the actions that are naturally to be done to fulfill the decision are the concern not of virtue, but of another capacity . . . called cleverness, which is such as to be able to do the actions that tend to promote whatever goal is assumed and to achieve it.” This statement marks a major fault line running through the foundation of Western political thought. Stated simply, the manner of thinking that one uses to determine the end of political action is not sufficient to determine the means to achieve that end. Hence, the political actor needs a second way of thinking, one where the focus is on making valid predictions with a potentially large number of variables. This is the problem of radical contingency. Politics, since it is a form of action, requires knowledge of the world and particularly knowledge of how the world is changing. That knowledge will always be incomplete, and any action one does take creates an entirely new set of possibilities for everything and everyone affected by that action. Furthermore, political failure encourages competitors while political success engenders resistance. So it is that the political leader has been encouraged to have “eyes in the back as well as to the front” so that one “can look back on what has already happened and ahead to the future, thereby having the greatest knowledge possible.”
(R. Hariman, Prudence: Classical Virtue, Postmodern Politics, 299–300)
The marquess of Newcastle’s “little Book, or rather a Letter,” written in the 1650s — “wherein he delivered his Opinion concerning the Government of [the future Charles II’s] Dominions, whensoever God should be pleased to restore him to his Throne, together with some other Notes and Observations of Foreign States and Kingdoms” (Margaret Cavendish, The Life of ... William Cavendishe ..., 135) — shared in his age’s fascination with new and revived theories of human motivation, passions, and interests. And it gives material form to Hobbes’s fixation with the skillful deployment of a “rhetorised psychology,” not only in the plain-spoken advice it offers to a king, but as a rhetorical artifact in its own right, written in William’s own hand on high-quality paper, its binding, limp white parchment, with fine gold tooling, and blue silk strings:
It has already been suggested that this document is a masterpiece in little, a clean-cut if roughly formed work of the utmost importance to philosophers, to historians, or to artists. ... It takes hold of things at their roots, and whereas more imaginative forms of literature may reveal a nation’s manners, morals, and general atmosphere with greater beauty or more skill, this little treatise, in criticizing past history, interprets present conditions from that economic standpoint which is at the basis of all human society. Nor can the hand of an art-lover be concealed in its workmanship, where proportion, balance, and specific incident usurp the place of the scientist’s dry statistics. Newcastle has small right to literary fame, but his “Little Book” assures him of one permanent memorial.
(H. T. E. Perry, The First Duchess of Newcastle and Her Husband as Figures in Literary History, 169)
From the beginning, Newcastle distances his rhetoric from oratory, practicing here what he will preach throughout:
I am[m] bolde humblye to presente this Booke to your Matie which Is writt perticulerlye for your Matie when you are Inthroned, — whye I presente Itt nowe Is because I thinke your Matie will have more time & Leasure to reade Itt nowe then[n] when you are Inthronde, ... Ther Is no oratorye In Itt, or anye thinge stolen out off Bookes, for I seldome or Ever reade anye, Butt these discourses are oute off my longe Experience, — to presente your Matie with truthes which greate monarkes seldom heares, these truthes are nott onlye the Honesteste butt so the wiseste, that a dewtifull servante can offer to so Gratius a master, & so wise a kinge as to bee able to Judge betwixte truth & falshood, though that falshoode bee never so subtelye disgisde I aske pardon[n] for the methode havinge no notes by mee att all Iff your Matie like Itt, I have my Endes with Unspeakable Joye & Contentmente, Iff you like Itt nott sr, I humblye begg that favor off your Matie, to throgh Itt In[n] to the fier, thatt so Itt may becoume a flaminge Sacrefise off my Dewtye to your Matie, ...
(Wiiliam Cavendish, MS. Letter to Charles II, transcribed in S. A. Strong, 173)
Newcastle’s speculum principis repeatedly argues that the rhetorician’s insights into the psychological — the mind creating, or the mind receiving and responding — offered indispensable lessons for the ruling class (Hobbes’s “profitable” art).
