« ZurückWeiter »
could do more than the sceptre of a monarch, or the sword of a warrior ; and when superior skill in the art of haranguing was the certain means for elevating him, who possessed it, to the highest honours in the state. Even in our own country, this is partly the case ; for the instances of bad speakers rising to eminent stations in the government,
But it must be owned, our politics now turn upon other hinges, than in the times when Greek and Roman eloquence flourished. Nor are we, accordingly, like to bestow the pains which they did, for consummating ourselves in the art of speaking. We shall hardly, in our ages, hear of a person's shutting himself up for many months in a cell under ground to study and practise elocution uninterrupted ; or declaiming on the sea-shore, to accustoin himself to harangue an enraged multitude without fear; or under the points of drawn swords fixed over his shoulders to cure hiinself of a bad habit of shrugging them up; which with other particulars, are the labours recorded to have been undertaken by Deinosthenes, in order to perfect himself, in spite of bis natural disadvantages, of which he had many, in the art of elocution. What is to be gained by skill in the art of speaking may not now be sufficient to reward the indefatigable diligence used by a Demosthenes, a Pericles, an Æschines, a Demetrius Phalereus, an Isocrates, a Carbo, a Cicero, a M. Anthony, an Hortensius, a Julius, an Augustus, and others. Yet it is still of important advantage for all that part of youth whose statio: places them within the reach of a polite education, to be qualified for acquitting themselves with reputation, when called to speak in public. In parliament, at the bar, in the pulpit, at meetings of merchants, in coma. mittees for managing public affairs, in large societies, and on such like occasions, a competent address and readiness, not only in finding matter, but in expressing and urging it effectually, is what, I doubt not, many a gentleman would willingly acquire, at the expence of half his other improvements.
The reader will naturally reflect here upon one impor-tant use for good speaking, which was unknown to the ancients, viz. for the ministerial function. I therefore have
said above, page 6, that we have not the same secular demand for elocution, as the ancients; meaning, by reservation, that we have a moral, or spiritual use for it which they had not.
And no small matter of grief it is to think, that, of the three learned professions, real nierit is there the most ineffectual towards raising its possessor, where it ought to be most; which must greatly damp emulation and diligence. An able physician, or lawver, hardly fails of success in life. But a clergyman may unite the learning of a Cudworth with the eloquence of a Tillotson, and the delivery of an Atterbury; but, if he cannot make out a connection with some great man, and it is too well known by what, means they are most commonly gained; he must content himself to be buried in a country curacy, or vicarage at mnost, for life.
If nature unassisted could forin the eminent speaker, where were the use of art or culture, which yet no pretends to question ? Art is but nature improved upon and refined. “And before improvement is applied, genius is but a mass of ore in the mine, without lustre, and without value, because unknown and unthought of. The ancients used to procure for their youth, masters of pronunciation from the theatres,* and had them taught gesture and attitude by the palæstritæ. These last taught what is, among us, done by the dancing-master. And, as to the former, no man ought to presume to set himself at the head of a place of education, who is not in some degree capable of teaching pronunciation. However, I could wish that gentlemen, who have inade themselves perfect masters of pronunciation and delivery, would undertake to teach this branch at places of education, in the same manner as masters of music, drawing, dancing, and fencing, are used to do.
It is well when a youth has no natural defect or impediment, in his speech. And, I should by no means advise, that he, who has, be brought up to a profession requiring elocution. But there are instances enough of natural defects surmounted, and eminent speakers formed by indefatigable deligence in spite of them. Demosthenes could
* Quint. C. X.
[ 91 not, when he began to study rhetoric, pronounce the first * letter of the name of his art. And Cicero was long-neck
ed, and narrow-chested. But diligent and faithful labour, in what one is in earnest'about, surmounts all difficulties. Yet we are commonly enough disgusted by public speakers lisping, and staimering, and speaking through the nose, and pronouncing the letter R with the throat, instead of the tongue, and the letter S like Th, and screaming above, or croaking below all natural pitch of human voice ; some mumbling, as if they were conjuring up spirits; others bawling, as loud as the vociferous venders of provisions in London streets ; some tumbling out the words so precipitately, that no ear can catch them ; others dragging them out so slowly, that it is as tedious to listen to them, as to count a great clock ; some have got a habit of shrugging up their shoulders ; others of see-sawing with their bodies, some backward and forward, others from side to side; some raise their eyebrows at every third word ; some open their mouths frightfully; others
; keep their teeth so close together that one would think their jaws were set ; some shrivel all their features together into the middle of their faces ; some push out their lips as if they were mocking the audience; others hein at every pause; and others sınack with their lips, and roll their tongues about in their mouths, as if they laboured under a continual thirst. All which bad habits they ought to have been broken of in early youth, or put into ways of life, in which they would have, at least, offended fewer persons.
