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nature, and puts a constraint upon his organs. For men do not differ more from each other in their faces, than they do in their powers of delivery. And the same manner which is easy and agreeable in one man, becomes constrained and disgusting, when assumed by another. The reason is, that all constraint upon nature is instantly perceived, as it produces affectation, and of course destroys true feeling; for it is as impossible, where affectation takes place in the manner of delivery, or in the signs of inward emotions, that the feelings of the heart should be excited, as that two musical strings, not in unison, should vibrate to each other, when one only is struck. Fantastical emotions will produce fantastical signs, and fantastical signs, by reaction, will produce fantastical emotions. Both, having their rise in the imagination, may operate upon the fancy, and produce effects there, but never can reach the heart; as all communication between them is necessarily cut off by affectation. Thus the fancied operations of the spirit, in the people called Quakers, manifested by the most unnatural signs; and in some other religious sects, by a certain cant, and extravagant gestures, produce powerful effects on the imaginations of such hearers as are bred up in the persuasion that such signs are the language of the spirit: But it must be evident, upon observing both the preachers and their auditory, that it is only the imagination which is so wrought upon; as there is no discovering in their countenances any signs which are the natural concomitants of the feelings of the heart. This sort of language of emotions, therefore, is well calculated to make enthusiasts, but not believers.
In such a situation of things, the rule by which all public speakers are to guide themselves is obvious and easy. Let each, in the first place, avoid all imitation of others; let him give up all pretensions to art, for it is certain that it is better to have none, than not enough; and no man has enough, who has not arrived at such a perfection of art, as wholly to conceal his art; a thing not to be compassed but by the united endeavors of the best instruction, perfect patterns, and constant practice. Let him forget that he ever learned to read; at least, let him wholly forget his reading tones. Let him speak entirely from his feelings; and they will find much truer signs to manifest themselves by, than he could find for them. Let him always have in view what the chief end of speaking is; and he will see the necessity of the means proposed to answer the end. The chief end of all public speakers is to persuade; and in order to persuade, it is above all things necessary, that the speaker should at least appear, himself to believe what he utters; but this can never be the case, where there are any evident marks of affectation, or art. On the contrary, when a man delivers himself in his usual manner, and with the same tones and gesture that he is accustomed to use when he speaks from his heart; however awkward that manner may be, however ill-regulated the tones, he will still have the advantage of being thought sincere; which, of all others, is the most necessary article towards securing attention and belief; as affectation of any kind, is the surest way to destroy both.
In elocution, the two great articles are, force, and grace; the one has its foundation chiefly in nature, the other in art. When united, they mutually support each other; when separated, their powers are very different. Nature can do much without art; art but little without nature. Nature, assaults the heart; art, plays upon the fancy. Force of speaking, will produce emotion and conviction; grace, only excites pleasure and admiration. As the one is the primary, and the other but a secondary end of speech, it is evident, that where one or the other is wholly to take place, the former should have the preference. Grace in elocution, is very difficult to attain in the present state of \hings. Force of delivery, is the necessary result of a clear head, and warm heart; provided no bad habits interfere, and the speaker suffers his manner to be regulated wholly by his feelings and conceptions.
This point being allowed, it is evidently in the power of every one, to deliver himself with such force, and acquire such a reputation for speaking, as he is entitled to by his natural talents. There are few public speakers who have not two kinds of delivery; one for public, the other for private use. The one, artificial and constrained; the other, natural and easy. There is, therefore, nothing more required, than to change one manner for another; to unlearn the former, and substitute the latter in its room; of which, each individual is already master. Had he indeed a new manner to acquire, as well as to get rid of the old, the difficulty Would be great; but when he has only to unlearn a bad habit, and has another ready to substitute in its room, it requires nothing but attention, and regular information of his errors, when he falls into them.
I know the objection ready to be started against this method is, what has been already mentioned, that if every one follows his own manner, the faults belonging to that manner, must of course accompany his delivery. 'Tis granted; and it were to be wished, that a way were opened by which speakers might be cured of all faults, in all the parts of delivery; but as this is impossible, without the aid of masters; and since through want of masters, faults there must be; the question is, whether a person should take up with his own, or those of another? A man's own faults, sit easy on him; habit has given them the air of being natural; those of another, are not assumed without awkwardness, they are evidently artificial. Where truth is concerned, the very faults of a speaker, which seem natural, are more agreeable to the hearer than such beauties as are apparently borrowed; in the same manner as the most indifferent natural complexion, is preferred by those whose taste is not corrupted, to the finest painted skin. It is often seen, that the motions and address of a man awkwardly formed, appear more graceful, on account of their ease, than those of the best shaped, who ape the manner of others, and who shew an evident attention to their deportment; for that must always be the case of copyists.
The office of a public speaker is, to instruct, to please, and to move. If he does not instruct, his discourse is impertinent; and if he does not please, he will not have it in his power to instruct, for he will not gain attention; and if he does not move, he will not please, for where there is no emotion, there can be no pleasure. To move, therefore, should be the first great object of every public speaker; and for this purpose, he must use the language of emotions, not that of ideas alone, which of itself has no power of moving. It is evident, in the use of the language of emotions, that he who is properly moved, and at the same time delivers himself in such tones as delight the ear with their harmony, accompanied by such looks and gestures as please the eye with their grace, whilst the understanding also perceives their propriety; is in the first class, and must be accounted a master. In this case, the united endeavors of art and nature produce that degree of perfection which is in no other way to be obtained in any thing that is the workmanship of man. Next to him, is the speaker, who gives way to his emotions, without thinking of regulating their signs; and trusts to the force of nature, unsolicitous about the graces of art. And the worst, is he, who uses tones and gestures which he has borrowed from others, and which, not being the result of his feelings, are likely to be misapplied, and to be void of propriety, force, and grace. But he who is utterly without all language of emotions, who confines himself to the mere utterance of words, without any concomitant signs, is not to be classed at all amongst public speakers. The very worst abuse of such signs, is preferable to a total want of them; as it has at least a stronger resemblance to nature.