Then the Greate studye & lerninge for kinges, & wise men Is nott to reade bookes butt to reade men, for all busines In the worlde Is In men, — wittneses are men, Juries are men, Judges are Men, Greate offisers are Men, — favoritts are Men, Ande Greate Monarkes, kinges, & Princes are Men, — Naye thatt which Is so sublime Devinetye Is Governed by men as the Convocation off BBps In Englande are Men, The Classis are Men, The Pope & the Cardinalles are Men & though theye saye the Pope Is chosen by the Holye Goste, iff Itt weare so I daresaye The French kinge & kinge off Spayne woulde offer him a bribe on Eyther Side to gett the Pope off the Spanishe Side or on the French side, & all the Cardinalls are perpetualye devided between France, & Spayne by bribes,—All devine Counsells which are devine Parlamentes are Men & packte Counsells Com[m]onlye wittnes the Counsell off Trente,—All States Men, are men, all Parlaments are Men, — So thatt hee thatt Is a Master In readinge off Men, knowinge their dispotitions & which bate Is moste proper to hooke them withall Gaynes his busines, In all kindes for the lawe Is a nose off waxe Ande Is to bee Pullde anye waye as those Men pleaseth, & for Counsell on both Sides makes Itt a Mesuringe Caste, so thatt the Judge maye Judge Itt off which Side hee pleaseth, & hath Lawe for Itt, — Naye the Holye writt howe Itt Is disputed on all Sides juste contrarye on to the other & both aledges Textes for Itt, naye the same Textes pro & Con; Ther are three hundereth severall opinions on this smale Texte THIS IS MY BODYE, — so thatt In their severall kingdoumes, Men judge Itt & wee muste obaye their Judgmentes wether Itt bee righte or wronge, because Itt standes for right as longe as thatt Authoretye hath power to judge Itt, — So thatt gayne the Men & all Is Gaynde, so thatt sertenlye the wiseste Studye Is to reade Men, since all thinges In this worlde Lies In their handes.
(William Cavendish, MS. Letter to Charles II, transcribed in S. A. Strong, 230–231)
Newcastle then counsels his prince not to be distracted by “false Artes,” but to seek out the right sort of education to enhance a natural wit:
Education Is a mightye Matter, theye Cale Itt a seconde Nature, butt I beleve Itt Is converted Into Nature & Is Nature Itt selfe, — For Iff wee Consider Nature no more then weepinge Laffinge, hungerye, thursteye, Eatinge, drinkinge, urenisinge, & the Sege &c, — butt verye these are alterde perpetualye by Costome, butt all the reste Is verye Costum, — For though a man had never so Exselente an Naturall witt, borne with him, whatt Is thatt Naturall witt when hee Is borne no more butt his five senses cleer to bringe outwarde obiectes to his brayne, & his brayne off Such a temper as to dispose well off them when theye are ther, So thatt iff this Exselente Mother witt had no obiectes thatt came In, butt bee kepte In a Dungion untill hee weare twentye yeares olde, & then bringe him oute hee woulde bee less knowinge then a well Educated Dogg, because his brayne hath had nothinge to worke off ....
As a Naturall good witt In a dungion Is nothinge withoute Education In seeinge the Greate worlde & consideringe off Itt, so Is Education less withoute havinge a good witt for Itt makes him butt the more foole ... for thatt which they cale Lerninge putts a good witt oute off the righte waye off knoledge with false Artes.
For what Is the Arte off Poetrye, the Arte off Logick, & the Arte off Retorick, nothinge butt the Imetation off Nature & farr Shorte off hertofor Horace his Arte off Poetreye will never make a good Poett iff hee bee nott so by nature nor Aristotles Logick with his premises & Conclution make a wise Statsman iff hee bee nott so by nature nor Aristotles Retorick make a good orator iff hee bee nott so by Nature, — I have harde the BBpe off Salisburye saye which was an Exselente orator thatt the Arte off Retorick did never helpe him butt his owne Naturall witt, no Itt Is nott Eufania Gratia will doe anye good iff hee have nott a good Naturall witt off his owne, — For when Nature gave anye one the Gifte off Poeterye, Logick, Retorick Naturalye then some Laborius dull fellowe tooke notes off what theye sayed, & putt Itt Into a Methode, & thatt Methode theye cale the Artes off those three. — A good Memoreye, a good witt which Is Simulisinge off wordes & thinges & a good Judgemente which Is rightlye to distingishe & all these Naturalye with Education In greate Cities att home, & abrode, In severall Courtes, & In severall Armeies, Is beyonde all the Education In all the Universeties In the worlde, a Man thatt hath a good witt thatt hath Converste with all sortes off People from the begger to the kinge, — Such witts are borne to Leade, & nott to followe, To teach, & nott to Learne, butt ther are butt fewe off them, — Sr Walter Rawleye was one off them, & some one or two more & those weare all thatt Ever I knewe In all my Time, — Ande nowe Sr I besech your Matie to forgive this Philosophicall digression for I coulde nott helpe Itt because Itt came In my waye, Butt to Conclude with whatt I began withall, theye thatt woulde seeme to bee so much for the kinge as to forgett the Com[m]on wealth doth the kinge verye greate diservice, & theye thatt seeme to bee so much for the Com[m]on wealth as to forgett the kinge doth the Com[m]on wealth worse service for sertenlye the kinge & the Com[m]on wealth Is no more to bee seperated, then Christe & His Church, ...
