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of becoming skilled in dancing, or in vocal or instrumental musick, or in mathematicks, or logick, without long and close application to the subject, under an able teacher, or in private If one would excel in penmanship, he places himself under the instruction of a professor in the art; if he would become an adept in wrestling or boxing, he receives instruction from a professor in pugilisticks; if he wishes to be skilled in horsemanship, he puts himself under a ridingmaster: or else he attains any one of these objects, by private application and long practice. When Caspar Hauser was first thrown into Nuremburg,
of; seventeen, after having been confined all his life in a narrow dungeon, he did not know how to walk! Although nature had performed her whole duty to this youth, she had not taught him this art; nor would she ever have taught him, nor would he ever have learned, to walk, had he not exerted his capabilities for the attainment of this object, by repeated and persevering efforts. If, then, any one would excel in gesticulation, or in any other important qualification of an orator, let him assiduously set about the cultivation of his natural powers; and if he cannot avail himself of the instructions of a competent master in the art, he may, at least, glean useful hints from books that treat upon the subject, and, more especially, by observing the manner adopted by the best speakers: but let him bear in mind, that, in order to excel, in this, or in any other important attainment, he must accompany his desires by private application and persevering efforts
I argument were necessary to enforce the importance of cultivation in gesticulation, one sufficiently cogent might be drawn from the graceful skill and power displayed in this art by the best actors on the stage,
No truth is clearer, than that their masterly excellence is the fruit of their own industry.
But, in applying art to the aid of oratory, and especially in copying the mien and gesture of those who excel in it, great caution is to be observed. No true orator can be formed after ANY MODEL. He that copies or borrows from any one whom he looks up to as a standard of excellence, should be careful, in the first place, not to copy, his peculiarities or his defects. Secondly, whatever is copied, should be so completely brought under his command by long practice, as to appear perfectly natural, and his own. Art should never be allowed to put any constraint upon nature; but should be so completely refined and subdued, as to appear to be the work of nature herself. Whenever art, in a speaker, is allowed, in the slightest degree, to put a constraint, upon nature, it is immediately detected, shows affectation, and is sure to disgust, rather than to please and impress, the hearer.
The leading object of every publick speaker should be to persuade. In order to persuade, he must be able to please—to affect the feelings and to move the heart. To accomplish all this, the first important requisite, doubtless, is, to advance sound arguments in clear and chaste language; but he should remember that arguments, when accompanied by appropriate gesture, an earnest and a sincere expression of countenance, and a masterly intonation, come upon the hearer with a double force.
As we have no admitted standard of excellence in gesticulation, we are left without ample data from which to draw a complete set of rules to regulate all the proper movements of the body, limbs, and features, which should take place in delivery. In general terms, force and grace may be considered the leading qualities of good, action. When combined, they mutually support each other, and may be regarded as the most powerful auxiliaries of oratory.
In presenting particular directions for gesture, it is easier to give negative, than positive, instruction. In gesticulation, every one knows, that the right hand should be much more frequently employed than the left; and that it should be brought down with great energy when he wishes to enforce an important sentiment. In order to do this with full effect, it is equally apparent, that the arm should be boldly extended, so as to give all its muscles full play: A bold and manly freedom of gesture is to be studied, as much as a cramped and awkward stiffness is to be avoided. A contracted movement of the hand and arm, appears trifling and ungraceful. Waves or curved lines described by the hand and arm, are far more graceful than straight lines: and, although these may be studied and practised, yet, a young speaker should studiously avoid all affected prettiness of gesture, all theatrical trick and mimickry, and, especially, all scholastick stiffness and measured, academical formality of gesture. Every thing of this sort, appears unnatural, and, consequently, produces an effect directly opposite to that which is intended.
Those automatical gestures taught in our academies and colleges, seldom do any good, frequently much harm. They are generally imperfect imitations of abominably bad precedents. Therefore, the first thing incumbent on a young man who has had the misfortune to be thus mistaught, if he would make himself an eloquent, or even a tolerable, speaker, is to lay aside all that mechanical stiffness and set formality, and, by degrees, to adopt the natural manner of those speakers whose gestures bear none of the marks of study, but which seem to o burst forth as the spontaneous productions of the sentiments delivered. But, above all, he should so completely conceal all art, as not to allow his gestures to carry
the least appearance of DESIGN. Many a young speaker is distressingly encumbered with his hands and arms. They are greatly in his way. When this is the case, if he is unwilling to cut them off, let him strive to forget that he has any—and, at the same time, lay about him lustily and fearlessly. Let him remember, that it is no time to study attitude and gesture when he is addressing a publick audience; but that these should be so thoroughly studied in private, as to enable him to make a happy use of them in publick, as it were, without thought or effort.
These loose hints will be closed with one remark, which is, that excess of action, is nearly as detrimental in oratory, as no action. It becomes every speaker, therefore, in this, as well as in every thing else that pertains to elocution and oratory, to avoid extremes.
OF ATTITUDE AND EXPRESSION.
