« ZurückWeiter »
ated; and when a 'to, the eye line distant or ex
yated; and when any thing low, inferiour, or grovelling is referred to, the eye and hand may be directed downwards: when any thing distant or extensive is mentioned, the hand may naturally describe the distance or extent; and when concious virtue, or any heartfelt emotion, or tender sentiment occurs, we may as naturally clap the right hand on the breast, exactly over the heart.
In speaking extempore, we should be sparing of the use of the left hand, which may not ungracefully hang down by the side, and be suffered to receive that small degree of motiom which will necessarily be communicated to it by the action of the right hand. The right hand, when in action, ought to rise extending from the side, that is, in a direction from left to right, and then be propelled forwards, with the fingers open, and easily and differently curved : the arm should move chiefly from the elbow, the hand seldom be raised higher than the shoulder, and when it has described its object, or enforced its emphasis, ought to drop lifeless down to the side, ready to commence action afresh. The utmost care must be taken to keep the elbow from. inclining to the body, and to let the arms, when not hanging at rest by the side, approach to the action we call a-kimbo ; we must be cautious, too, in all action but such as describes extent or circumference, to keep the hand, or lower part of the arm, from cutting the perpendicular line that divides the body into right and left; but above all, we must be careful to let the stroke of the hand, which marks force, or emphasis, keep exact time with the force of pronunciation; that is, the hand must go down upon the emphatical word, and no other : Thus in the execration of Brutus, in Julius Cæsar:
When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous,
Be ready, gods, with all your thunder bolts,
Here the action of the arm which enforces the eniphasis ought to be so directed, that the stroke of the hand may be given exactly on the word dash ; this will give a concomitant action to the organs of pronunciation, and by this means the whole expression will be greatly augmented. This action may be called beating time to the emphasis, and is as necessary in forcible and harmonious speaking, as the agreement between the motion of the feet, and the musick in dancing. *
These are some of the simplest and most necessa. ry directions, and such as may be followed with the greatest safety : observing the action of the best read. ers and speakers may, with some cautions, be recommended to youth ; but cannot with the same safety be proposed to those who, by long practice, are confirmed in habits of their own ; it may, instead of a modest and negative kind of awkwardness, which is scarcely offensive, substitute a real and disgusting kind of mimickry ; and this, by every person of the least taste, will be looked upon as a bad exchange.
To the generality of readers and speakers, there. fore, it may be proposed to make use of no more action than they can help. If they are really in earnest, as they ought to be, some gesticulation will naturally break out; and if it be kept within bounds, it will always be tolerable. A man's own feelings will often tell him how far he may venture with safety ; for in that situation which he finds the easiest to himself, he will appear most agreeable to his auditory. Such a sympathy do we find between speaker and hearer,
modest and nets of their own : Long practice, a
* For a simple outline of action, as it may be called, it is presumed the Elements of Gesture, prefixed to the Academick Speaker, will be found highly useful ; as the directions there given are illustrated by plates describing the several positions of the body, legs, arms, and hands, in a graceful and forcible delivery.
that the one cannot be in an awkward situation without communicating a feeling of it to the other.
Thus have we endeavoured to delineate those outlines, which nothing but good sense and taste will fill up. The more distinctly these lines are marked, the easier will be the finishing; and if, instead of leav. ing so much to taste, as is generally done, we were to push as far as possible our enquiries into those principles of truth and beauty, in delivery, which are immutable and eternal ; if, I say, we were to mark carefully the seemingly infinite variety of voice and gesture, in speaking and reading, and compare this variety with the various senses and passions of which they are expressive ; from the simplicity of nature in her other operations, we have reason to hope, that they might be so classed and arranged, as to be of much easier attainment, and productive of much cera tainty and improvement, in the very difficult acquisi. tion of a just and agreeable delivery.
Ir now remains to say something of those tones, which mark the passions and emotions of the speaker. These are entirely independent on the modulation of the voice, though often confounded with it : for modulation relates only to speaking either loudly or softly, in a high or a low key; while the tones of the passions or emotions mean only that, quality of sound that indicates the feelings of the speaker, without any reference to the pitch or loudness of his voice ; and it is in being easily susceptible of every passion and emotion that presents itself, and being able to express them with that peculiar quality of sound which belongs to them, that the great art of reading and speaking consists. When we speak our own words, and are really impassioned by the occasion of speaking, the passion or emotion precedes the words, and adopts such tones as are suitable to the passion we feel ; but when we read, or repeat from memory, the passion is to be taken up as the words occur ; and in doing this well, the whole difficulty of reading or repeating from memory lies.
But it will be demanded, how are we to acquire that peculiar quality of sound that indicates the passion we wish to express? The answer is easy : by feeling the passion which expresses itself by that peculiar quality of sound. But the question will return, how are we to acquire a feeling of the passion? The answer to this question is rather discouraging, as it will advise those who have not a power of impassioning themselves upon reading or expressing some very pathetick passage, to turn their studies to some other department of learning, where nature may have been more favourable to their wishes. But is there no method of assisting us in acs
quiring the tone of the passion we want to express ; no method of exciting the passion in ourselves when when we wish to express it to others? The advice of Quintilian and Cicero on this occasion, is, to represent to our imagination, in the most lively manner possible, all the most striking circumstances of the transaction we describe, or of the passion we wish to feel. “Thus,” says Quintilian, « if I complain of “ the fate of a man who has been assassinated, may I " not paint in my mind a lively picture of all that has " probably happened on the occasion ? Shall not the
assassin appear to rush forth suddenly from his “ lurking-place ? Shall not the other appear seized ” with horrours ? Shall he not cry out, beg his life, “ or fly to save it? Shall not I see the assassin “ dealing the deadly blow, and the defenceless wretch “ falling dead at his feet ? Shall not I figure to my “ mind, and by a lively impression, the blood gush. “ing from his wounds, his ghastly face, his groans, " and the last gasp he fetches ???
This must be allowed to be a very natural method of exciting an emotion in the mind; but still the woes of others, whether real or fictitious, will often make but a weak impression on our own inind, and will fail of affecting us with a sufficient force to excite the same emotions in the minds of our hearers. In this exigence, it may not, perhaps be unprofitable, to call to our assistance the device of the ancient Grecian actor Polus; who, when he had the part of Electra to perform, and was to repre, sent that princess weeping over the ashes of her broth, er Orestes, ordered the urn which contained the ashes of his dear and only son to be brought upon the stage, and by this means excited in himself the pitch of grief with which he wished to affect his audience,
Calling to mind, therefore, such passages of our own life as are similar to those we read or speak of, will, if I am not mistaken, considerably assist us in