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The following general rules, however, of action, may be useful to every class of public speakers:
All action with the hands should be expressed in curve lines; such being the true lines of beauty;—not in jerks and sudden vibrations of the arm. A continued motion of the arms is by all means to be avoided; their action should generally be very moderate, forming a bow from the shoulder to the wrist, always studiously guarding against an angle at the elbow.
The posture of a speaker's body ought to be erect; expressing as much dignity as possible, without any stiffness of attitude or haughtiness of air. His position should be firm so as to have the fullest and freest command of all his motions, his feet at a little distance, the left a little advanced, and his knees in a straight but not in a stiff posture; his shoulders ought to have an easy graceful fall; never elevated or shrugged up, as that not only contracts the neck, but prevents the proper motion of the head: nor on the other hand should they be much drawn down or depressed, because this occasions a stiffness in the neck and the whole body. Demosthenes is said to have corrected a habit he had incautiously acquired of shrugging up his shoulders, by standing while he pronounced in a narrow kind of pulpit, with the sharp point of a spear hanging down, and almost touching his shoulder, so that if a shrug happened to escape him, he was put in mind of it by the point of the spear. The trunk ought to be kept easy and flexible, always suiting itself to the motions of the head and hands. The feet should continue steady, and not give the body a wavering and giddy motion, by frequently shifting; though some persons fall into that habit without moving their feet, yet giving to the body a rocking or rolling motion. Curio, a Roman orator, Cicero tells us, was addicted to this; which occasioned a friend of his once to pass a joke upon him, by asking, “Who is that talking out of a boat?”
The countenance should correspond with the nature of the discourse ; and when no particular emotion is expressed, a serious and manly look is always to be observed. The eye should never be fixed entirely on any one object, but move easily round the audience. In the motions made with the hands consists the principal part of gesture in speaking. It is natural that the right hand should be employed more frequently than the left. Warm emotions, expressions which convey the idea of magnitude or extension, and all addresses to heaven require the exercise of them both together. But whether a speaker gesticulate with one, or with both his hands, it is an invariable rule, that all his motions should be easy and unconstrained. Narrow and confined movements are always ungraceful; and consequently motions made with the hands, should proceed from the shoulder, not from the elbow. All jerks or twisting of the hands must be carefully avoided; the fingers should not be kept perfectly straight, but with a little bend inwards, the forefinger somewhat straighter than the rest, but never perfectly so, except when expressing scorn or contempt, when the other three fingers are shut: hence the expression to “ to point the finger of scorn," and the caution given to children not to point, as being unmannerly. The left hand should seldom be used alone, unless it be to attend the motion of the head and eyes, in an address to the audience on the left side. The head should turn sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other, that the voice may be heard by the whole audience, and a regard paid to the several parts of it. It should always be on the same side with the action of the hands and body, except when we express an abhorrence, or a refusal of any thing ; which is done by raising one hand and moving it slowly from the head, with an open palm, till the arm is at its full extent in a horizontal line ; at the same time turning away the head and face in an opposite direction; as in that expression of cardinal Wolsey :
Vain pomp and glory of this world! I hate ye !
When an oration is to be delivered on a stage, the utmost attention is necessary to preserve gracefulness of attitude; the whole person being there exposed to the view of the audience. To walk the stage well, is a very important and difficult province of oratory. The speaker should be careful not to remain long in one position. The right and left leg should alternately support the body, the other being somewhat advanced at some distance from the stationary leg, and resting upon the toe. This gives a considerable degree of earnestness to the speaker's manner. The stationary leg should always be on the same side with the arm which expresses the action. When both arms are extended either foot may be thus advanced, which will give variety of attitude; or, the body may rest equally upon both. In the reading or recitation of dialogue, the voice and manner must change alternately, and correspond throughout with the character of the person who is supposed to be speaking.
The proper attitude for a reader is to stand in an easy and erect posture with the book in the left hand, the left leg somewhat advanced, and the right arm gracefully suspended by his side ; ready to enforce by some degree of action, any passage he may meet with which may require it.
The four great fields of gesture are, the pulpit, the bar, the senate, and the stage-and for each of these propriety requires a peculiar character of action.
The preacher being obliged to address himself to every individual in the church, should as much as possible extend his attention to all, and should be careful not to confine his action to one side only of his audience. His action should enforce the emphasis of his language, yet, at the same time, preserve a degree of dignity suited to the solemnity of his subject, and the sacredness of his station and character: any thing, therefore, which looks like mimickry, affectation, or violence, must be not only unappropriate, but highly disgusting. “ The character of the discourses delivered from our pulpits in general, is such," says a judicious modern critic, “ that gesture is rather properly to be omitted. They are no more than quiet dissertations. Sermons admitting rhetorical delivery must be composed in rhetorical spirit. A portico, supported upon Corinthian columns, would be a very incongruous entrance into a simple neat cottage.”
