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is brought down with a sudden spring, as on the word “DASH."
This downward stroke of the hand (indicative of force; also power and command) is the principal action which is required in rhetorical gesture.
Where Concession is implied, one or both hands should be waved gently in a lateral direction, which action seems to say, “ I know I am open to attack."--In Entreaty, the hands should be clasped fervently together before the breast, and then lowered from their first position.-In Appeal, they should be pushed forward, with the palms turned upward; and where a Description is to be made, which comprehends any reference to relative situation, length, breadth, depth, distance, space, motion, or manner of action, they will move in a variety of directions, as the picture of the objects in the speaker's mind may prompt.
The Epic or Tragic style of action requires natural and acquired powers of the highest order. It demands magnificence and boldness, in addition to all the other qualities which belong to rhetorical gesture. The compositions which peculiarly call for it, are tragedy, epic poetry, lyric odes, and sublime description.
Of these three styles of action, the Rhetorical is that which properly belongs to the pulpit. The preacher, however, must be aware of adopting either a too bold, or a too diversified style! Chastity and sobriety of manner belong to the pulpit ; --he must be animated and energetical, at the same time serious and dignified; and filled with a deep sense of the importance of his subject. (This feeling alone will command the attention of his hearers !) When the left hand is not in action, (especially at the commencement of his discourse,) it may occasionally rest on the ledge of the pulpit; and the right may occupy a similar position on the other side.
In the progress of the sermon, however, the preacher must adopt a variety of action, suited to the style and the sentiment of his subject.* In the more earnest
* A uniform monotony or sameness of gesture is as much to be deprecated as a uniform monotony of sound; and, above all, that constantly recurring "see-saw" from "right to left and left to right,” still taught and practised in some of our public seminaries. In the absence of all passion, emphasis, or description, the practice of our best actors, as well as nature and common sense, should teach us the propriety of keeping our hands down, or gracefully resting them on some object, until some point of our address (and it will not fail soon to come) occur to demand some necessary and appropriate action. Remember Hamlet's Instructions; and, if you put any value on gesture, and wish it to assist, and not to injure your speech, beware of the too frequent use of your hands!--Ed.
and persuasive passages, he may lean on the cushion of the pulpit with his left arm placed across his breast, and his right in front of it, with the hand and fingers extended forward, and using a gentle action ; or, he may lean with both arms extended forward, and the hands clasped together; and, when standing erect, he may turn partially round, in order to fix the attention of every portion of his congregation.
These directions are grounded on the supposition that the discourse is delivered without notes; for this is the only mode in which it can be delivered so as to produce its proper effect, since it is thus only that the preacher will feel completely at his ease! He who preaches from notes will be perpetually embarrassed between his book and his audience ;-his action will necessarily be stiff, if not unnatural, and the current of his feelings liable to constant interruption. The only true style of preaching is that without a book; and he who wants either courage or perseverance to acquire the power of doing this, (whether extempore or memoriter is of little consequence,) must lay no claim to the merit of making his profession as useful and efficient as it may be made! He who wishes to see good models of pulpit oratory (says Mr. Wood in an admirable note, and speaking from his own experience) must not look for them at home, for our English style is radically bad ;-it is unworthy of us as a polished and enlightened people ;-he must turn his steps to France and Switzerland to behold specimens of sacred oratory, as perfect in their kind as the speaking of Erskine at the Bar, or the acting of Kemble on the Stage! I mean not to affirm that these preachers, taken as a body, are without defects; far from it! I freely acknowledge that in some of them there is a want of that calmness and repose, and of that impressive solemnity which are so essential to the pulpit.
But, some I could name who unite in themselves all that is noble and commanding, with all that is graceful, animated, and affecting! I have myself sat under these men with a degree of edification for which I shall ever feel grateful ; and I can give no better advice to those who are studying for the Church, than that they should see with their own eyes, and hear with their own ears, these most instructive models of what a preacher ought to be ! -Before concluding, it may not be unimportant to advert to a practice (now happily less common than it used to be !) namely, that of requiring boys at school to act plays. Mr. Walker gives it as his decided opinion, that
the acting of a play is not so conducive to improvement in Elocution as the speaking of single speeches.* In the first place, he (Mr. Walker) observes, the acting of plays is, of all kinds of delivery, the most difficult, and therefore cannot be the most suitable exercise for boys at school. In the next place, a dramatic performance requires so much attention to the deportment of the body, so varied an expression of the passions, and so strict an adherence to character, that Elocution is in danger of being neglected ;-besides, exact propriety of action and a nice discrimination of the passions (however essential on the Stage) are only of secondary importance in a school. It is a plain, open, distinct, and forcible pronunciation which schoolboys should aim at; and not that quick transition from one passion to another,—that archness of look, and that jeu de th'eâtre (as it is called) so essential to a tolerable dramatic exhibition, and which actors themselves can scarcely arrive at.
