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manner in which we relate a story, or maintain an argument, in conversation, will show, that it is more frequently proper to raise the voice, than to fall it, at the end of a sentence. Some sentences are so constructed, that the last words require a stronger emphasis than any of the preceding; while others admit of being closed with a soft and gentle sound. Where there is nothing in the sense, which requires the last sound to be elevated or emphatical, an easy fall, sufficient to show that the sense is finished, will be proper. And in pathetic pieces, especially those of the plaintive, tender, or solemn kind, the tone of the passion will often require a still greater cadence of the voice. But before a speaker can be able to fall his voice with propriety and judgment at the close of a sentence, he must be able to keep it from falling, and to raise it, with all the variation which the sense requires. The best method of correcting a uniform cadence is, frequently to read select sentences, in which the style is pointed, and frequent antitheses are introduced; and argumentative pieces, or such as abound with interrogatives.
Accompany the emotions and passions, which your words express, by correspondent tones, looks, and gestures.
THERE is unquestionably a language of emotions and passions, as well as a language of ideas. Words are the arbitrary signs, by which our conceptions and judgments are commuricated; and for this end they are commonly sufficient; but we find them very inadequate to the purpose of expressing our feelings. If any one need a proof of this, let him read some dramatic speech expressive of strong passion (for example, Shakspeare's speech of Hamlet to the Ghost *) in the same unimpassioned manner in which he would read an ordinary article of intelligence. Even in silent reading, where the subject interests the passions, every one who is not destitute of feeling, while he understands the meaning of the
* Book viii, Chap. 23.
words, conceives the expression that would accompany them, if they were spoken.
The language of passion is uniformly taught by Nature, and is every where intelligible. It consists in the use of tones, looks, and gestures. When anger, fear, joy, grief, love, or any other passion is raised within us, we naturally discover it by the manner in which we utter our words, by the features of the face, and by other well-known signs. The eyes and countenance, as well as the voice, are capable of endless va riety of expression, suited to every possible diversity of feeling; and with these the general air and gesture naturally ac cord. The use of this language is not confined to the more vehement passions. Upon every subject and occasion on which we speak, some kind of feeling accompanies the words; and this feeling, whatever it be, has it's proper expression.
It is an essential part of elocution, to imitate this language of Nature. No one can deserve the appellation of a good speaker, much less of a complete orator, who does not, to a distinct articulation, a ready command of voice, and just pronunciation, accent, and emphasis, add the various expressions of emotions and passions. But in this part of his office precept can afford him little assistance. To describe in words the particular expression, which belongs to each emotion and passion, is, perhaps, wholly impracticable. All attempts to enable men to become orators, by teaching them, in written rules, the manner in which the voice, countenance, and hands are to be employed in expressing the passions, must, from the nature of the thing, be exceedingly imperfect, and.consequently ineffectual.
Upon this head, I shall therefore only lay down the following general precept: observe the manner in which the several passions and feelings are expressed in real life; and when you attempt to express any passion, inspire yourself with that secondary kind of feeling, which imagination is able to excite; and follow your feelings with no other restraint, than "this special observance, that you o'ERSTEP NOT THE MODESTY OF NATURE."
The same general principles, and rules of Elocution, are applicable to Prose and to Verse. The accent and general emphasis should be the same in both: and where the versification is correct, the melody will sufficiently appear, without any sacrifice of sense to sound. There is one circumstance, indeed, peculiar to the reading of poetry, which is, that the pause of suspension is here more frequently used than in prose, for the sake of marking the corresponding lines in rhyming couplets or stanzas, or to increase the melody of blank verse. It is also desirable, where it can be done without injuring the sense, that a short pause should be made at the end of every line, and, that verses consisting of ten or more syllables should, in some part, be broken by a rest or
In the application of the Rules of Elocution 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 more 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 easy 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 as he has opportunity, under the correction of an instructor or friend. He should also frequently recite compositions from memory. This method has several advantages. It obliges the speaker to dwell upon the ideas which he is to express, and hereby en ables him to discern their particular meaning and force, and gives him a previous knowledge of the several inflexions, emphases, and tones, which the words require: by taking off his eye from the book, it in part relieves him from the in
fluence of the schoolboy habit of reading in a different key and tone from that of conversation; and it affords greater scope for expression in tones, looks, 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, beside 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 extremely 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 the character of an Orator is often 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 dancing-bow, and minuet-step. So we admire the manly eloquence and noble ardour of the Senator employed in the cause of justice and freedom; the quick recollection, the ingenious reasoning, and the ready declamation of the accomplished Barrister; and the dignified simplicity and unaffected energy of the Sacred Instructor; but when, in any one of these capacities, a man so far forgets the ends and degrades the consequence of his profession, as to set himself forth under the character of a
* See Dean Swift's advice on this head, in his Letter to a young Clergyman.
Spouter, and to parade it in the ears of the vulgar with all the pomp of artificial eloquence, 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 an able Lawyer, a useful Preacher, or a wise and upright Statesman.