By a publick speaker, no small degree of attention should be given to a proper dignity of mien. Let him appear graceful, easy, and natural; and, when warmed and animated by the importance of his subject
, 'his dignity of mien should become still more elevated and commanding, and assume a somewhat lofty and noble bearing. Directly opposed to this, is the awk. ward habit of frequently moving about, or changing place, while addressing an audience. Although the attitude of the speaker may be often changed, yet a shifting of place is rarely admissible.
But the most important part of action consists in accompany. ing one's sentiments by an appropriate expression of the countenance. The
eye of the orator, and the expressive movements of the muscles of his face, often tell more than his words, his body, or his hands. In regard to the use of that commanding organ, the eye, it may be worthy of remark, that, when lighted up and glowing with meaning and intelligence, and frequently and properly directed to the person or persons addressed, it tends greatly to rivet the attention, and deepen the interest, of the hearer, as well as to heighten the effect, and enforce the importance, of the sentiments delivered. A publick speaker, therefore, cannot fall into a greater errour, than to keep his oyes much cast down, averted, or turned away from his auditory.
TO THE READER AND THE SPEAKER.
The most eloquent manner of reading and of speaking, is the most easy of attainment, if sought for through the proper channel; for it is as simple as it is natural. But many who aim at it, fail by the very efforts adopted to gain it. They overreach the mark. They shoot too high. Instead of breathing forth their sentiments in the fervid glow of simple nature, which always warms, and animates, and interests the hearer, they work themselves up into a sort of frigid bombast, which chills and petrifies him. One, therefore, who would read well, or who would speak well—who would interest, rivet the attention, convince the understanding, and excite the feelings of his hearers--needs not expect to do it by any extraordinary exertion or desperate effort; for genuine eloquence is not to be wooed and won by any such boisterous course of courtship, but by more gentle means. If one would become glowing and truly eloquent, he must rise naturally with his subject, and without betraying the least art or effort.
As in grammar and rhetorick, so in eloquence, defects are artificial; original beauties are natural. It is, therefore, a great mistake to suppose that visible art can do any thing towards making an orator, or an eloquent reader. Cultivation may do much. The rules of every science, as far as they are just and useful, are founded in nature, or in good usage. Hence, their adoption and application tend to free us from our artificial defects, all of which may be regarded as departures from the simplicity of nature. Let the student in elocution, then, bear in mind, that whatever is artificial, is unnatural, and whatever is unnatural, is directly opposed to genuine eloquence.
The reader must not suppose, however, that, in cautioning him against an artificial and frigid vehemence of style in elocution, any countenance is given to a cold and indifferent man
A slight degree of extravagant warmth, is far more endurable than lifeless dulness and tameness. Notwithstanding all the precautions proper to be observed, therefore, the reader or speaker should not fail to enter with glowing fervour into the spirit of the sentiments which he utters. He should always be in EARNEST; and then, if his manner is simple, natural. easy, and dignified, it cannot fail of being eloquent.
In reading, one should not confine his eyes too much to the book. By this puerile practice, one-half of the effect of his elocution is lost. A good reader has his eyes directed to his hearers, nearly as much as to his book. Great effect
also be produced, by occasionally casting his eyes upon some of the most distant persons in the room. This is, as it were, to hold a closer communion with them, by which their interest in what is read, is greatly increased.
HINTS ON THE ELOQUENCE OF THE PULPIT. The dignity and importance of this subject require that it always be approached with solemn awe; but the wery
sacredness of the theological office, has betrayed many a one into a false notion of its true dignity and sanctity. A few, brief remarks, therefore, which go to point out some of the most prominent errours and defects in delivery, prevalent among the clergy of our country, may not be unworthy the attention of young men who are just entering upon the duties of the ministry.
There is not, perhaps, a more common errour of delivery, displayed by him who officiates in the sacred desk, than an affected air of sanctimonious solemnity. This is often exhibited in mien, gesture, and tone. But the preacher who is filled with the grandeur and importance of his subject—who considers that his object is, to convince his hearers of the truth of the sublime doctrines of the Bible, and to persuade them to act in conformity to that conviction, will find no time for laying aside his natural tones and mien, but will enter upon his labours in the true spirit and dignity of native simplicity.
Affectation, like all other evils, is contagious. Many adopt an affected tone and manner merely by imitating a
precedent, and are not aware that they are thus tainted. Hence, it would be well for a young speaker often to consider, whether he has not mistaken, and adopted, some affected habits for nat
If his tones, gestures, and enunciation generally, closely resemble those he would employ in familiar and earnest liscourse with others, they may commonly be regarded as uatural.
Affectation in the pulpit, is fashionable. This allusion is not made in reference to that affectation of prettiness, adopted by lhe weak and silly, nor that of sanctimonious austerity and pompous dignity, displayed by the bigoted and hypocritical, but in allusion to that affectation which shows itself in sectarian tone or cant. There is a baptist tone or cant, a methodist cant,