It is through neglect in the early part of life, and bad habits taking place, that there is not a public speaker among twenty, who knows what to do with his eyes. TO' see the venerable man, who is to be the mouth of whole people confessing their offences to their Creator and Judge, bring out these awful words, Almighty and most merciful Father,” &c. with his eyes over his shoulder, to see who is just gone into the pew at his elbow; to observe this, one would imagine there was an absolute want of all feeling of devotion. But it may be, all the while, owing to nothing but awkwardness; and the good man looks about him the whole time he is going on with the service, mere-
ly to keep himself in countenance, not knowing else, where to put
eyes. Even the players, who excel, beyond comparison, all other speakers in this country, in what regards decoruin, are, some of them, often guilty of monstrous improprieties as to the management of their eyes. To direct them full at the audience, when they are speaking a soliloquy, or an aside-speech, is insufferable. For they ought not to seem so much as to think of an audience, or of any person's looking upon them, at any time ; especially on those occasions; those speeches being only thinking aloud, and expressing what the actor should be supposed to wish concealed. Nor do they always keep their eyes fixed upon those they speak to, even in impassioned dialogue. Whether it is from heedlessness or that they are inore out of countenance by looking one another stedfastly in the face, I know not; but they do often ramble about with their eyes in a very unmeaning and unnatural manner.
A natural genius for delivery supposes an ear ; though it does not always suppose a musical* ear. I never heard poetry, particularly that of Milton, better spoken, than by a gentleman, who yet had so little discernment in music, that he has often told me, the grinding of knives entertained hiin as much as Handel's
organ. As soon as a child can read, without spelling, the words in a common English book, as the SpecTATOR, he ought to be taught the use of the stops, and accustomed, from the beginning, to pay the same regard to them as to the words. The common rule, for holding them out to their just length, is too exact for practice, viz. That a comma; is to hold the length of a syllable, a seinicolon, of two, a colon of three, and a period of four. In some cases, there is 719 stop to be made at a comma, as they are often put merly to render the sense clear ; as those, which, by Mr. Ward, and many other learned editors of books, are put before every relative. It likewise often happens, that the strain of the inatier shews a propriety, or beauty, in. holding the pause beyond the proper length of the stop ; particularly when any thing remarkably striking has been uttered'; by which means the hearers have time to rumia * Yet: Quintilian would have his orator by all means study music. C. viii..
nate upon it, before the matter, which follows can put it out of their thoughts. Of this, instances will occur in the following lessons.
Young readers are apt to get into a rehearsing kind of monotony; of which it is very difficult to break them. Monotony is holding one uniform humming sound through the whole discourse, without rising or falling. Cant, is, in speaking, as psalmody and ballad in music, a strain consisting of a few notes rising and falling without variation, like a peal of bells, let the inatter change how it will. The chaunt with which the prose psalms are halfsung, half-said, in cathedrals, is the same kind of absurdity. All these are unnatural, because the continually varying strain of the matter necessarily requires a continually
varying series of sounds to express it. Whereas chaunting in cathedrals, psalmody in parish-churches, ballad music put to a number of verses, differing in thoughts and images, and cant, or monotony,
expressing the various matter of a discourse, do not in the least humour the matters they applied to; but on the contrary, confound it.*
Young people must be taught to let their voice fall at the end of sentences; and to read without any particular. whine, cant, or drawl, and with the natural inflections of voice, which they use in speaking. For reading is nothing but speaking what one sees in a book, as if he were expressing his own sentiments, as they rise in his mind. And no person reads well, till he comes to speak what he sees in the book before him in the same natural inanner as he speaks the thoughts, which arise in his own mind. And hence it is, that no one can read properly what he does not understand. Which leads me to observe, that there are many books much fitter for improving children in reading, than most parts of scripture, especially of the Old Testament. Because the words of our English Bible are, many of them, obsolete ; the phraseology, as of all bare translations, stiff, the subjects not familiar to young persons, and the characters grave and forbidding. Fables and tales, founded upon good morals, and select parts of history and biography, and familiar dialogues, are
* See SPECTATOR, No. 18.