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With respect to the art of Public Speaking, the preliminary observations I have suggested upon that of Reading, are in general equally applicable. A perfect and all-accomplished orator is indeed a avis in terris,” “a singular character in the world,” because superadded to native genius and taste, there must be possessed a correct and critical knowledge of the language in which he speaks: a peculiar adaptation of the organs of speech to produce perfect melody of sound through all the various intonations of the human voice, which are required justly to express the emotions and sentiments of the human mind': and a sound judgment to regulate their application.
The study and attainment of excellence in the art of public speaking have usually been considered as only necessary for the three professions, the Bar, the Pulpit, and the Stage. In this country, however, the field for its exercise is infinitely more extensive, nay, so much so, as to render it an essential branch of education in every class of society; from the wealthy and independent gentleman, to the poor yet industrious mechanic; the nature of our government being such as to extend to every member of the community the possibility of being called into the public councils, where it is well known graceful and correct elocution produces the most wonderful effects, and invariably procures for its possessor a wreath of unfading laurel. The Bar, and the Pulpit, when graced with the charms of oratory, are equally sure avenues to honour and to fame. “ An eloquent man,” says Solomon, “is known far and near.” Hence the eloquence of Demosthenes and Cicero among the ancients, has immortalized their names. The throne of Macedon trembling to its centre before the thunder of the one, while the milder yet persuasive eloquence of the latter, long supported and consolidated the tottering republic of Rome:
Hence Pisistratus, a noble Athenian, by the influence of a bold and overbearing eloquence, defeated the sage counsel of the venerable, the illustrious Solon, and so fascinated the people with his oratory as to induce them voluntarily to surrender their liberty, and submit to his government:
Hence Anthony by the force of his elocution, as much as by his personal dignity, confounded and repelled those soldiers, who had received express orders to assassinate him:
Hence Pericles by the irresistible charms of graceful and animated utterance, gained as great an authority under a republican government, as though he had been a monarch; and obtained the highest possible degree of popularity, even while he spoke against the people:
And hence the powerful and persuasive eloquence among the moderns, of a Burke, a Pitt, a Sheridan, and a Fox in the Senate; a Whitefield, a Massillon, a Duche, a Bourdaloue, and a Faucett in the Pulpit; a Mansfield, an Erskine, and a Curran at the Bar; and a Garrick, a
Henderson, a Kemble, and a Siddons on the stage, always fascinated and delighted their eager and attentive auditors. Their eloquence alone has indelibly recorded their names in the annals of Oratory, and conspicuously emblazoned them in the temple of Fame.
The accomplished Orator, fully possessed of his subject, glowing with that professional enthusiasm which alone can elevate a man to excellence and superiority, and inspired with confidence from an accurate knowledge of the essential principles of correct elocution, cannot fail to engage the attention, and command the approbation of an audience. Like a powerful and majestic river, whether gliding in a calm and irresistible current, or agitated and accelerated in its impetuous course, it at once fertilizes, and improves the soil through which it flows, and excites in its beholders, admiration and delight.
This invaluable attainment of graceful and impressive Oratory, like its sister accomplishment, correct and elegant Reading, is also to be acquired with infinitely more certainty and ease by practical instruction and exercise, than by theory and written precept.
The celebrated Dr. Blair, in his Dissertation on the means of improving in Eloquence says,
“ The meetings or societies into which men sometimes form themselves for the purpose of improvement in reading and speaking, are laudable institutions; and, under proper conduci, may serve the most valuable purposes. They produce emulation, and gradually inure those who are concerned in them to somewhat that resembles a Public Assembly. They accustom them to know their own powers, and to acquire a command of themselves in speaking."
For, though the old Roman adage “ Poeta nascitur non fit,”* is equally true, with respect to the orator, yet much may be acquired by application and exertion, where Nature has not been so liberal as to endow with intuitive excellence, in these important qualifications. Both the natural and artificial orator, however, require the suggestions of matured taste and correct judgment, the result of study and observation, to regulate and form the character. The exuberances of Genius must be pruned and directed, while the efforts of more latent and inactive capacities, must be stimulated by persuasion, and invigorated by example.
The chief instruments of Elocution, are the voice, the countenance, and the hands; or rather their productions, tones, looks, and gestures.
By the tones, or modulations of the human voice, the various sentiments and passions of the human mind are expressed.
As Mechanics have been defined, “ the Geometry of motion," so accent, emphasis, and pauses, may be said to constitute the Geometry
*“ A poet must derive his character from nature, not from art."
or Mechanical part of the arts of reading and speaking; the mere sense or meaning of an author being communicated by them, while the spirit and energy of the sentiments can only be conveyed by the va rious tones, or inflexions of the voice. A correct acquaintance, therefore, with them, and a just observance of them, constitutes one of the most essential branches of Elocution. Accent affects only letters and syllables; emphasis only words; but tones affect sentences, paragraphs, and sometimes the whole of a discourse.
