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Accompany the Emotions and Passions which your words express, by correspondent tones looks, and gestures.
THERE is the language of emotions and
passions, as well as of ideas. To express the latter is the peculiar province of words; to express the former, nature teaches us to make use of tones, looks, and gestures. When anger, fear, joy, grief, love, or any other active passion arises in our minds, we naturally discover it by the particular manner in which we utter our words; by the features of the countenance, and by other well-known signs. And even when we speak without any of the more violent emotions, the same kind of feeling usually accompanies our words, and this, whatever it be, hath its proper external expression. Expression hath indeed been so little studied in public speaking, that we seem almost to have forgotten the language of nature, and are ready to consider every attempt to recover it as the laboured and affected effort of art. But Nature is always the same; and every judicious imitation of it will always be pleasing. Nor can any one deserve the appellation of a good speaker, much less of a complete orator, till to distinct articulation, a good command of voice, and just emphasis, he is able to add the various expressions of emotion and passion.
To enumerate these expressions, and describe them in all their variations, is impracticable. Attempts have been made with some success to analyze the language of ideas; but the language of sentiment and emotion has never yet been
analyzed ; and perhaps it is not within the reach of human ability, to write a Philosophical Grammar of the Passions. Or, if it were possible in any degree to execute this design, I cannot think that from such a grammar it would be possible for any one to instruct himself in the use of the language. All endeavours therefore to make men Orators, by describing to them in words the manner in which their voice, countenance, and hands are to be employed in expressing the passions, must, in my apprehension, be weak and ineffectual. And, perhaps, the only instruction which can be given with advantage on this head, is this general one: Observe in what manner the several emotions or passions are expressed in real life, or by those who have with great labour and taste acquired a power of imitating nature; and accustom yourself either to follow the great original itself, or the best copies you meet with; always, however, « with this special observance, that you O'ERSTEP NOT
» THE MODESTY OF NATURE. »
In the application of these rules to practice, in order to acquire a just and graceful elocution, it will be necessary to go through a regular course of exercises; beginning with such as are most easy, and proceeding by slow steps to such as are more difficult. In the choice of these, the practitioner should pay a particular attention to his prevailing defects, whether they regard articulation, command of voice, emphasis, or cadence: and he should content himself with reading and speaking with an immediate view to the correcting of his fundamental faults, before he aims at any thing higher. This may be irksome and disagreeable; it may require much patience and resolution; but it is the only way to succeed..
For if a man cannot read simple sentences, or plain narrative, or didactic pieces, with distinct articulation, just emphasis, and proper tones how can he expect to do justice to the sublime descriptions of poetry, or the animated language of the passions?
In performing these exercises the learner should daily read aloud by himself, and, as often he has opportunity, under the correction of an Instructor or Friend. He should also frequently recite compositions memoriter. This method has several advantages: it obliges the speaker to dwell upon the ideas which he is to express, and hereby enables him to discern their particular meaning and force, and gives him a previous knowledge of the several inflections, emphases, and tones which the words require. And by taking off his eye from the book, it in part relieves him from the influence of the schoolboy habit of reading in a different key and tone from that of conversation; and gives him greater liberty to attempt the expression of the countenance and gesture.
It were much to be wished, that all public speakers would deliver their thoughts and sentiments, either from memory or immediate conception; for, besides that there is an artificial uniformity, which almost always distinguishes reading from speaking, the fixed posture, and the bending of the head which reading requires, are inconsistent with the freedom, ease, and variety of just elocution. But if this is too much to be expected, especially from Preachers, who have so much to compose, and are so often called upon to speak in public; it is however ex'tremely desirable that they should make themselves so well acquainted with their discourse
as to be able, with a single glance of the eye, to take in several clauses, or the whole, of a sentence *.
I have only to add, that after the utmost pains have been taken to acquire a just elocution, and this with the greatest success, there is some difficulty in carrying the art of speaking out of the school or chamber, to the bar, the senate, or the pulpit. A young man who has been accustomed to perform frequent exercises in this art, in private, cannot easily persuade himself when he appears before the public, to consider the business he has to perform, in any other \light, than as a trial of skill, and a display of oratory. Hence it is, that the character of an Orator has of late often been treated with ridicule, sometimes with contempt. We are pleased with the easy and graceful movements which the true gentleman has acquired by having learned to dance; but we are offended by the coxcomb, who is always exhibiting his formal dancingbow, and minuet-step. So, we admire the manly eloquence and noble ardour of a British Legislator, rising up in defence of the rights of his country; the quick recollection, the forcible reasoning, and the ready utterance of the accomplished Barrister; and the sublime devotion, genuine dignity, and unaffected earnestness of the sacred Orator: but when a man, in either of these capacities, so far forgets the ends, and degrades the consequence of his profession, as to set himself forth to public view under the character of a Spouter, and to parade it in the ears of the vulgar with all the pomp of artificial elo
* See Dean Swift's advice on this head, in his Letter to a young Clergyman.
quence; though the unskilful may gaze and applaud, the judicious cannot but be grieved and disgusted. Avail yourself, then, of your skill in the Art of Speaking, but always employ your powers of elocution with caution and modesty ; remembering, that though it be desirable to be admired as an eminent Orator, it is of much more importance to be respected as a wise Statesman, and able Lawyer, or an useful Preacher.