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however mean, and any utterance, however imperfect and inelegant, (so that it be barely intelligible,) are sufficient for the purpose of selling a pair of shoes or stockings, or for any of the commonest purposes of speech, yet something higher is surely necessary even to the ordinary conversation of the gentleman and the man of education.
But most of us are called upon occasionally in public, even though we may not belong to any of the learned professions, to express our opinions, to state our views, to offer our advice, or to justify some course we may have pursued in relation to affairs in which others beside ourselves are interested; and on such occasions, the advantage of a natural, elegant, and easy delivery cannot but be felt in securing the ready attention and favor of the audience.
To him who desires to make a figure in the Pulpit, in the Senate, or at the Bar, a good delivery, a nervous and elegant style of Elocution, are as essential, almost, as force of argument and grace of language. How many a good story is marred in the telling: how many a good sermon is lost in the preaching: how many a good speech, excellent in matter, argument, arrangement, language, falls listless on the ear, from the apathetic, inelegant, and powerless manner of the speaker! Elocution is indeed a part of oratory, essential to its perfection. He who would touch the heart, "and wield at will the fierce democracie," must have
"wit, and words, and worth,
Action and utterance, and the power of speech,
Thus, "doubly armed," the orator rises calm in the confidence of his strength. In vain the angry shout, in vain the discordant tumult of a hostile and prejudiced assembly:
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
He stands unmoved amid the storm. He speaks, and "his big manly voice" goes forth, like the trumpet's sound, above all the tumult. He is by turns patient or indignant, bold or yielding, as it suits his purpose: he exhorts, he threatens, he supplicates, he persuades. The storm is hushedthe waves subside; he has stretched his wand over the troubled waters, and the tempest is at rest. And now all hang breathless on his lips ;—he warms, he glows, he is on fire: his hearers are carried away with him; they follow. him in all his windings, through every change of feeling and passion. He bears down every obstacle; his friends he animates with his enthusiasm, he lashes his opponents with his satire, he withers them with his scorn, he crushes, he annihilates them with his terrible, his resistless power. And now "Io! Io! Triumphe!" Acclamations of delight rend the air; he is crowned with garlands, he is borne in triumph to his home, the hero of the day; achiev ing a bloodless victory, a stainless triumph-nobler than was ever won by conquest and the sword-the victory of mind over mind, the triumph of the intellect of one man over the understandings and the hearts of thousands.
Such is the triumph of the perfect ORATOR;—a triumph due as much to the power and grace of delivery, as to the force of argument or the eloquence of diction.
And how is this power and grace of delivery to be acquired ?—for acquired it must be—it is born with no man: it is indeed to this part of oratory that the maxim "orator fit" is peculiarly applicable. It is an art; and is to be attained by rule, by training and discipline, by constant and well regulated exercise, by using the mental faculties to a quick power of analysis of thought, and the cultivation of the ear and vocal organs for a ready appreciation and execution of tone. And that system that furnishes the best and readiest means of attaining these objects, is the best system of Elocution: the one that fails of this is worth nothing.
And here I will take the opportunity of answering the objections of those who are in the habit of promulgating the opinion that Elocution cannot be taught-that is, that it is not an art; for to deny that it admits of rules, and principles, is to deny it the place of an art. The name of the Rt. Revd. Dr. WHATELY, Archbishop of Dublin, is the greatest that I find among the list of these objectors; and in answering his objections to all or any System of Elocution, I shall be able, I think, to dispose of the whole question"Can Elocution be taught?"
Dr. Whately, in his ELEMENTS OF RHETORIC, (Part IV. c. 2,) while he admits, and indeed insists, on the importance of a good Elocution, emphatically protests against any sys
tem for its attainment: his own directions being that every person should read and speak in a natural manner; and he says (§ 3, p. 356,*) " that in reading the Bible, for example, or anything which is not intended to appear as his own composition, it is desirable that he should deliver it as if he were reporting another's sentiments, which were both fully understood and felt in all their force by the reporter." Admitted; this is the very object of Elocution: and how is it to be attained? He tells us "the only way to do this effectually, with such modulations of voice, &c. as are suitable to each word and passage, is to fix the mind earnestly on the meaning, and leave nature and habit to suggest the utterance : and for this plan "he lays claim to some originality of his own" (Part IV. c. i, §1); though he says, (c. ii., § 2,) that "it is not enough that the reader should himself actually understand a composition; it is possible, notwithstanding, to read it as if he did not: and in the same manner, it is not sufficient that he should himself feel and be impressed with the force of what he utters; he may, notwithstanding, deliver it as if he were unimpressed." Now can anything be so vague and so contradictory as such directions as these: “Don't use any system of Elocution: it will give you a false style; but read and speak naturally, as if you understood and felt what you are reading and speaking; nature and habit will show you how; though, at the same time, however clearly you may understand, and however deeply you may feel what
* London edition.
you are delivering, it is quite possible that that you may, notwithstanding, deliver it with an utter absence of understanding and feeling."
And why? Clearly for the want of a system, which by rules and principles of art shall render such a contradiction next to impossible.
The right reverend and learned Doctor (c. ii., § 2,) lays it down that, "To the adoption of any such artificial scheme of Elocution (that is, by a peculiar set of marks for denoting the pauses, emphases, &c.)-there are three weighty objections" and the reverend and learned logician states the objections to be,
"1st. That the proposed system must necessarily be im
"2dly. That if it were perfect, it would be a circuitous path to the object in view; and,
3dly. That even if both these objections were removed, the object would not be effectually obtained."
That is, even if the system were perfect, and not only perfect, but direct, still it would not be effectual! To the learned Doctor, who is a master of the syllogism, and of every form of argument, this may be clear; but, I confess, it puzzles my duller apprehension to understand how inefficiency can follow from the perfection of means working directly to their end. However, let us examine how the learned and reverend Doctor proceeds to prove the validity of his objections to this artificial system of Elocution. He says in the same section, "First, such a system must ne