In short, it is speaking, rather than acting, which schoolboys should be taught; while the performance of plays is calculated to teach them acting rather than speaking ! +
* Or, we beg to add, appropriately selected dialogues. Having found the departure from what is called the speaking voice, and the adoption of that tone which varies between the sing-song drawl of the country-clerk and the boisterous bawling which Hamlet so pointedly condemns as the greatest enemy to natural, effective reading; and having successfully employed dialogues as one of the most efficient means for removing the offensive habit, we can fearlessly and conscientiously recommend their use to others !-- Ed. of “R. R."
† For this copious outline of GESTURE (taken from the Rev. J. Wood's valuable “Grammar of Elocution') the rhetorical student is mainly indebted to Messrs. Austin, Walker, and Smart; vide their respective works, namely, the “ CHIRONOMIA," " ELEMENTS OF ELOCUTION,” and “ PRACTICE OF ELOCUTION.”—ED. of “R. R.”
The a has four sounds; as, id_The long slender English a, as in fate, påper, tape, grape, crăpe,
máze, &c. 2 å— The long Italian a, as in fár, få-ther, pa-på, ma-må, com-månd, &c. 3 å_ The broad German a, as in fåll, wåll, wå-ter, åll, cåll, målt, &c. 4 6—The short sound of the Italian a, as in fất, måt, már-ry, hånd, &c.
The e has two sounds; as, id The long e, as in mě, mé-tre, médium, &c. 2 &—The short e, as in met, lết, got, sét, &c.
The i has two sounds; as, i i-The long dipthongal i, as in pine, gripe, stripe, &c. 2 i-The short simple i, as in pin, tít-tle, dig, big.
The o has four sounds; as, 18-The long open o, as in no, note, no-tice, more, door, &c. 2 --The long close o, as in move, prðve, d8, wolf, &c. 3 8-The long broad o, as in når, fôr, 8rb, cord, &c. 4 0The short broad o, as in nốt, gốt, hôt, &c.
The u has three sounds; as, 14-The long diphthongal sound of u, as in tåne, Cápid, cure, Adte,
måte, &c. 2 —The short simple u, as in tủb, bắt, cát, &c. 3 ů—The middle or obtuse u, as in bůll, füll, půll, půsh, půt, &c.
8-The long broad 8, and the short í, as in dil, b8il, sðil, &c. di—The long broad 8, and the middle obtuse ů, as in thðů, påånd,
Th—The acute or sharp th, as think, thin, thick, thought, thrash. TH_The grave or flat Tu, as in this, that, though, these.
THÁT a correct delivery is an essential principle in oratory, we have no less weighty authority than that of Demosthenes. When that illustrious Athenian was asked the first three requisites in this fascinating art, he replied, that pronunciation was the first, and the second, and the third great requisite. By which we may understand in addition to its original signification), not merely the right accentuation of individual words, but a proper enunciation of them in the delivery of a sermon from the pulpit, an oration in the senate, or a speech at the bar.
It is observed that the term Elocution originally signified the choice and disposition of words : and some of the best old English writers have used it in the same sense. Since the commencement of the eighteenth cevtury, however, it has been scarcely every used, except to signify pronunciation, combining an accurate accentuation of words, taken individually, with a proper and harmonious delivery of them, when they are formed into sentences or a continued discourse.
We are told that the French were the first who used it in this sense ; Addison, and the purest of our writers since his time, have followed them; and as this signification is perfectly agreeable to the Latin original, and serves to distinguish oratorical from general pronunciation, the alteration may with great propriety be adopted.
That Elocution, in its modern acceptation, is an acquirement of considerable consequence, the history of literature will abundantly confirm. In almost every age and nation, where the efforts of literary genius have gained any ground, this art has been taught, and successfully cultivated.
Cicero justly observes, that address in speaking is highiy useful, as well as ornamental, even in private life. This opinion seems perfectly reasonable ; for though a want of capacity, or ability, may exclude the majority of people from sitting in Parliament, or appearing at the Bar, or in the Pulpit, does it follow that we should not learn to speak with propriety and elegance our native language ?a language, in the opinion of the celebrated Mr. Sheridan, the component elements of which are so happily blended, and in such due proportion, as probably to exceed every other in the three great properties of speech, melody, harmony, and expression ; and which alone resembles the ancient Greek, in uniting the three powers of strength, beauty, and grace.