CAT 72. Engraved by R. Sands. Hortensius. In Historic Gallery of Portraits and Paintings, vol. 7. London: Vernor, Hood, & Sharpe, 1819. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.
Hortensius: Roman orator, 14 B.C. – 50 A. D. From entry in HG 7: “Hortensius, whose eloquence placed him on the rank of the first orators of antiquity, was born at Rome . . . eight years before Cicero. He was called to the bar at 19, and at that age greatly distinguished himself in two brilliant cases. He defended the province of Africa against certain governors . . . and pleaded for Nicomedes, King of Bythynia.” After participating in “the war of the allies” as “a soldier in the Roman legions,” he rose “to the rank of military tribune.” Returning to the bar after the cessation of war, he allowed “the dictates of friendship” to “induce” him to “defend the despicable Verres”—until “the eloquence of Cicero . . . compelled Hortensius to abandon his client.” Cicero, later his friend, praised his “faithful and retentive” memory. “His style assumed, at times, an Asiatic tone, from the pomp of his images and the conciseness of his thoughts.The sound of his voice was soft and harmonious. The only reproach which attaches to this excellent orator was an affectation of gesture and declamation” (n.p.).
I have yet to find reference to Hortensius in Melville’s life or writing; his legal acumen is likely to have interested Melville’s father-in-law Lemuel Shaw (CAT number to be assigned).