Language is the dress of thought, and the mind of man communicating its ideas, is in a continual state of activity, emotion, or agitation, from the different effects which those ideas produce in the speaker. The object of such communication, however, is not merely to express the ideas, but also the different feelings, which they excite in him who utters them; there must, therefore, be other signs than mere words to manifest those feelings. Language should not only convey the dictates of the understanding, but the emotions of the heart. As the communication of these internal feelings is of the utmost importance in our social intercourse, the Author of nature did not leave the invention of the language of emotion to man, but impressed it himself on our nature, in the same manner as he has on the rest of the animal world, all of which express their various feelings by various tones. Ours, indeed, from the superior rank we hold in the great scale of creation, are in a high degree more comprehensive, as there is not an act of the mind, an exertion of the fancy, nor an emotion of the heart, which has not its peculiar tone, or note of the voice, by which it is to be expressed, and which is suited exactly to the degree of internal feeling: and it is chiefly in the proper use of those tones, that the life, spirit, beauty, and harmony of delivery consist.
This correct and natural language of the heart is not so difficult to be attained as may at first view be imagined. If we properly consider and enter into the spirit of the author's sentiments, as well as into the meaning of his words, and endeavour to consider them our own, we shall not fail to deliver the words, in natural and properly varied tones: for there are few people, who have not accurate use of accent, emphasis, pauses, and tones (which are four of the indispensable principles of good reading) when they utter their own sentiments in common conversation, particularly if the subject be in any degree interesting to them. A man who is earnest in communicating anything to another, who is animated by anger, agitated by fear, or is under the ima mediate influence of any of the passions, requires no exertion to express those passions, but will naturally, indeed, unavoidably communicate his feelings with appropriate tones, looks, and gestures. That all have not the same use of them in reading aloud the sentiments of others, is to be imputed, first, to the want of interest in the subject, and secondly, to the very defective and erroneous manner in which the art of reading is generally taught; whereby all the various, natural, expressive tones of speech, are suppressed, and a few artificial, unmeaning notes are substituted for them. Hence the dull, uninteresting, monotonous, or canting style of reading which so generally prevails, and is of course, so generally offensive and disgusting.
Did readers, in general, employ the same colloquial tones in expressing the sentiments of others, which they use in expressing their own, all these disagreeable properties would be avoided.
The influence of looks, with regard to expression, is thus beautifully portrayed by Thomson, in his description of the mutual affection of Celadon and Amelia:
... “ Alone amid the shades,
The Divine Author of our religion, “ who knew what was in man," reproved the perfidy of his boasting Apostle Peter, not with words, but with a look that agonized his soul. After the third denial of him, we are told that “ the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and Peter remembered the words that Jesus had spoken unto him, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice; and he went out and wept bitterly." It was such a look as was able to melt and to convert the soul. That one piercing glance recalled him to virtue and to repentance: it awakened his love, his faith, his constancy, and caused the streams of penitent sorrow to flow abundantly.
When we consider that in a correct and graceful speaker all his tones are to be accompanied by suitable looks and gestures, not only adapted in the justest proportion to give due force to the sentiment, but regulated also in such a way as to appear graceful, we need not wonder that true oratory is so little known among us; because the principles of the art have been so little studied and taught. And, indeed, the extreme difficulty of arriving at perfection in it, without previous application and instruction, cannot be more clearly evinced, than by the very few instances which appear at the bar, in the pulpit, or even on the stage, where oratory is the chief object, and business of the profession. This deficiency chiefly arises from the general practice of devoting the whole time and attention of our youth to the cultivation of written language, leaving the characteristic and noble powers of speech altogether to the direction of chance, and the impulse of nature.
How different was the conduct of the ancients, who considered Elocution, one of the most important, and indispensable parts of Education! Eloquence was by them so much cultivated and esteemed, that it was made the province of the Muse, and considered as under a divine patronage.
“ Graiis dedit ore rotundo Musa loqui.”
HOR. AR. PO. Among numberless other instances of its astonishing influence, when we are told of the eloquence of the celebrated C'yrenian Philosopher, we are assured, that in describing the miseries of human life, he had power to drive his hearers to despair, and that many of them actually sought for refuge in death; nay, that Ptolemy found himself obliged to prohibit such subjects, that his kingdom might not be depopulated. Such an effect as this justly astonishes us, and we must either look upon the thing itself as a fiction, or seek for the cause in some rhetorical powers and excellencies, which modern orators do not possess. If it be a fiction, then everything else that is extraordinary in antiquity, may be deemed a fiction; for, this is recorded by Laertius, mentioned by Cicero, and cited by Valerius Maximus. If it be not a fiction, then it must unavoidably be referred to some superior power in ancient Eloquence.
Cicero tells us, that Caius Gracchus, when he spoke in public, was always attended by a musician, with an ivory fute, whose business it was to assist him in the regulation of his voice. Such an attendant would, I imagine, very much perplex and distress a modern speaker.
(To be concluded in our next.)
TRAVELS FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
LETTERS FROM GENEVA AND FRANCE, Written during a residence of between two and three years in different parts of those
countries, and addressed to a lady in Virginia.
If I could conduct you homewards with me from the Thuilleries, to the Rue de la Ferme des Mathurins, you would find us comfortably lodged in as much retirement from the noise and bustle
" To her lov'd Greeks the Muse indulgent gave,