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place, and therefore extravagant. It should be the legitimate expression of earnestness; an earnestness not assumed, however, merely because it may be thought desirable, but genuine because felt, and felt so intuitively that the speaker is, at the moment, perhaps unconscious of its existence. When otherwise, the action becomes cold and formal— the result of a moral reason rather than a physical spontaneity. The speaker is thereby forced into a false position with his audience, and pays the forfeit of his misconception in a laboured indulgence of strut and rant, that land him the deeper into discontent with himself and his subject. His audience seek it not, for it offends them—the subject requires it not, for he has not yet felt his subject and he flounders about from one false tack to another, seeking some touch of nature to guide him, and finding none. We know nothing more melancholy than the exhibition of him who gesticulates simply because he has seen another do so in similar circumstances, and supposes he should do the same. That other may have been received with rapture, because he felt his author; while this fails, simply because he does not. In the former, the action was acceptable, because the natural and necessary reflex of the intensity felt-in the latter, the character is never seen, only the reciter. He had observed the other throw up his arms, stamp and fume, and be applauded in doing so, and he does the same; but why he should fail while the other succeeded, is to him all a mystery.
The safest rule, then, obviously is to follow the impulse of nature. Any attempt to guide the speaker must be in accordance with this, and should be viewed not so much as indicating when gesture should be used, as how it is to be regulated when the springs of action have been so awakened as to make gesture indispensable. Principles of gesture do not communicate feeling, any more than principles of modulation. The orator gesticulates when nature promptswhen he feels that for the body to be any longer silent
would be impossible. Nature will manifest herself. He then feels he may as soon cease to speak as cease to act. The action that has its origin in the mere will and caprice of the speaker, and its object in the mere desire of pleasing, is seldom successful. It may raise a laugh when it is Some speakers are seldom passive—
meant to woo a tear. not knowing how to dispose of their arms, their feet, their eye. With them it is a fault ever to be at rest-they see no grace, no propriety, no expression, in a pause or in inaction; and simply because they do not follow nature. They will not wait till they are warmed with their subject, but set out, ab initio, with the professed purpose of making an impression, forgetting that there is no impressiveness without corresponding earnestness. Others, again, err on the score of tameness. They have contracted such a dislike, it may be, to all that borders on extravagance, that they will not lift a finger during their whole harangue. If they feel their subject, they show it only in the rapidity of their Action they avoid, forgetting that action ceases to be extravagant the moment it flows from intensity. It is then proper, nay, necessary, if they have any regard for themselves, their subject, or their audience. These suffer by false modesty-the others, by their own false notions of earnestness. What is a vice in the former, would become a virtue in the latter. The fear of offending constrains the one the thirst of applause moves the others, who think themselves so much the better speakers that they can bellow and gesticulate as few ever did before them.
If nature, then, is to constitute the basis of rhetorical action—to be both the principle and test of propriety-how may the student be so schooled into the perception of what is natural, as to discover it where he had never seen it before, and detect the absence of it in those who hitherto seemed to possess it?
In the first place, natural action will harmonise with the
subject. Is the subject moving-admitting the higher flights of oratory?-so will be the action. The head will be uplifted, the eye open, the arm extended, the whole figure drawn up to a more than ordinary height, as if the orator felt he could not tower sufficiently above his audience. Is the subject commonplace, conventional, prosaic?-the action will be proportionally subdued, less elevated, and less exciting. And why? Because nature wills it. To be excited without reason, is just as unnatural as to be calm and unconcerned under the strongest excitement. In the true orator, him who consults nature, and is willing to be led by it, every gesture, weak or violent, will harmonise with the emotion that calls it forth; seeming rather to form part of the emotion than to be suggested by it. Action, in such a speaker, is the language of the body, and is always in harmony with that of the tongue.
In the second place, action, when the offspring of emotion, will be instantaneous. There will be no drawling-no sawing of the air-the emphatic stroke of the arm, the quiver of the lip, the start of the limb, will accompany the emphasis of the voice, thereby telling powerfully on the feelings that are addressed. The reverse of this is that tediousness of gesture, that long sweep of the arm, which falls tamely on the eye, and resolves itself into a most tiresome and drivelling monotony. The gesture of an impassioned orator may not be always the most polished, but it will always be more or less impressive, because always in season with the excitement that gave it birth. Who that has heard Dr Chalmers or Gavazzi, in the excitement of their delivery, ever failed to be struck with this! How amazingly impressive by the very instantaneousness of their action!— the flash of the eye, the elevation of the arm, the clenching of the hand, united so simultaneously with the emphasis of voice and language, as to form a combination of forces altogether irresistible-if not terrific. Not so where there is a
certain poverty of argument or absence of feeling-the speaker then evidently labours to produce an effect not natural in the circumstances. The orator must first display a certain vigour of conception and diction, before he can legitimately call in the aids of action. The mind must first be moved, before such results can follow. The engine that is to exhibit such heavings and tossings must first be set in motion, otherwise, the tempest will seem the mere vapouring of externals-not the reflection of a living principle. An arm so raised as to express any thing or everything—a noise and fury that are of the speaker's own kindling and not that of his subject-a routine of gesticulations, sometimes antecedent, sometimes subsequent to the language they should accompany, are all symptomatic of a mere affectation of earnestness, that is the more provoking from the tediousness it inflicts. It promises something, yet yields nothingattracts, yet repulses-gives note of some coming greatness, yet passes off pointless and fruitless like the revolutions of a windmill or the report of a popgun.
Lastly, action that is regulated by feeling will cease when the feeling ceases. The procuring cause having subsided, the effect will disappear. The passage involving a condensation of sentiment and evolving a corresponding expression. of impassioned action, having been enunciated, the sensible speaker will, with relaxed energy, return to the level tone and action of the more subdued passage that succeeds. He will not be equally animated in all, as all are not equally eloquent in themselves. The opposite of this is that homogeneous movement of the body which never knows an end, as it never knew a beginning. It commenced without a cause, and continues causeless. The action that has its origin in the mind, which began and continued involuntarily, will also cease involuntarily, because naturally and necessarily. The feeling is exhausted because the subject is exhausted, and the action which is the type of the feeling is
exhausted with it. In such a case, the relief experienced by the speaker and the hearer is reciprocal. The one feels he has accomplished his purpose-the other is well assured the speaker meant what he said, and used no false pretences. This is the work of nature-unpresuming, undissembling nature; the other is mere trick and subterfuge-a subterfuge too palpable not to be discerned, and too gross ever to be forgiven.
The following outlines may assist the student in his attempt to acquire some degree of grace and propriety in gesture.
The Advancing Step denotes determination, purpose— with the hands extended forward towards an approaching object, expresses welcome.
The Receding Step denotes a disposition to avoid-with the arms projected forward, palm outwards, denotes fear, alarm, terror, according to the violence and rapidity of start with which it is accompanied.
In Dialogue, the body maintains a diagonal direction towards the person addressed-not fixedly, however, so as to produce stiffness, but alternately in reference to other objects introduced. The back is turned when dissent, dislike, repulsiveness, is expressed.
The Hand should be presented open, the thumb and first finger particularly separated from the palm-never clenched except in extremity of passion or of purpose. It should be exposed with the palm upwards, styled the supine position; all curving of the fingers or diagonal edging of the hand should be avoided.
The Inverted position of the palm, styled the palm prone,