« AnteriorContinuar »
DELIVERY is but a part of rhetoric ; and rhetoric, in the common acceptation of the term, is but a part of the business in which I am called to give instruction. The great purpose of my office is, to teach young men, who are preparing for the sacred ministry, how to preach the gospel. In pursuance of this purpose, it became my duty to give a course of lectures on eloquence generally, and more particularly on style ; and another course on preaching, including the history of the pulpit, and the structure and chief characteristics of sermons, and the personal qualities requisite in the Christian preacher. Besides the study demanded in traversing a field so important, and so unfrequented, at least in this country; the necessity of combining individual with classical instruction in this department, makes its labors more than sufficient to engross the time of one man.
In these circumstances, it may seem strange that I should turn aside from higher duties, to publish a book, more adapted to the earlier stages of education than to that which is directly preparatory to the ministry. The truth is, that I have been gradually and almost unavoidably drawn into this measure.
As an instructer of theological students, my attention was, many years ago, called to some prevalent defects in delivery. These I ascribed chiefly to early habits, contracted in the schools; and to the want of adequate precepts in books on reading and speaking. The worst faults in elocution, originate in want of feeling. But when these faults become confirmed, no degree of feeling will fully counteract their influence, without the aid of analysis, and patient effort to understand and correct them. Still, in this process of correction, there is danger of running into formality of manner, by withdrawing the attention from that in which the soul of eloquence consists,-emotion. For the purpose of guarding against this tendency, and at the same time of accoinplishing the ends at which Walker aims, in his Ele
ments of Elocution, I have much desired to see a manual for students, free both from the obscurity and the extreme particularity of his system.
In the winter of 1821, during a necessary absence from the Theological Seminary, on account of health, I addressed to the students a number of letters on elocution. The plan of these letters* required them to embrace all the subjects included in this publication, and besides these, the following ;-the importance to a preacher of a good delivery ; necessity of earnestness in his manner; causes which influence his intellectual and moral habits; the influence of personal piety on the preacher's eloquence; circumstances of the age, which are unfavourable, and those which are favourable to the cultivation of eloquence; the utility of preparatory exercises, with hints of advice relative to these ; preservation of lungs, and the mistakes that are often fatal to this organ in public speakers; pronunciation as restricted to single words; and management of voice in public prayer.
One of these papers, that on inflections, was since committed to the press; and, though not intended to be published, yet, having been circulated to a considerable extent, some respectable individuals requested that I would enlarge and reprint this pamphlet; and others, that I would publish a book, for the use of Colleges, and of students generally who are forming their habits of elocution. In this wish the Rhetorical Society in the Theological Seminary united; and their committee addressed letters to several of the Presidents of Colleges, and to other gentlemen, to ascertain whether such a publication was deemed necessary, by those who are most interested in the subject. In reply to this inquiry, a concurrent opinion was expressed, that our Seminaries of learning greatly need a work on Elocution, different in many respects from any thing hitherto published; and a concurrent wish that I should proceed in the preparation of such a work, was also expressed, though with different degrees of interest by different gentlemen.
I have been the more ready to engage in this undertaking, from the conviction that, whatever aid it may render to Instructers of our Academical Seminaries, and whatever use
* Some of them I have since thrown into Lectures, with enlargement.
ful influence it may have on the pupils of these Seminaries, will be a clear gain in my own official duties, in respect to such of these pupils as may afterward come under my instruction. The fewer bad habits are carried from elementary schools to the college, and from the college to professional studies, the easier, at each stage, becomes the progress of improvement. And the more deeply the spirit of improvement in Elocution takes hold of young men, in our literary institutions, the greater will be their annual contribution of eloquent men for the pulpit, as well as for secular professions. The fifteen years in which I have been connected with a Theological Seminary, which receives its members from all the Colleges, have enabled me to observe, as I have done with much satisfaction, a gradual and growing advance, in our educated young men, as to the spirit of delivery. This advance has been especially obvious since several of these Colleges have had able Professors of Rhet. oric and Oratory, a department of instruction in which it is presumed none of them can much longer remain deficient, consistently with the claims of public opinion.
Had I been fully aware of the labor it would require to select the examples, and apply the notation, in the first part of the Exercises, I should have been deterred from the undertaking. With much pleasure I acknowledge my obligations to Mr. George Howe and Mr. SAMUEL C. JACKSON, for the important assistance they have rendered, especially in correcting the press, and selecting pieces for the second part of the Exercises. This assistance has been the more necessary on account of my infirm health, and the urgency of official duties.
I only add two remarks here. One is, that I consider this little book as an experiment, on a subject environed with difficulty, both from the inadequate attention it has hitherto received, in our systems of education, and from the prevalence of conflicting tastes respecting it. The other is, that, having transferred all pecuniary concern in this publication to the Rhetorical Society abovementioned, I have no personal interest in its success, beyond the hope that it may, in some degree, promote the purposes to which my life is devoted.
DIRECTIONS TO TEACHERS.
To those who may use this book, I have thought it proper to make the following preparatory suggestions.
1. In a large number of those who are to be taught reading and speaking, the first difficulty to be encountered arises from bad habits previously contracted. The most ready way to overcome these, is to go directly into the analysis of vocal sounds, as they occur in conversation. But to change a settled habit, even in trifles, often requires perseverance for a long time; of course it is not the work of a moment, to transform a heavy, uniform manner of delivery, into one that is easy, discriminating, and forcible. This is to be accomplished, not by a few irresolute, partial attempts ; but by a steadiness of purpose and of effort, corresponding with the importance of the end to be achieved. Nor should it seem strange if, in this process of transformation, the subject of it should at first appear somewhat artificial and constrained in manner. More or less of this inconvenience is unavoidable, in all important changes of habit. The young pupil in chirography never can become an elegant penman, till his bad habit of holding his pen is broken up; though for a time the change may make him write worse than before. In respect to Elocution, as well as every other art, the case may be in some measure similar. But let the new manner become so familiar, as to have in its favour the advantages of habit, and the difficulty ceases.
2. The pupil should learn the distinction of inflections, by reading the familiar examples under one rule, occasionally turning to the Exercises, when more examples are necessary; and the Teacher's voice should set him right whenever he makes a mistake. In the same manner, he should go through all the rules successively. If he acquires the habit of giving too great or too little extent to his slides of voice, he should be carefully corrected, according to the suggestions given, p. 43, 50, 51, and 88.–After getting the command of the voice, the great point to be steadily kept in view, is to apply the principles of emphasis and inflection, just as nature and sentiment demand. In respect to those principles of modulation, in which the power of delivery so essentially consists, we should always remember too, that, as no theory of the passions can teach a man to be pathetic, so no description that can be given of the inflection, emphasis, and tones, which accompany emotion, can impart this emotion, or be a substitute for it. No adequate description indeed can be given of the nameless and ever varying shades of expression, which real pathos gives to the voice. Precepts here are only subsidiary helps to genius and sensibility.
3. Previous attention should be given to any example or exercise, before it is read to the Peacher. At the time of reading, the student should generally go through, without interruption ; and then the Teacher should explain any fault, and correct it by the example of his own voice, requiring the parts to be repeated. It would be useful often to inquire why such a modification of voice occurs, in such a place, and how a change of structure would vary the inflection, stress, &c. When the examples are short, as in all the former part of the work, reference may easily be made to any sentence; and in the long examples, the lines are numbered, on the left hand of the page, to facilitate the reference, after a passage has been read.
4. When any portion of the Exercises is committed to