Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

fame, the only legacy of thy children, from the aspersions of living envy. And must they now be plundered of this treasure, and patiently submit to the ignominy of hearing thee compared with the blind leader of wandering Arabs and benighted Egyptians ! an enlightened faculty will repel the charge. It is true, that Brown's principles may be mischievous in the hands of ignorance and temerity. But, because our most active articles in the materia medica are valuable remedies in one dose and poisons in another, it does not follow that wisdom and experience cannot beneficially apply them. It only proves that they should not be prophaned by the unhallowed touch of the unskilful and inexperienced. If Dr. J. is conscious that in his hands, the Brunonian principles would “make the practice of medicine a curse instead of a blessing to mankind,” because they are calculated to deceive and mislead the young,” he certainly shows great humanity as well as wisdom“ in depreciating the popularity of the work." As a summary of the merits and demerits of the pamphlet now under examination, it may be said, that it is more ingenious than solid, and more declamatory than argumentative. It aims rather at sapping, than at building up: it often perplexes where it does not enlighten. It sometimes contains an acrimony which would be very unbecoming, were it not, as the author observes, that “ every man thinks as he pleases.” The doctor, like the bird of night, retires from the open field to the thicket : he then denies Brown the merit of having cleared the ground, because there are detached patches in such a rude state as to bewilder envious contemporaries and prejudiced successors. To all, therefore, who desire to be informed of the severest censures that the most virulent of Brown's opposers have thrown upon his work, the perusal of “ Remarks on the Brunonian System, by James Jackson, A. A. and M. M. S. S.” is cordially recommended.

PARVULUS APOLLONIS.

[blocks in formation]

RHETORIC-FOR THE PORT FOLIO.

LECTURE VIII—ON GESTURE.

GENTLEMEN,

I now proceed in order, to offer to your attention some observations upon gesture.

The two great oracles of elocution, Cicero and Quinctilian, are of different opinions with respect to the source of expression in oratory, the former attributing it to looks, the latter to gesture.

“The expressions of the hands," says Quinctilian, in the last chapter of the eleventh book of his Institutes of Eloquence, “are as various as those of language, and therefore it is impossible to recount how many motions they ought to have. For other parts of the body assist the speaker, but these, if I may so say, speak themselves. Do they not demand, promise, threaten, call, dismiss, implore, detect, fear, question, and deny? Do we not by the hands express joy, sorrow, doubt, acknowledgment, repentance, moderation, abundance, number, and time? Do they not rouse up, remonstrate, prohibit, prove, admire, and abash? In describing things and persons, do they not as it were supply the place of pronouns and of adverbs? Nay, all people, all na: tions, and all mankind, however different their tongues may be, speak and understand the language of the hand? There is, however, a wide difference between an orator and a mimic; an orator's gesture should be adapted more to his sentiments than his words." The perfection of a mimic's action consisting in an exact imitation, by gesture, of the transaction or thing described in words: and sometimes this may so accurately be done as to supersede the necessity of words; which is the case in well acted pantomime.

Correct and graceful gesture may be defined a just and elegant adaptation of every part of the body to the nature and import of the subject we are pronouncing. Yet though all confess the influence, power, and necessity of action, there are but few public speakers who venture to use it; and of those few, a very large majority, through want of native taste and judgment, or rather through want of early and correct instruction, disgust, instead of pleasing, by their awkwardness and absurdity. The gestures and motions of a public speaker ought all to carry that kind of expression which Nature has dictated to him; and unless this be the case, it is impossible to avoid their appearing stiff and forced. Yet although nature must be the groundwork, study and art must polish and correct them. For many persons are naturally ungraceful in the motions which they make, and this ungracefulness must be reformed by application and care.

The study of action in public speaking consists chiefly in guarding against awkward and disagreeable motions, and in learning to perform such as are natural to the speaker, in the most becoming manner, or, such as are most graceful and impressive. To effect this, some writers have advised to practise before a mirror, where a man may see and judge of his own actions; but persons are not always the best judges of the gracefulness of their own motions; and a man may declaim for years before a mirror without correcting any of his faults. This, instead of being useful, will tend to confirm error. But the dictates of a judicious instructor, will always be found of infinitely greater advantage than any mirror.

Action may justly be stiled personified emphasis; for, where the structure of the language, and the sentiment do not require the latter, the former can neither be necessary nor proper.

A correct speaker does not make a movement of limb or feature, for which he has not a reason. If he addresses heaven, he looks upward; if he speaks of his fellow creatures, he looks around upon them. The spirit of what he says appears in his looks. If he expresses amazement, or would excite it, he lifts up his hands and eyes; if he invites to virtue and happiness, he spreads his arms and looks benevolence; if he threatens, he bends his eyebrows into wrath, and menaces with his arm and countenance. He does not needlessly saw the air with his arm, nor stab himself with his finger: he does not clap his hand upon his breast, unless he has occasion to speak of himself, or to introduce conscience, or something sentimental; he does not start back, or protrude his hands and arms at a small distance from each other, unless he means to express horror or aversion. He does not come forward, but when he has occasion to solicit.