(William Cavendish, MS. Letter to Charles II, transcribed in Strong, 231–234)
Both Cavendishes thus agreed with Hobbes that the best education “started with the facts of experience and sought to analyze them,” including “a scrutiny of the moving forces of our constructive and responsive life.” (Thorpe, Aesthetic Theory of Hobbes, 8–9) This was the sort of rhetoric — a foundation of modern behavioral science — often recommended for 17th-century men (and women) active in the civic or political realm.
In all Action, Nature bears the greatest sway: Every man must consider his own Nature and temperament. The reason is, because no man can put off his own, and put on anothers nature. One Action becomes one man, and another kind of behaviour, another. That which one does without Art, cannot wholly be delivered by Art; for there is a kind of hidden and ineffable reason, which to know, is the head of Art. In some, the Civill vertues themselves have no grace: in others, even the vices of Rhetorique are comely and pleasing. Wherefore a Rhetorician must know himselfe, yet not by common precepts; but he must take counsell of Nature for the framing of the complexionall and individual properties of his Hand.
(John Bulwer, Chirologia: or the Naturall Language of the Hand ... whereunto is added Chironomia: or, the Art of Manuall Rhetoricke ..., 1644 edn., 143)
The 4th edition of Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique was issued a century later in 1759 — “with alterations, and a new preface by a gentleman” — at a time “when Oratory is so much courted, and is become the universal study of our youth.” (“Preface,” iii) According to the anonymous gentleman-editor, Hobbes’s Briefe was still the best “translation of this part of Aristotle in our language” (“Preface,” viii) — resulting in a handbook worthy of continual study and practice, until its lessons had been internalized (“Preface,” iv–v).
As with the Rhetoric’s Baroque interpreters, this gentleman-editor of the Enlightenment was especially drawn to the rhetorised psychology of Book 2:
I will not expatiate on the great merits either of the author or his translator. Neither of them stand in need of it. There is one part of this Work however peculiarly admirable, and which I cannot pass over entirely in silence. I need not inform the intelligent reader, that I mean the second book; wherein he treats of the several ways of handling the different manners and passions of mankind.
(“Preface,” Hobbes’s Translation of Aristotle’s Art of Rhetorick, 1759, iv)
And as Margaret Cavendish did before him (in her rev. edn. of Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, printed in 1671), the 18th-century editor of Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique compares Demosthenes to Cicero, and judges the former better suited to the British psyche:
One thing, however, I must say. That the art of Tully is often too visible: that he is sometimes over florid and elaborate: that he is himself too apparent in his Orations, and abstracts in some degree the reader’s attention from the subject itself. Whereas in Demosthenes, the Orator is entirely lost, and Philip occupies the whole mind. Let me add likewise, that the Eloquence of the latter, seems to me to be of a more universal nature than the former; better calculated to succeed in all places, and at all times, and peculiarly adapted to a British Senate.
But as in painting, we should not propose one only original, as a fit object for our imitation; so here, both may be studied with advantage. Since by compounding the different excellencies of the two, we may, (perhaps) steal a grace beyond the reach of either.
(“Preface,” Hobbes’s Translation of Aristotle’s Art of Rhetorick, 1759, vi)
* * *
Because of the considerable influence of Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique on so many members of the extended Cavendish Circle, and because so many issues raised by Hobbes’s Rhetorique are as relevant now as in the 1650s when the work was first reprinted, I believe a good digital edition of it is warranted.
