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Douglas, Act III. For an illustration of these gestures, the reader is referred to the ornamental letter on page 69.
The original idea of this system of notation, says Mr. Austin, was suggested by the labour of teaching declamation in the usual manner. During this labour, which for many years constituted a part of his duty in his grammar-school, the author having often found that he forgot, on a following day, his own mode of instructing on a former, wished to be able to invent some permanent marks, in order to establish more uniformity in his instructions, for the ease both of himself and of his pupils. The mode of instruction is not so liable to change, with respect to the expression of the voice, and countenance, for this is always pointed out by the sentiment. But the great difficulty lies in ascertaining and marking the suitable gesture; and for these obvious reasons; because a language of gesture was wanting, and because gesture may be infinitely varied, and yet, perhaps, be equally just. To leave the pupil to choose for himself would but distract him, and, instead of giving him freedom and grace, would deprive him of both. On his commencement as a public speaker (which cannot be too early), it is necessary to teach him every thing, and to regulate, by rules, every possible circumstance in his delivery; his articulation, accent, emphasis, pauses, &c., and along with all, his gesture. After sufficient instruction and practice, he will regulate his own manner, according to the suggestions of his judgment and taste.
Among the higher objects of this system of notation, may be reckoned its uses as a record, whence the historical painter may derive the materials of truth, and whence the orator and the elocutionist may not only obtain the instructions of the great men who have preceded them in the same career, but by which also they may secure, unalterably, their own improvements for the advancement of their art, and for the benefit of posterity. A scene of Shakspeare, or a passage of Milton, so noted, after the manner of a great master of recitation, or an oration so noted as delivered by an admired speaker, would prove an enduring study of truth and nature combined with imagination. And the aspiring orator would not be obliged, as at present, to invent for himself an entire system of action. He might derive light from the burning lamps of the dead, and proceed at once, by their guidance, towards the highest honours of his profession.
* Although an explanation of the gestures on Jehovah's arm, in the above sentence, is sufficient to answer my present purpose, it may not be improper to inform the reader that another gesture is required on the word son.
Had the ancients possessed the art of notating their delivery, such was the unwearied diligence of their great orators, Demosthenes and Cicero, that we should, most probably, at this day, be in possession of their manner of delivery, as well as the matter of their orations; and not be limited to conjecture relative to a single sentence of these eminent speakers, on the great occasions which called forth their powers.
POSITION OF THE FEET AND LOWER LIMBS.
The parts of the human figure which are brought into action, in gesture, cannot, in truth, be considered separate; for every muscle, over which men can exercise voluntary action, contributes, in some measure, to the perfection of gesture. For, convenience, however, we may enumerate and class the most distinguished parts of the body, which effect the principal gestures. These are : 1. The HEAD.
5. The HANDS and FINGERS. 2. The SHOULDERS. 6. The LOWER LIMBS and 3. The TRUNK.
KNEES. 4. The ARMS.
7. The FEET. I shall begin, as it were, with the foundation of the building, and shall first consider the positions and motions of the feet and lower limbs; since without the stability and ease of these, neither grace nor dignity can consist in the standing figure.
As the object of the orator is to persuade, and as prejudice against his person or manners may greatly impede him, he must recommend himself by every attention to his external deportment which may be deemed correct and proper; and guard against every species of inelegance that may prove disadvantageous. He must, therefore, even in his posture as he stands, prefer manly dignity and grace to awkward rusticity and rude strength. Rude strength may suit him who wishes to terrify, or to insult; but this is rarely the purpose of a public speaker. Grace and decorum win favour; and this is the general object. Rude strength stands indeed with stability, but without grace.
The gracefulness of motion in the human form, or perhaps in any other, consists in the facility and security with which it is executed. And the grace of any postures (except such as are manifestly designed for repose), consists in the apparent facility with which they can be varied. Hence, in the standing figure, the posture is graceful when the weight of the body is principally supported by one limb, whilst the other is so placed as to be ready to relieve it promptly, and without effort. And as the limbs are formed for a mutual share of labour and of honour, so their alternation in posture, and in motion, is agreeable and graceful.
The body must then be supported, if grace be consulted, on either limb, like Apollo, Antinous, and other beautiful and well-executed statues.
The positions of the feet are expressed by the notation annexed, which is to be written under the word where the speaker is to assume such position. They are the following:
First Position of the Right Foot, noted R. 1. (See Fig. 15).
The upper part of the figure represents the elevation of the position; the lower, the plan.
In this position the right foot (advanced before the left about the breadth of the foot), forms, with the left, an angle of about seventy-five degrees, as may be seen in the plan. The lines which form this angle, passing through the length of each foot, meet its vertex under the heel of the left. The principal weight of the body is sustained by the left foot; the right rests lightly, but in its whole length, upon the floor. This fact is shown in the plan by deeply shading the left foot, and lightly shading the right.
Second Position of the Right Foot, noted R. 2. (See Fig.16.) In this position, the right foot sliding forward about
half its length, receives the principal weight of the body, the left being raised, and turning as far inwards towards the right; the ball of the left great toe only lightly touching the floor, to keep the body from tottering. In the plan, the right foot, by which the weight of the body is principally sustained, is all shaded, while that part only of the left is
shaded which rests upon the floor. The angle formed by lines drawn through the length of the feet, in this position, is about ninety degrees.
In this position, when the feet are near together, the entire sole of the left foot may lightly touch the floor ; but when the feet are separated about their own length, or more, the left should touch only near the great toe; the knee should be bent, and the heel turned inward, as in Fig. 24 and 26.
First Position of the Left Foot, noted L. 2. (See Fig. 17).
This position of the left foot is, in all respects, analogous to the first position of the right. The left foot is advanced, and the body is principally supported by the right. The shading of the plan is similar to that in the first position of the right, and for the same purposes.
The first position of the right foot
is the proper reading position, when no gesture is employed; but it should be occasionally alternated with the first position of the left, for the relief of the supporting muscles.