Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Joscelyn: A Tale of the Revolution >> Chapter VI: Walter Dunbar >> Page 60

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Novel (Romance) | The Reprint Company | 1975, 1976
Transcription 6oJOSCELYN
This was most probably the case. Walter Dunbar, unwilling to
speak on the occasion, was yet, when forced to do so, ambitious to
appear to advantage. He mistook the process. Instead of letting his
mind alone, and looking for its proper provocation to the speaker
whom he was to answer, he undertook to elaborate beforehand a
reply to the arguments which he had not yet heard, and could only
conjecture. Had his heart been with his subject, he probably would
not have made the mistake. But, conscious of his utter lack of sym-
pathy with his subject, he threw all the responsibilities upon his head,
was cold, accordingly, and, when most elaborate, was most tedious.
He made repeated efforts at new beginnings, endeavoring, by a fresh
start at intervals, to break away from the monotonous meshes of his
first entanglement, but only sank deeper into the "slough of des-
pond" at every labored impulse.
It is the common error of speakers who are conscious of failure,
that they will still speak on in the hope to retrieve themselves. It is
not easy. The audience began to grow indifferent and heedless, if
not impatient; some loud yawns were heard; Drayton looked on and
listened good-humoredly, but carelessly, and sometimes with a smile;
old Dunbar, chafed in his vexation, broke away from his son's side,
dashed back to him again, and exhibited all the signs of the keenest
anger, as well as mortification. The scene was becoming absolutely
painful to many of the spectators, even those who were fully of the
movement party. Martin Joscelyn grew fevered, and almost as rest-
less as old Dunbar. Stephen Joscelyn now regarded the young man
with eyes of pity. Walter Dunbar was, in some degree, a favorite of
the people; he was amiable, and much had been expected from his
known abilities. A feeling of regret and disappointment pervaded the
crowd, and this was very soon apparent to the eyes of the orator him-
self. Again and again he strove, in fresh efforts, to recover position
to rise above the merely essayical, the dead level of vague generaliza-
tion, in which he had pitched the key-note of his speech from the
beginning to simulate passion to call in the aid of fancy, and, by
rhetoric, to make up the deficiencies of argument and power. But all
in vain! He was still, at best, only coldly correct and elaborately
dull. The genius would not answer to the call, and at length he
broke down utterly at a point, in which, from the greater emphasis