William Enfield (1741–1797), a Unitarian minister, made his mark with his 1774 anthology of extracts from English literature (and translated classics), entitled The Speaker. His primary purpose was instruction in elocution, as indicated in the work’s extended title: Miscellaneous pieces, selected from the best English writers and disposed under proper heads, with a view to facilitate the improvement of youth in reading and speaking. To which is prefixed an essay on elocution. The work was reprinted many times, well after the middle of the nineteenth century, both in America and Great Britain.
Of 142 excerpts, eleven are from Sterne, the first hint, one might note, of the Beauties of Sterne (1782), also reprinted many times during the next century. Sterne is Enfield’s most often cited prose writer, appearing alongside Bacon, Tillotson, Addison, Steele, Goldsmith, and Johnson; neither Fielding nor Richardson is included. Enfield’s collection has been noted before in relation to Sterne, but what has been overlooked is an unacknowledged tribute at the conclusion of his prefatory “Essay on Elocution,” in which it is made clear that while seemingly directed toward the young, the actual audience for Enfield’s efforts were those training for the bar or the pulpit, the two foremost occasions for oratory throughout the century. Hence, he concludes by warning the “accomplished Barrister” and “sacred Orator” not to forget the ends or degrade “the consequence of his profession, as to set himself forth to public view under the character of a Spouter, and to parade it in the ears of the vulgar with all the pomp of artificial eloquence, though the unskillful may gaze and applaud, the judicious cannot but be grieved and disgusted” (xxviii).
In volume IV, chapter 26, of Tristram Shandy, Yorick offers to the clerics at the Visitation Dinner his own view of effective preaching: “To preach, to shew the extent of our reading, or the subtleties of our wit—to parade it in the eyes of the vulgar with the beggarly accounts of a little learning, tinseled over with a few words which glitter, but convey little light and less warmth . . . ’Tis not preaching the gospel—but ourselves.”
Hence a new note seems appropriate:
IV.26.377 To preach . . . but ourselves] Cf. William Enfield’s silent tribute to Sterne in the “Essay on Elocution” prefacing his often reprinted The Speaker: Miscellaneous pieces, selected from the best English writers and disposed under proper heads, with a view to facilitate the improvement of youth in reading and speaking. To which is prefixed an essay on elocution (1774); he concludes by warning barristers and clerics not to set themselves forth “to public view under the character of a Spouter, and to parade it in the ears of the vulgar with all the pomp of artificial eloquence, [because] though the unskillful may gaze and applaud, the judicious cannot but be grieved and disgusted” (xxviii). Enfield included more excerpts from Sterne than from any other prose writer in his collection, eleven in all. For an excellent contextual study of Sterne’s advice on preaching, sadly overlooked by the Florida editors, see Rolf P. Lessenich, Elements of Pulpit Oratory in Eighteenth-Century England (1660– 1800) (Köln: Böhlau, 1972), esp. chapters V (“The Delivery of the Sermon”) and VI (“The Ideal Preacher”); he includes Enfield’s advice, p. 150. [End Page 292]