Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
A Lesson in Tactics
By Thomas Wilson (c. 15261581)
From the Arte of Rhetorike
NOT only it is necessary to know what manner of cause we have taken in hand, when we first enter upon any matter, but also it is wisdom to consider the time, the place, the man for whom we speak, the man against whom we speak, the matter whereof we speak, and the judges before whom we speak, the reasons that best serve to further our cause, and those reasons also that may seem somewhat to hinder our cause; and in no wise to use any such at all, or else warily to mitigate by protestation the evil that is in them, and always to use whatsoever can be said, to win the chief hearers good wills, and to persuade them to our purpose. If the cause go by favour, and that reason cannot so much avail, as good will shall be able to do: or else if moving affections can do more good, than bringing in of good reasons, it is meet always to use that way, whereby we may by good help get the over hand. [So] That if mine adversarys reasons, by me being confuted, serve better to help forward my cause, than mine own reasons confirmed, can be able to do good: I should wholly bestow my time, and travail to weaken and make slender, all that ever he bringeth with him. But if I can with more ease prove mine own sayings, either with witnesses, or with words, than be able to confute his with reason, I must labour to withdraw mens minds from mine adversarys foundation, and require them wholly to hearken unto that which I have to say, being of itself so just and so reasonable, that none can rightly speak against it, and shew them that great pity it were, for lack of the only hearing, that a true matter should want true dealing. Over and besides all these, there remain two lessons, the which wise men have always observed, and therefore ought of all men assuredly to be learned. The one is, that if any matter be laid against us, which by reason can hardly be avoided, or the which is so open, that none almost can deny; it were wisdom in confuting all the other reasons, to pass over this one, as though we saw it not, and therefore speak never a word of it. Or else if necessity shall force a man to say somewhat, he may make an outward brag, as though there were no matter in it, ever so speaking of it, as though he would stand to the trial, making men to believe he would fight in the cause, when better it were (if necessity so required) to run clean away. And therein though a man do fly and give place, evermore the gladder the less raving there is, or stirring in this matter: yet he flieth wisely and for this end, that being fenced otherwise and strongly appointed, he may take his adversary at the best advantage, or at the least weary him with much lingering, and make him with oft such flying, to forsake his chief defence.
The other lesson is, that whereas we purpose always to have the victory, we should so speak that we may labour, rather not to hinder or hurt our cause, than to seek means to further it, and yet I speak not this, but that both these are right necessary, and every one that will do good, must take pains in them both, but yet notwithstanding, it is a fouler fault a great deal for an orator, to be found hurting his own cause, than it should turn to his rebuke, if he had not furthered his whole entent. Therefore not only is it wisdom, to speak so much as is needful, but also it is good reason to leave unspoken so much as is needless.