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but graceful familiarity of action, even of the most polished society, would be highly indecorous in the pulpit. Hence, it must be admitted, according to the just maxim of Cicero and Quintilian, that decorum constitutes true oratorical grace; and that this decorum admits of great variety of action, under different circumstances. Vehement action is sometimes both decorous and graceful; so also are abrupt and short gestures, if they bear the impress of truth and suitableness. Such are the gestures of an old man when he is irritated. But the most flowing and beautiful motions, the grandest preparations, and the finest transitions of gesture, ill applied, and out of time, lose their natural character of grace, and become indecorous, ridiculous, or offensive.
In conclusion, I may say that, in action as in intonation, &c., I would not be understood as “recommending a slavish attention to any system of rules. Nothing should be allowed to supersede Nature. Let her, therefore, stand in the foreground. The reader abuses his art who betrays, by his delivery, that he enunciates by rule. Emotion is the thing. One flash of passion upon the cheek
one beam of feeling from the eye — one thrilling note of sensibility from the tongue - one stroke of hearty emphasis from the arm — have more value than any exemplification of rules, when that exemplification is unaccompanied by such adjuncts"*: and this leads me to remark, that more knowledge may be obtained of the science of Elocution in one hour from a master who understands the art, and who is capable of exemplifying it in his own person than could be acquired in months, or even years, by studying all the books which have ever been written upon the subject.
* Sheridan Knowles.
SELECTIONS IN PROSE.
ON PRONUNCIATION OR DELIVERY.
How much stress was laid upon pronunciation, or delivery, by the most Eloquent of all orators, Demosthenes, appears from a noted saying of his, related both by Cicero and Quintilian ; when being asked, What was the first point in oratory? he answ
swered, Delivery; and being asked, What was the second ? and afterwards, What was the third ? he still answered, Delivery. There is no wonder that he should have rated this so high, and that for improving himself in it, he should have employed those assiduous and painful labours, which all the ancients take so much notice of; for, beyond doubt, nothing is of more importance. To superficial thinkers, the management of the voice and gesture, in public speaking, may appear to relate to decoration only, and to be one of the inferior arts of catching an audience. But this is far from being the case. It is intimately connected with what is, or ought to be, the end of all public speaking - persuasion; and therefore deserves the study of the most grave and serious speakers, as much as of those whose only aim is to please.
For, let it be considered, whenever we address ourselves to others by words, our intention certainly is to make some impression on those to whom we speak; it is to convey to them our ideas and emotions. Now the tone of our voice, our looks and gestures, interpret our ideas and emotions no less than words do; nay, the impression they make on others is frequently much stronger than any that words can make. We often see that an expressive look, or a passionate cry, unaccompanied by words, conveys to others more forcible ideas, and rouses within them stronger passions, than can be communicated by the most eloquent discourse. The signification of our sentiments made by tones and gestures, has this advantage above that made by words--that it is the language of nature. It is that method of interpreting our minds, which nature has dictated to all, and which is understood by all; whereas, words are only arbitrary conventional symbols of our ideas; and, by consequence, must make a more feeble impression. So true is this, that, to render words fully significant, they must, almost in every case, receive some aid from the manner of pronunciation and delivery; and he who, in speaking, should employ bare words, without enforcing them by proper tones and accents, would leave us with a faint and indistinct impression, often with a doubtful and ambiguous conception of what he had delivered. Nay, so close is the connexion between certain sentiments and the proper manner of pronouncing them, that he who does not pronounce them after that manner, can never persuade us that he believes, or feels, the sentiments themselves.
DEFECTS IN THE USUAL COURSE OF ELOCUTIONARY
AFTER all that has been said, the best contrived scheme will be of little avail, without the utmost zeal and perseverance on the part of the learner. It is an impressive saying by an elegant genius of the Augustan age, who drew his maxim from the Greek Tragedy, and illustrated it by his own life and fame, that “nothing is given to mortals without indefatigable labour"; meaning thereby thatthose words which, from their rare and surpassing merits are supposed to proceed from a peculiar endowment by heaven, are, in reality, but the product of hard and unremitting industry.
It is pitiable to witness the hopes and conceits of ambition, without the accompaniment of its requisite exertions. The art of reading well is one of those accomplishments which all wish to possess, many think they have already, and some set about to acquire. These, after a few lessons with an elocutionist, and no toil of their own, are disappointed at not becoming themselves at once masters of the art; and abandon the study for the purpose of entering on some new subject of trial and failure. Such cases of infirmity are in part a result of the inconstancy of human nature; but they chiefly arise from defects in the usual course of instruction. Go to some, may I say-all of our colleges and universities, and observe how the art of speaking-is not taught there. See a boy of but fifteen years, sent upon a stage, pale and choking with apprehension, in an attempt to do that, without instruction, which he came purposely to learn; and furnishing amusement to his class-mates, by a pardonable awkwardness, which should be punished, in the person of his pretending but neglectful preceptor, with little less than scourging. T'hen visit a conservatorio of music-observe there the orderly tasks, the masterly discipline, the unwearied superintendence, and the incessant toil to produce accomplishment of voice; and afterwards do not be surprised that the pulpit, the senate, the bar, and the chair of medical professorship are filled with such abominable drawlers, mouthers, mumblers, clutterers, squeakers, chanters, and
mongers in monotony; nor that the schools of singing are constantly sending abroad those great instances of vocal wonder, who sound along the high places of the world; who are bidden to the halls of fashion and wealth, who sometimes quell the pride of rank, by its momentary sensation of envy; and who draw forth the intelligent curiosity, and produce the crowning delight and approbation of the prince and the sage. - Rush's Philosophy of the Human Voice.
CHARLES KEMBLE has been reading Shakspere to London audiences, and it would be well if, from among the thousands who listened to him, a few could be induced to carry the practice into private life. We know of no accomplishment so valuable as that of reading “ with good emphasis and discretion”, of catching the meaning and spirit of an author, and conveying them to others with a distinct and intelligible utterance; and yet, strange to say, there is no department of modern education so much neglected. Indeed, so general is this neglect, that scarcely one young lady or gentleman in a dozen who boast of having “finished” their education, can, on being requested, read aloud to a private company with that ease and graceful modulation which is necessary to the perfect appreciation of the author. There is either a forced and unnatural mouthing, a hesitating and imperfect articulation, or a monotony of tone so thoroughly painful, that one listens with impatience, and is glad when some excuse presents itself for his absence. Whatever may be the imperfections of our school tuition, this defect is rather to be attributed to a want of taste, and consequent neglect of practice on the part of grown-up individuals, than to any defect in their elementary training. There may be a deficiency of good models; but the main evil arises from the unequal value which seems to be attached to good reading as compared with music, dancing, painting, and other fashionable acquirements. Why it should be so, we can discover no good cause, but, on the contrary, see many substantial reasons why reading aloud should be cultivated as one of the most useful and attractive of domestic accomplishments.
To young ladies, for example, the habit of reading aloud has much to recommend it. As inere exercise, it is highly beneficial on account of the strength and vigour which it confers on the chest and lungs; while the mental pleasure to be derived therefrom is one of the most delightful that can adorn the family circle. Gathered round the winter's fire or evening lamp, what could be more cheerful for the aged and infirm, what more instructive to the younger branches, or more exemplary to the careless, than the reading aloud of some entertaining author; and who could do this with greater grace or more impressive effect than a youthful female ? It requires no great effort to attain this art, no neglect of music, painting, or other accomplishment; it is, in fact, more a practice than a study, and one which the interest excited by new books and periodicals would always prevent from becoming dull or tiresome.. Were females of all ranks to adopt the practice more than they do