But to apply properly and in a significant and just manner, the al. most endlessly various external expressions of the different passions and emotions of the mind, for which nature has so wonderfully fitted the human frame, is the great difficulty.

As polite conversation is the best source from which to derive the tones of good speaking, so the behaviour and manner of the most polished part of mankind seem to be the best school for learning proper gesture.

The degree of animation which every speaker must be supposed to possess when he addresses a large assembly of people, should naturally dictate some gestures of the body. It is sometimes difficult to say, what are perfectly proper, but it is not very difficult to point out what are manifestly improper. The two erroneous extremes are, to stand like a statue, without moving any part of the body but the lips, or to display a great number of rapid and fantastic inotions without either dignity or meaning. Standing motionless is commonly the result of modesty, or

cu.

of the fear of performing some gesture which may be esteemed awkward or ridiculous. But such speakers should recollect, that nothing contributes more to repress the attention of the hearers than a manner so lifeless and unengaging; and that to suppose a speaker properly impressed by his subject, and in earnest in endeavouring to impress it upon others, without moving a finger or a hand, is inore unnatural perhaps, than the most violent and fantastic motions he could possibly employ. On the other hand, to behold a speaker constantly in motion, and performing a regular course of vibrations, first turning to one side and stretching out one hand, then turning to the other and performing a similar operation, or perhaps looking straight forwards and sawing the air, first with one hand and then with the other; or, perhaps with both at the same time; repeating that course of motions without end, and without the least regard to the sentiments he utters, must be allowed to be not a little grotesque, nor less reprehensible in gesture, than a brogue or a monotonous whining manner of speaking is in utterance. It may further be affirmed, that all gestures which are awkward, which are studied and affected, and which have any appearance of strifness, constraint, or affectation, are highly improper, and inost studiously to be avoided.

The first ingredient of good gesture seems to be decency of deportment, which implies all those motions that are dictated by taste and good sense. They never give offence; they are regulated by the principles of propriety, and they are suitable to the subject, to the place, to the speaker, to the audience, and to the occasion. They depend on the just consideration of all the circumstances I have mentioned, and every speaker (having previously acquired the established principles of the art) must be guided by his own judgment and his feelings: if he has acquired a correct taste, and has bestowed the proper degree of reflection he need not be afraid of not finding them. The weight and recommendation they will add to what he has to advance will abundantly compensate his attention. The remaining ingredients of good gesture are manliness and dignity. A person who presumes to address a large audience on matters of consequence, undertakes a task so serious and respectable, that even in his looks and attitudes something should appear which intimates a consciousness of the nature of the occasion, and an ambition of possessing sentiments suitable to its importance. Manliness and dignity are commonly accounted the attendants of an enlightened and liberal mind; they accordingly bespeak the attention and favour of the hearer. He expects to be entertained, perhaps to be instructed, with the comprehensive and well-digested views of the philosopher or legislator, with the sublime and highly interest

ing exposition or exhortation of the divine, or with the solid and useful experience of an intelligent and virtuous man.

The connexion between the expression and the matter of the speaker is not without foundation in nature. The sentiments of the mind affect insensibly the attitudes of the body. A mind enriched and enlarged by the contemplation of great objects, which cannot but be conscious of superior information, derived from superior industry, will naturally exhibit, by the influence of external appearance, some symptoms of the useful stores with which it is replenished. In all assem. blies, a manly, firm, and dignified demeanor is a powerful recommendation ; but it adds peculiar weight and efficacy in addresses from the pulpit.

The chief instruments of elocution are the voice, the countenance, and the hands, or as has been before observed, their productions, tones, looks, and gestures. You may, therefore, with unquestionable advantage, have recourse to the best masters who have carefully studied and are qualified to teach the right management of them; an acquisition of the highest consequence to every public reader or speaker: after which you are always to consider the circumstances in which you may be called to appear, what suits your character, your matter, and your hearers; and then adopt what you think useful, and relinquish or avoid what your polished taste and improved judgment may disapprove.

A person who has not given peculiar attention to the subject, would not imagine that the body could be susceptible of such variety of attitude and motion, as readily to accompany every different emotion of the mind with a corresponding expression. Humility, for example, is expressed naturally by hanging the head; arrogance by its elevation; and languor or despondency, by reclining it to one side; the expressions of the hands are innumerable. These expressions, so obedient to passion, are extremely difficult to be imitated in a calm state : the ancients, sensible of the advantage as well as difficulty of having these expressions at command, bestowed much time and care, in collecting them from observation, and in digesting them into a practical art, which was taught in their schools as an essential branch of education. Certain sounds are by nature allotted to each passion for expressing it externally. The speaker who has these sounds at command to captivate the ear, is great in elocution, and if he have also proper gestures at command to captivate the eye, he must be irresistible.

Numerous are the rules which writers on elocution have given for the attainment of proper gesticulation. But, written instructions only on this subject can be of little service. To become really useful, they must be well exemplified.

« AnteriorContinuar »