Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

4 ) variety of different humours or paffions. So that fome masters, as well as all pupils, may find their account in using this collection, till a better be published.

Whoever imagines the English tongue unfit for oratory, has not a just notion of it. That, by reason of the disproportion between its vowels and confonants, it is not quite fo tractable as the Italian, and consequently, not so easily applied to amorous, or to plaintive music, is not denied. But it goes better to martial music, than the Italian. And in oratory and poetry, there is no tongue, ancient, or modern, capable of expressing a greater variety of humouss, or paltions, by its sounds (I am not speaking of its copiousness, as to phraseology) than the English. The Greek, among the ancient, and the Turkish and Spanish, among the modern languages, have a loftier sound, though the gutturals in them, of which the English is free (for it is probable, that the ancient Greeks pronounced the letter x gutturally) are, to most cars, disagreeable. But there is not in those languages, the variety of sound which the English affords. They never quit their ftiff pomp, which, on some occasions, is unnatural. Nor is there, as far as I know, any language more copious, than the Englih ; an eminent advantage for oratory. And if we must fall out with our mother-tongue, on account of some hard and un-liquid syllables in it, how Thall we bear the celebrated Roman language itself, in every sentence of which we find such sounds as tot, quot, sub, ad, sed, eft, ut, et, nec, id, at, it, fit, funt, dat, dant, det, dent, dabat, dabant, daret, darent, hic, hæc, hoc, fit, fuit, erat, erunt, fert, duc, fac, dic, and so on.

It is greatly to our shame, that, while we do so little for the improvement of our language, and of our manner of speaking it in public, the French Thould take so much pains in both these respects, though their language is very much inferior to ours, both as to emphasis and copiousness.

It is true, there is not now the fame fécular demand for eloquence, as under the popular governments of antient times, when twenty talents (several thousands of pounds) waç the fee for one speech*; when the tongue of an orator 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 poffefled it, to the highest honours in the state. Even in our-own country, that is partly the case; for the instances of bed * Pliny says, Isocrates was paid that sum for one oration.

Speakers

a

(5) peakers rising to eminent stations in the government are rare. 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 accustom himself to harangue an enraged multitude without fear; or under the points of drawn swords fixed over his shoulders, to cure himself of a bad habit of shrugging them up; which, with other particulars, are the labours recorded to have been undertaken

Demosthenes, in order to perfect himself, in spite of his 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 Ærchines, a Demetrius Phalereus, an Isocrates, a Carbo, a Cicero, a M. Antony, an Hortensius, a Julius, an Augustus, and the rest. Yet it is still of important advantage for all that part of youth, whose station 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 committees for managing public affairs, in large Societies, and on such like occasions, a competent address and readinels, not only in finding matter, but in expreffing and urging it effe&ually, 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 important use for good speaking, which was unknown to the ancients, viz. for the ministerial function. I therefore have said above, page 4, that we have not the same fecular 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 merit is there the most ineffectual toward raising its poffeffor, where it ought to be molt; which must greatly damp emulation and diligence. An able phyfician, or lawyer, 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 comB 3

monly

(6) moniy gained, he must content himself to be buried in a country curacy, or vicarage, at most, for life.

If nature unaslisted could form the eminent speaker, where were the use of art or culture ; which yet no one pretends to question! Artis but nature improved upon and refined. And before improvement is applied, genius is but a mass of ora in the mine, without lustre, and without value, because unknown and untbought of. The ancients used to procure for their youth, masters of pronunciation from the theatres and had them taught gelture and attitude by the palæstritæ. These laf taught what is, among us, done by the dancingmaster. And, as to the former, no man ought to presume to set himself at the hcad of a place of education, who is not in some degree capable of teaching pronunciation, However, I could with, that gentlemen, who have made 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 defeat or impediment, in his speech. And, I should, by no means, advise, that he, who has, be brought up to a profeffion requiring elocution. But there are instances enough of natural defects surmounted, and eminent speakers formed by indefatigable diligence, in spite of them. Demosthenes could not, when he begun to study rhetoric, pronounce the first letter of the name of his art, And Cicero was long.necked, 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 stammering, and speaking through the nose, and pronoun cing the letter R with the throat, inktead of the tongue, and the letter S like Th, and screaming above, or croaking below all natural pitch of human voice; fome 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 fo flowly, 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 ; pthers of see-sawing with their bodies, some backward and forward, pthers from side to side; fome raise their eye-brows atevery third word; some open their mouths frightfully; others keep their teeth fo close together, that one would think their jaws were fet; some shrivel all their features together into the

middle Quint. £, x,

middle of their faces ; fome push out thei lips, as if they were mocking the audience ; others hem at every pause"; and others smack 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 negle&t 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 a whole people confessing their offences to their Creator and Judge, bring out these awful words, “ Almighty and most merciful Fa

“ ther, &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 aukwardness; and the good man looks about him the whole time, he is going on with the fervice, merely to keep himself in countenance, not knowing, else, where to put his eges. • Even the players, who excel, beyond comparison, all other speakers in this country, in what regards decorum, are, fome 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 afideSpeech, 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; thofe 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 impaffioned dialogue. Whether it is from beedlefness, or that they are more out of countenance by looking one another itedfastly 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 ears though it does not always suppose a mufcal* ear. I have never heard poetry, particularly that of Milton, better spoken, than by a gentleman, who yet had lo little difcernment in mufic, that, he has often told me, the grinding of knives entertained him as much as Handel's organ.

As

B4

Yet Quintilian would have his orator by all means Nudy mufico C, viji.

!

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 fame regard to them as to the words. The common rule, for holding them out to their juft length, is too exact for practice, viz. that a comma is to hold the length of a fyllable, a semicolon of two, a colon of three, and a period of four. In some cases, there is no stop to be made at a comma, as they are often put merely 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 matter hews 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 ruminate 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 found through the whole discourse, without rising or falling. Cant, is, in {peaking, 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 matter change how it will. The chaunt, with which the profe psalms are half-fung, halfSaid, 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 founds 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, in exprefling the various matter of a discourse, do not in the least humour the matters they are applied to; but on the contrary, confound it..

Young people must be taught to let their voice fall at the ends of sentences; and to read without any particular whine, cant, or drawl, and with the natural infections of voice, which they use in speaking. For reading is nothing but speaking what one fees 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 manner as he speaks the thoughts, which arise in his own mind. And hence it is,

X

X

See SPECT. No, 18.

that

« ZurückWeiter »