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ESTURE is the various postures and motions employed in vocal delivery: as the postures and motions of the head, face, shoulders, trunk, arms, hands, fingers, lower limbs, and the feet.
Graceful and appropriate gesture renders vocal delivery far more pleasing and effective. Hence its cultivation is of primary importance to those who are ambitious of accomplishment in Elocution.
POSTURES OF THE BODY.
THE postures of the body, with respect to vocal delivery, may be divided into favourable and unfavourable; and, the better to suit my purpose in giving their illustration, I shall first treat of the unfavourable.
The most unfavourable posture is the horizontal. If a reader or a speaker should lie prone, or supine, he would not be likely to deliver a discourse with energy and effect. I have never known an orator to deliver a discourse in the horizontal posture; but I have known individuals to speak in public in postures almost as inappropriate.
As impressions communicated through the medium of the eye, are the most lasting, two series of figures are here introduced, the former of which are unfavourable, and the latter favourable, to vocal delivery.
Absurd as are the unfavourable postures on page 70, I have known readers to adopt not only all these, but others equally inappropriate and ridiculous. This is too much the case, particularly in seminaries for young gentlemen, in a number of which it has fallen to my lot to give instruction in Elocution.
The human mind is so constituted, that, in its education, order becomes almost indispensable. Hence, any thing that interrupts methodical instruction, is a serious obstacle to the growth of intellect. Nor is order more necessary than perseverance; consequently all postures of the body which are calculated for repose, should be avoided by the student in elocution. And as grace and dignity are of primary importance in vocal delivery, all postures which are inconsistent with these attributes should also be avoided.
The erect posture of the body is the best for vocal delivery; the trunk and limbs should be braced in proportion to the degree of energy required by the sentiments to be delivered. The right foot should be from two to four inches in advance of the left, and the toes turned a little outwards; meanwhile the body should be principally sustained by the left foot.
The next best is the erect sitting posture, in which the shoulders do not rest against the back of the seat, and in which the body is retained in its proper position by muscular action. (See Ornamental Letter, page 11 and 16.)
The next best is the erect sitting posture in which the shoulders rest against the back of the seat.
These are the only postures which are at all favourable to vocal delivery.
MANNER OF HOLDING THE BOOK.
The book should be held in the left hand, from six to eight inches from the body, and as high as the centre of the breast, so as to bring the face nearly perpendicular. It should not, however, be held so high as to prevent the audience from having a view of the reader's mouth, as his voice would thereby be more or less obstructed. The fingers of the right hand may take hold of the margin of the book lightly (see Fig. 10, and Ornamental Letter, page 16), so as to be ready to turn over the leaves, as occasion may require; or they may be placed upon the page, just below the line the reader is pronouncing, to aid him in keeping his place; or, particularly if the reader is pronouncing an original composition, the right hand may be employed to illustrate and enforce the sentiments by appropriate gesticulation. (See Fig. 11.) If the reader be a lady, the right hand may support the left arm. (See Fig. 12.) I do not, however, advise ladies to adopt this posture exclusively, but deem it not ungraceful for them.
The eyes should occasionally be directed from the words of the discourse to the audience. (See Fig. 11.)
In demonstrating on the black-board, the face, and not the back, should be turned to the audience. (See Fig. 13 and 14.)
NOTATION OF GESTURE.
THE want of a language for expressing the different modifications of gesture with brevity and perspicuity, is the principal cause of the general neglect with which the cultivation of this art has hitherto been treated. For this desideratum the world is indebted to the Rev. Gilbert Austin, of London. In 1806, this distinguished elocutionist published a quarto volume of six hundred pages; and from that work I have taken the system of notation of which the following is a specimen:
When the right arm is elevated backwards, and the left extended forwards, in a horizontal direction, he calls the posture of the former elevated backwards, and notes it eb; and the posture of the latter, horizontal forwards, and notes it hf. Now the abbreviations eb and hf are placed over any word which requires these postures of the arms, thus :