The attention of the barrister is confined to two parties, generally one on each side of him-the judges and the jury. The sphere of his address thus limited, his gesture should be accommodated thereto; and being of an argumentative nature, and admitting of less ornament of language than that of the divine in an animated and rhetorical sermon, should of course be less enforced by the emphasis of action. That which is used should be chaste, moderate, and graceful.
“The local position of a public speaker at the bar," says the above quoted author, “is most unfavourable to the general practice of gesture, crowded as he is, and embarrassed by benches and desks, and placed below the judges, and sometimes below the jury whom he is principally to address. The local situation of the preacher is not much better; he is inclosed nearly as high as his breast, and bolstered up with cushions in a narrow pulpit, or species of tub, from which he generally reads his discourse with his face almost close to his book, while little more than his head and shoulders can be seen. Such a place of confinement is certainly not favourable for the graces or energies of oratory.” - The statesman, in the senate or legislative assembly, has a wider field for the display of gesture, than either of the preceding characters—his person being more exposed to public observation, and therefore requiring more attention to attitude and ease of carriage-his appeals to the feelings and the imagination being also more frequent, his action must consequently be more forcible, extended, and various.
But, for a full exemplification of the wonderous potency of action to give energy to sentiment and animation to description, we must turn our attention to the stage. Tis there the impulse of the mind is at liberty to express its sentiments and emotions without restraint. There, description by action, mimickry, and variety of attitude, is to be indulged without limitation, and consequently the most minute and extensive study of the art of gesticulation is necessary. That gesture is indeed capable of being used altogether as the signs of ideas, without the aid of language, and therefore of being substituted for it, the excellence of the art of ancient and modern pantomimes forcibly evinces. A correct and general actor, therefore, must have a perfect command of his voice, his countenance and his person; and this command must originate in an active and delicate sensibility. The art of feeling, which is best learned from nature and from habit, is the true, the only art which leads to just theatric expression, as well as to that in every other species of oratory. This is well expressed by an ingenious modern poet:
The player's profession
The true expression of countenance is well described by the same au: thor:
A single look more marks th' internal wo,
In fine, the power of sentiment and energy of language can never be justly communicated without the aid of correct action; and that can be acquired only by “learning to feel,” and by the perusal of the best writers upon elocution, and the exemplification of their precepts by an experienced and judicious instructor.
I shall conclude this lecture with an extract from Caussinus's learned and eloquent treatise De Eloquentia sacra et prophana, published at Lyons in 1620, and deservedly held by the best critics in high estimation.
“ It is principally by the practice of speaking that graceful action is usually acquired, the force of which is very great and most efficacious in the power of persuasion. For action is a kind of eloquence of the body, by which the mind abounding in the finest sentiments flows out upon the body, and impresses upon it a noble image of itself. As light, therefore, proceeds from the sun, so does just action proceed from the inmost recesses of the mind. Nay, the mind displays itself VOL. III.
by action as if in a mirror, and makes itself known externally, by the countenance, by the eyes, by the hands, and by the voice, the most excellent organ of eloquence. And since the internal feelings are not easily disclosed to the conception of the multitude who are accustomed to estimate every thing by the eyes: and since, on the contrary, whatever is seen and heard, when transmitted through the senses affects the feelings most powerfully, it has always been observed that those speakers, who excelled in action, never failed to make a successful impression upon their audience. And, therefore, it was not without reason that Demosthenes recognized it as the first, if not the single excellence in oratory."
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
I SEND to you what I deem a literary curiosity. It has afforded me much amusement, and I doubt not that it will greatly contribute to that of your readers. I am at a loss which to admire most, the novelty of the plan of instruction, the ingenuity displayed in the minute division of the various cases of defective utterance, with the relative accommodation of thefees, or the extravagant value which the professor sets upon his labours. No one after a moment's reflection, can suppose that they are at all proportioned; but Thelwall knows mankind too well, at least the genius of his own countrymen, to set a small price upon his lessons ; for the certain consequence would be a total disregard of him and his lectures. In London, importance and value are always attached to expense and show. The gouty citizen, although roaring out from pain, refused to admit the doctor to his chamber, notwithstanding his promised speedy cure, because he came on foot; and the infallible cures for consumption are readily sold at one and two guineas the pot or vial. When we consider how much greater service Lancaster, Pestalozzi, or his pupil, our Neff, would render in the way of literary instruction, we must be struck with the monstrous extravagance of Thelwall's charges. But enough. Here it is.
PUBLIC LECTURES AND PRIVATE INSTRUCTION. Institution for the improvement of English elocution, the cure of impe
diments of speech, and the instruction of foreigners in the idiom and