« AnteriorContinuar »
pess. 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 preferred. The eyes should never be fixed entirely on any one object, but move easily round the audience. In motion, made with the bands, consists the principal part of gesture, in speaking. It is natural for the right hand to be employed more frequently than the left. Warm emotions require the exercise of them both together. But, whether a speaker gesticulate with one, or with both his hands, it is important that all his motions be easy and unrestrained. Narrow and confined movements are usually ungraceful; and consequently, motions made with the hands, should proceed from the shoulder, rather than from the elbow. Perpendicular movements are to be avoided. Oblique motions, are most pleasing and graceful. Sudden and rapid motions, are seldom good. Earnestness can be fully expressed without their assistance.
We cannot conclude this subject without earnestly admonishing every speaker to guard against affectation, which is the destruction of good de: livery. Let his manner, whatever it be, be his own; neither imitated from another, nor taken from some imaginary model, which is unnatural to him. Whatever is native, though attended by several defects, is likely to please, because it shows us the man; and because it has the appear. ance of proceeding from the heart. To attain å delivery, extremely correct and graceful, is what few can expect; since so many natural talents must concur in its formation. But to acquire a forcible and persuasive manner, is within the power of most persons. They need only to dismiss bad habits, follow nature, and speak in public as they do in private, when they speak in earnest, and from the heart.
MEANS OF IMPROVING IN ELOQUENCE.
of the higher kinds of oratory, nothing is more necessary
than to cultivate habits of the several virtues, and to refine and improve their moral feelings. A true orator must possess generous sentiments, warm feelings, and a mind, turned toward admiration of those great and high objects, which men are by nature formed to venerate. Connected with the manly virtues, he should possess strong and tender sensibility to all the injuries, distresses, and sorrows of his fellow creatures.
Next to moral qualifications, what is most requisite for an orator, is a fund of knowledge. There is no art, by which eloquence can be taught, in any sphere, without à sufficient acquaintance with what belongs to that sphere. Attention to the ornaments of style, can only assist an orator, in setting off to advantage, the stock of materials which he possesses; but the materials themselves must be derived from other sources than from rhetoric. A pleader must make himself completely acquainted with the law; he must possess all that learning aod experience, which can be useful for supporting a cause, or convincing a judge. A preacher must apply himself closely to the study of divinity, of practical religion, of morals, and of human nature ; that he
may be rich in all topics of instruction and persuasion. He who wishes to excel in the supreme council of the nation, or in any public assembly, should be thoroughly acquainted with the business that belongs to such assembly; and should attend with accuracy to all the facts, which may be the subject of question or deliberation.
Beside the knowledge peculiar to his profession, a public speaker should be acquainted with the general circle of polite literature. Poetry he will find useful for embellishing his style, for suggesting lively images, or pleasing illusions. History may be still more advantageous; as the knowledge of facts, of eminent characters, and of the course of human affairs, finds place on many occasions. Deficiency of knowledge, even in subjects not immediately connected with his profession, will expose a public speaker to many disadvantages, and give his rivals, who are better qualified, a decided superiority.
To every one who wishes to excel in eloquence, application and industry cannot be too much recommended. Without this, it is impossible to excel in any thing. No one ever became a distinguished pleader, or preacher, or speaker in any assembly, without previous labour and application. Industry, indeed, is not obly necessary to every valuable acquisition; but it is designed, by Providence, as the seasoning of every pleasure, without which, life is doomed to languish. No enemy is so destructive, both to honourable attainments, and to the real and spirited enjoyment of life, as that relaxed state of mind, which proceeds from indolence and dissipation. He, who is destined to excel in any art, will be distinguished by enthusiasm for that art; which, firing his mind with the object in view, will dispose him to relish every necessary labour. This was the characteristic of the great men of antiquity ; and this must distinguish moderns who wish to iniitate them. This honourable enthusiasm should be cultivated by students in oratory. If it be wanting to youth, manhood will flag exceedingly.
Attention to the best models, contributes greatly to improvement in the arts of speaking and writing. Every one, indeed, should endeavour to have something that is his own, that is peculiar to himself, and will distinguish his style. Genius is certainly depressed, or want of it betrayed, by slavish imitation. Yet, no genius is so original, as not to receive improvement from proper examples in style, composition, and delivery. They always afford some new ideas, and serve to enlarge and correct our own. They quicken the current of thought, and excite emulation.
In imitating the style of a favourite author, a material distinction should be observed, between written and spoken language. These are, in reality, two different modes of communicating ideas. In books, we expect correctness, precision, all redundances pruned, all repetitions avoided, language completely polished. Speaking allows a more easy, copious style, and less confin. ed by rule; repetitions may often be requisite; parentheses may sometimes be ornamental; the same thought must often be placed in different points of view ; since the hearers can catch it only from the mouth of the speaker, and have not the opportunity, as in reading, of turning back again, and of contemplating, what they do not en
tirely comprehend. Hence the style of many good authors would appear stiff, affected, and eren obscure, if transferred into a popular oration. How unnatural, for instance, would 'Lord Shaftsbury's sentences sound in the mouth of a public speaker? Some kinds of public discourse indeed; such, as that of the pulpit, where more accurate preparation add more studied style, are allowable, would admit such a manner better than others, which are expected to approach nearer to extemporaneous speaking. But, still, there is generally such a difference between a composition, intended only to be read, and one proper to be spoken, as should caution us against a close and improper imitation.
The composition of some authors approaches nearer to the style of speaking, than that of others, and they may therefore be imitated with more safety. In our own language, Swift and Bolingbroke are of this description. The former, though correct, preserves the easy and natural manner of an unaffected speaker. The style of the latter is more splendid ; but still it is the style of speaking, or rather of declamation.
Frequent exercise, both in composing and speaking, is a necessary mean of improvement. That kind of composition is most useful, which is connected with the profession, or sort of public speaking, to which persons devote themselves. This they should ever keep in view, and gradually inure themselves to it. At the same time, they should be cautious not to allow themselves to compose negligently on any occasion. He, who wishes to write or speak correctly, should, in the most trivial kind of composition, in writing