In The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle’s Rhetoric to Modern Brain Science, Daniel Gross argued that there exists a great tradition of understanding the emotions as a psychosocial phenomenon, and that Aristotle and Hobbes’s rhetoric show that our passions do not stem from some inherent, universal nature of men and women, but rather are conditioned by power relations and social hierarchies.
In Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment, Bryan Garsten reinterpreted Hobbes’s thinking on rhetoric yet again, this time placing Hobbes in the “against rhetoric” camp (indeed, making Hobbes a father of the anti-rhetorical tradition in modern political thought). Garsten contends that
The modern suspicion of rhetoric arose, I suggest, from a crisis of confidence about citizens’ capacity to exercise practical judgment in public deliberations. This crisis was fueled by observation of the especially dogmatic religious character of public debate in early modern England, where a prophetic rhetoric of conscience put on display the most dangerous tendencies of rhetorical speech [i.e., demagogy, whereby persuasion degenerates into manipulation].
(B. Garsten, Saving Persuasion, 4)
Certainly, Hobbes, and William and Margaret Cavendish, and many others of the day tended to be anti-oratory, especially anti-women’s oratory, as expressed by the physician Richard Whitlock in 1654, who wrote (in words very similar to what William Cavendish would use in his MS. address to the king) that
No one Book hath done more mischief than the Bible in the Vulgar Tongue; ... (So it had for Peace, and unity of Faiths sake, in the Apostle Pauls time, he lockt it from Women, they must be no Expositours ...
(R. Whitlock, Zoötomia, or a Morall Anatomy of the Living by the Dead, 240)
But I would argue that this was not, for them, the same thing as being anti-rhetoric. In his monograph advising Charles II, William Cavendish blames oratory in the pulpit, schools, and street for fomenting Civil War and overthrowing a king:
Nowe for the Bishops theye shoulde bee chosen wise men for government rather then Scoole devines & nott to make a numerus clergye for a litle moneye to their Secretaries to undoe our church & Com[m]on welth, for wher ther are nott livinges for those ministers theye muste off nesesetye run Into Lecturers for their livlyhoode, & as nesesarelye to please their benefacters preach sedition In church & Com[m]on welth, & preach downe the Person off the Parishe & make him bee dispised & then theye thinke theye have dun their worke, therfore to proportion the clergye ackordinge to the Livinges thatt Is for them with a smale over plus; & to alowe off no Lectorers which muste bee the Bishops care, & to make no minister thatt Is nott orthodoxe to the church off Englande For your Matie knowes by towe woefull Experience Thatt these Lecterors have preachte your Matie oute off your kingdoumes, & with Ill prechinge to butt with greate Sedition, & faction. & Inded the Lecterors one off the greateste Causes off our Late Miseries, Therfore no Lecterors att all In no place Then I shoulde wishe thatt these Bishops In their severall Diaseaes, might moste Carefullye looke unto Scoolemasters, frome the Pettye Scooles to the Gramer Scooles, thatt theye bee orthodoxe ackordinge to the church off Englande, & so to Educate their Puples for sertenlye as wee are Bred off thatt Religion or opinion wee are off for the moste parte, iff your Matie please to looke with unpartiall eyes uppon the whole worlde you shall finde Itt soe; Therfore this poynte aughte to be verye Carefullye lookte unto; & nott wevers to teach petye scooles & Expounde the Bible which hath added much to our miseries & Even the females, all Girles must goe to the same pettye Scooles, for iff they bee Infected with a wevers Doctrine att firste theye will Infecte their Husbandes afterwardes therfore no teachinge off Scooles eyther pettye or Gram[m]er Scooles butt such as the Bishops shall alowe off and thinke fitt.
