« AnteriorContinuar »
general standard of science; and the corrections must have been, for the most part, the result of individual feeling and judgment. But though thus destitute of what Cicero cal's the “Fontes Philosophiæ e quibus illa manant,'** their sense of the importance of delivery, is strongly disclosed in their history. I will not dwell on the case of Demosthenes, with his half shaven head, his cave, and his practice on the sea shore, though they are an emphatic record of his opinions on elocution, and of his sublime devotion to the pursuit of his art : but I will mention a fact, perhaps not so generally known. It is, that this distinguished orator expended a sum, amounting to several thousand dollars, in the payment of a master of elocution. Cicero, after having completed his education in other respects, (and what an education!) devoted two years to recitation, under the most accomplished tragedian of antiquity. Caius Gracchus, who arrayed one half of Rome against the other, was so solicitous about the management of his voice in addressing public assemblies, that a slave used to stand behind him with a pitch pipe, to set the prelusive note. The science of music was habitually cultivated among the Greeks and Romans, as subservient to the art of elocution. Statues were sometimes erected to distinguished Rhetoricians. instances, the public money was coined in their name : and their salaries frequentiy exceeded those of a Minister of State in modern Europe. By these facts, we are made acquainted with the opinions of nations who carried the art of speaking to perfection ; and with the practices of youthful declaimers, who became subsequently eonspicuous on the theatre of public affairs.
The oratory of the best Greek and Roman speakers, was, withal, eminently practical. They did not employ it for
* Fountains of Philosophy from which these things are derived.
meretricious display, or empty declamation, but as an instrument of power in the State. Its aim and its effects were to convince, to impress, and to impel to action. They were leaders in the busiest, most enlightened, and tumultuous periods. Their voices “ shook distant thrones, and made the extremities of the earth to tremble.
Were these men mistaken, in estimating highly the advantages of an impressive delivery ? OR ARE WE, who disregard them? Were they deficient in matter, in power of argument, in the learning of their times, in the compass of their subject, in the arts of composition ? I confine the argument, for the moment, to Demosthenes and Cicero, who by their precepts and practice, are conspicuous advocates of the art of delivery: and I address myself to a certain class of society, who are constantly maintaining that scholarship and well exercised reasoning powers, are all that are necessary to the public speaker-to the minister of the gospel, for instance, whose office is at least as much with the imagination and the heart, as with the intellect~I address myself to them, I say, and ask whether the great orators I have mentioned, might not have put in a claim to exemption from the drudgery of elocution, if ever it could be safely pleaded ? Who is there among you, gentlemen, whoever you are who have maintained this idle plea, that will venture to contradict these great men ? Had they not a deep sense of the value of time, and of the relative importance of their studies ? Look at their sublime devotion to their pursuit. Had they formed mistaken notions of their art? Their unrivalled success in it, is the best answer to the question. Is it possible that they could throw away months and years in attaining an impressive delivery, unless assured of its immense importance, EVEN TO THEM?
Oratorical pre-eminence can be reasonably expected by a few only, but a correct, impressive elocution is desirable for all: for all, at least, among the educated classes of society. It is particularly so in this country. Here, a learned edu. cation is sought, specially with a view to some profession, in which public speaking must be exercised. Great numbers of young men are daily entering our colleges, who are to become ministers of the gospel, or lawyers. In this country, too, no freeman is excluded from the state and national councils ; on the contrary, talent, when combined with an emulous spirit, is naturally invited to participate in their administration : to say nothing of the frequency of public meetings for municipal or beneficent purposes. Under these circumstances, there are but few among the well informed part of the community, to whom it may not be of importance to speak with correctness, ease and impressiveness; or who, if not able to do so, must not, sometimes, painfully feel the disadvantages arising from the deficiency. Hereafter young gentlemen of America, some of you will deeply regret your neglect of the art of delivery: when you are obliged to do that indifferently, which you might have learnt to do well: when, on some interesting occasion, (and such occasions will come,) you find you cannot fix the attention of your audience--ofthe listening fair--when some competitor, more happy than yourselves, casts you into shade, and leaves you nothing but the consciousness of a mortifying comparison between him and you---or when, seeing opportunities for obtaining distinction, or fixing a profitable opinion in the public mind, of your talents and acquirements, you are obliged to forego them, because you have despised or neglected the art of communicating your sentiments in an impressive and agreeable manner.
II. It remains to refer to the following Grammar. It is not offered to the public, as a work of discovery. Two such works have appeared, within about half a century. The first to which I would allude, is Steele's Prosodia Rationa
lis : the other ts Dr. Rush's Philosophy of the Human Voice. Mr. Steele first explained the measure of speech. I have availed myself of his treatise, and of bis method of scoring, as far as I found them applicable to my purpose. Mr. Steele's work was published fifty years ago ; it is original, and somewhat abstruse: but of greater practical importance, than perhaps, he himself perceived. About twenty years after he wrote, Mr. John Thelwall, a distinguished teacher of elocution in London, began to score poetry and prose readings with his pupils, on Mr. Steele's scheme, with
A book which I published some time ago, was, as far as I know, the first printed exhibition of its application. Mr. Steele appears to have been who's unacquainted with the physiclogical considerations which account for the measure of speech, and indeed demonstrate its necessity.
In Dr. Rush's work, the reader may repair to a fountain, at once deep and full. A leading object of this Grammar, is to render its principles practically useful to those I am called upon to teach, and to young persons in general. I have availed myself of his mode of explanation by diagram, wherever I thought it would be useful.
To what has been thus obtained, and is here acknowledg. ed, I have added whatever my own observation and industry have enabled me to collect. Above all, I have endeavored to adapt the whole to the purposes of teaching. I have treated the subject of articulation in a manner which I presume will be deemed novel; and I consider the elementary tables, particularly the table of consonant elements, as an indispensable portion of the work. I would farther observe, that its object is practical, not exclusively philosophical ; but I shall be greatly disappointed, if it is not found to answer the end I have in view—that of teaching the art of Elocution in the most effective manner, by recurring to those elements of the voice, which it is the business of philosophy to discover, and of the philosophical teacher to apply. Some subjects treated by Dr. Rush with great ability, I have left untouched. I consider his section on Syllabication, one of the most luminous displays of philosophical originality and acuteness, to be found in his work ; but it did not appear indispensably necessary to the special object I had in view. I take, however, this opportunity of assuring every public speaker, and every philosophical actor, who may read this preface, that he will fail in his duty to himself and his profession, if he neglects a diligent perusal of Dr. Rush's “ Philosophy of the Voice.''
I would remark in conclusion, that if this Grammar contains a correct and comprehensive practical detail of the elements of speech, Elocution, unless it is to be abandoned altogether, must be taught on the plan here enjoined. The graceful effects of speech are dependant on those uses of the voice, which can only be certainly acquired by diligent elementary practice. The student's certain road to eminence is by this path alone. 6 Sic itur ad astra.'
My whole experience as a teacher confirms me in this opinion.
JONATHAN BARBER. Er