« AnteriorContinuar »
they are composed with so much justness and accuracy, • and by careful reading they are delivered with great ex. 'actness to the people, without trusting one sentence to the
frailty of the memory, or the warmth of sudden imagina'tion ? I am sure it may be replied, that if the English sermons exceed those of our neighbours, the English preachers would exceed themselves, if they would learn the art of reading by the glance of an eye, so as never to interrupt the force of their argument, nor the vivacity and pathos of • their pronunciation ; or if they made themselves so much • masters of what they have written, and delivered it with
such life and spirit, such freedom and fervency, as though • it came all fresh from the head and the heart. It is by • this art of pronouncing, as well as by a warm composure, "that some of the French preachers reign over their assem
blies, like Cicero or Demosthenes of old, and that, with “such superior dignity and power, as is seldom seen now-adays in an English audience, whatsoever esteem may be paid to our writings.'
• A paper with the most pathetic lines written upon it, • has no fear or hope, no zeal or compassion; it is conscious of no design, nor has any solicitude for success; and a mere reader, who coldly tells the people what his paper says, seems to be as void of all these necessary qualifications, as his paper is'—Wart's Miscellaneous Thoughts, No. xxvi. p. 104-106, 8vo.
Dr. BLAIR shall conclude the authorities quoted upon this point:
• With regard to the pulpit, it has certainly been a great disadvantage, that the practice of reading sermons has prevailed so universally in England. This may, indeed, have introduced accuracy; but it has done great prejudice 'to Eloquence ; for a discourse read, is far inferior to an ora* tion spoken. It leads to a different sort of composition, as • well as of delivery; and can never have an equal effect up
audience. The odium of the different sects, about the time of the Restoration, drove the established Church • from that warmth which the sectaries were judged to have
carried too far, into the opposite extreme of a studied coolness, and composure of manners. ~ Hence, from the art of
persuasion, which preaching ought always to be, it has • passed, in England, into mere reasoning and instruction ; · which not only has brought down the Eloquence of the • Pulpit to a lower tone than it might justly assume ; but has • produced this farther effect, that by accustoming the pub• lic ear to such cool and dispassionate discourses, it has • tended to fashion other kinds of public speaking upon the same model.'-—BLAIR's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 43, 44.
The same author says elsewhere, that the practice of reading sermons is one of the greatest obstacles to the E• loquence of the Pulpit in Great Britain, where alone this . practice prevails. No discourse, which is designed to be ' persuasive, can have the same force when read, as when
spoken. The common people all feel this, and their pre‘judice against this practice is not without foundation in na'ture: what is gained hereby in point of correctness, is not ' equal to what is lost in point of persuasion and force.'Ibid. p. 118.
OF THE ACTION OF AN ORATOR.
FTER a serinon has been composed, and
even committed to memory, much still remains for the Orator to execute; for the success of the composition depends upon the manner of delivery.
This concluding particular ought to be the subject of a separate work.
The ancients regarded delivery as a very considerable branch of the art of Oratory, and have carried this talent to a degree of perfection, of which we have no idea.
For such as are merely desirous to avoid the common faults in declamation, the following are the principal precautions which ought to be adopted.
They should indulge a favourable hope of the success of their performance at the
very moment of delivery, that they may speak without reluctance or uneasiness. They should be deeply penetrated with their subject, and recall what
passed in their mind while engaged in composition, They should diffuse throughout every part of the discourse the ardour with which they are animated. They should speak authoritatively, in order to arrest the attention of the hearers. They should avoid the declamation of an actor, and be cautious of introducing theatrical pantomime in the pulpit, which will never succeed.
They should begin with pitching their voice at a proper. medium, so that the tone may be capable of rising without producing discord, and of being lowered without becoming inaudible. They may be well assured, that the effect is lost, when they attempt to strain their voice to the highest pitch; that bawling repels attention instead of assisting it, and that the lower they sink their voice in pathetic passages, the better they are heard. They should not allow themselves to make use of a multiplicity of gestures; and they should especially guard against laying an undue stress on a particular word in the general movement of a period. They should avoid all corporeal agitation, and never strike the pulpit either with the feet or hands, They should vary the inflections of their voice with each rhetorical figure, and their intonations with every paragraph. Let them imitate the simple and impressive accents of nature, in delivery as well as in composition. In a word, with the rapidity of utterance, they should blend pauses, which are always striking when but seldom used and properly timed.
Such are the innocent artifices, which a Christain Orator may render subservient to the success of his ministry. *
Bourdaloue's action was very impressive, although he continually had his eyes shut when he was preaching.
Massillon spoke also with much authority, but scarcely made use of any action.
The Abbé POULLE and the Abbé RENAUD, an Orator of older standing, have united, to their other talents, action of a higher quality; and there is no preacher of this century who has been able to equal them in this respect.
It is an excellent method to revise a sermon as soon as it has been preached. The pulpit discovers its beauties and its faults ; and provided the Orator is skilful to remark the impression that the discourse makes upon the auditory, it is easy for him to observe the weak or prolix passages, which require to be improved.
* Advices respecting an Orator's action are to be found in FENELON's Dialogues ii. p. 65–76, in BURGH's Essay upon Pronunciation and Gesture ; also, in Dr. JAMES FORDYCE's Sermon on the Eloquence, and Essay on the Action of the Pulpit. See also many useful hints concerning the ministerial character and conduct in the same author's Charge at the Ordination of his Successor, the Reo. Mr. LINDSAY. Likewise, the Rev. Mr, RYLAND's Sermon to the Bristot Education Saciety, 1780.