(William Cavendish, MS. Letter to Charles II, transcribed in Strong, 185–186)
But here and elsewhere in the Letter he also faulted too much education (“ther are so manye Scooles nowe as moste reade”) for creating a restless population that was receptive to such oratory:
The Bible in Englishe under everye wevers & Chambermadyes Arme hath dun us much hurte. Thatt which made Itt one waye Is the Universetyes aboundes with to manye Scollers Therfore iff Every Coledge had butt halfe the number theye woulde bee better fedd & as well taughte — butt thatt which hath dun moste hurte is the Abundance off Gram[m]er Scooles & Ins off Courtes. The Tresorer Burleygh sayde ther was to manye Gram[m]er Scooles, because Itt made the plowe & the Carte bee neglected, which was to feede us, & defende us, for ther are fewe thatt Can reade thatt will putt their handes to the plowe or the Carte & Armeyes are made off Com[m]on Soldiers & ther are verye fewe thatt Can reade that will Carye a muskett, & ther are so manye Scooles nowe as moste reade, so Indeed ther shoulde bee butt such a proportion, as to serve the Church & moderatlye the Lawe, & the merchantes, & the reste fur the Labor for Else theye run oute to idle & unesesarye People, thatt becoumes, a factius burthen to the Com[m]on wealth for when moste was unletterde Itt was much a better worlde both for peace & warr.
(William Cavendish, MS. Letter to Charles II, transcribed in Strong, 188–189)
It’s this kind of 17th-century practice of “rhetorised psychology” that led Nancy Struever to argue “for the neglected modernity of early modernists such as Hobbes,” challenging us “to rethink the history of philosophy as well as rhetoric, and their relation to our own postmodern moment” (review comment by Victoria Kahn on the book’s back cover). According to Struever,
When Hobbes deplores Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics as confused, less useful, he may be reacting to the obscuring of the constraints of his psychological theory by their optimistic rationalist scenarios. The strong pessimism of the psychological account embedded in the Rhetoric demands inventive response in political as well as rhetorical theorizing. Aristotle’s Rhetoric, in short, plays an important part in the preliminary stage of Hobbes’ initiative, a role much more important than simply as a manual of instruction in Hobbes [sic] own political eloquence.
(N. Struever, Rhetoric, Modality, Modernity, 14)
She finds Hobbes’s rhetorical critique of classical political philosophical thinking (a rationalist paradigm) instructive, now as then, contending that it is useful
to place almost equal emphasis on specific rhetorical inquiry capacities and on rhetoric’s affinity for the modality of possibility as productive of political insight. Indeed, I am claiming that modal interests are so primitive, so pervasive, so enduring that they organize, arrange specific investigative techniques; the primitiveness guarantees strenuous revision or invention, either one. At the same time, rhetoric is a formation that responds to a large array of (primarily political) issues and actions and deploys a large array of tactics to meet, decorously, these issues and actions. Here the affinity to possibility colors every inquiry and response.
(N. Struever, Rhetoric, Modality, Modernity, 12)
Moreover, Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique even made an original contribution to this “large array of tactics” which we still marshall in order “to meet, decorously, these issues and actions.”
Jeanne Fahnestock has observed that “in a text that otherwise looks like nothing more than a highly condensed summary of classical advice,” “something new enters the discussion of antithesis”:
In his hasty reprise of rhetorical stylistics, heavily based on Aristotle, Hobbes gives the usual account of comma, cola, and periods (which he calls parts, members, and periods), and he acknowledges that the parts of a period can be divided or contrasted. He labels a period with “opposition of parts” an antithesis. Nothing new. But then Hobbes introduces a surprising possibility:
“A Period with opposition of Parts, called also Antithesis, and the parts Antitheta, is when contrary Parts are put together; or also joyned by a third. Contrary parts are put together, as here, The one has obtained glory, the other Riches; both by my benefit.” (Hobbes 1986, 114)
Hobbes has apparently used the verb “put together” with great literalness, constructing a third colon that puts together the contrasted terms (“glory” and “riches” were perhaps a stronger contrast in Hobbes’ time than in ours) with what they have in common, their source. Though Hobbes has nothing further to say than the two points quoted above, he nevertheless has defined stylistically the way to undo an antithesis argumentatively: by finding a third term, representing a ground or mediating substance, that absorbs the opposed pair into a common background. The anticipation of Hegelian dialectic is striking but hardly worked out in Hobbes’ Rhetorique.
(J. Fahnestock, Rhetorical Figures in Scientific Argumentation, 201–2n13)
Even without such surprises, there is a great deal of interest in Hobbes’s A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique.
And with a readily-accessible digital edition, all of us will have the same opportunity as the 2nd and 3rd earls of Devonshire to be tutored in the profitable art of rhetoric by none other than Thomas Hobbes.
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