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Rules for Gesture.
It may not perhaps be useless to bestow a few observations on gesture. This part of delivery, though confessedly of such importance among the ancients, is that which is least cultivated among the moderns. The reason of this difference is foreign to the present purpose: let it suffice that awkward or improper gesture is a greater blemish in reading and speaking, than using none at all; and that in this part of oratory particularly we ought to be more careful to avoid faults than to attain beauties. To descend, however, to a few of those particulars, to which it should seem we ought chiefly to attend
It may first be observed, that in reading much less action is required than in speaking. When we read alone, or to a few persons only in private, we should accustom ourselves to read standing; the book should be held in the left hand; we should take our eyes as often as possible from the book, and direct them to those that hear us. The three or four last words at least, of every paragraph, or branch of a subject, should be pronounced with the eye pointed to one of the auditors. When any thing sublime, lofty, or heav enly, is expressed, the eye and the right hand may be very properly elevated; and when any thing low, inferior, or grovelling, is referred to, the eye and hand may be directed downwards: when any thing distant or extensive is mentioned, the hand may naturally describe the distance or extent; and when conscious virtue, or any heartfelt emotion or tender sentiment occurs, we may clap the hand on the breast exactly over the heart.
In speaking extempore, we should be sparing of the use of the left hand, which, except in strong emotion, may hang easily down the side. The right hand ought to rise, extending from the side, that is, in a direction from left to right, till it is on a line with the hip; and then to be propelled forwards, with the fingers open, and easily and differently curved: the arm should move chiefly from the elbow, the hand seldom be raised higher than the shoulder, and, when it has described its object, or enforced its emphasis, ought to drop lifeless down to the side, ready to commence action afresh. The utmost care must be taken to keep the elbow from inclining to the body, and to let the arms, when not hanging at rest by the side, approach to the position we call akimbo; we must be cautious too, in all action but such as describes extent or circumference, to keep the hand or lower part of the arm from cutting the perpendicular line that divides the body into right and left; but above all, we must be careful to let the stroke of the hand which marks force or emphasis, keep exact time with the force of pronunciation; that is, the hand must go down upon the emphatical word, and no other. Thus, in the execration of Brutus, in Julius Cæsar:
When Marcus Brutus grows so covetous,
To lock such rascal counters from his friends,
Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts,
Here the action of the arm which enforces the emphasis ought to be so directed, that the stroke of the hand may be given exacly on the word dash; this will give a concomitant action to the organs of pronunciation, and by this means the whole expression will
be greatly augmented. This action may be called beating time to the emphasis, and is as necessary in forcible and harmonious speaking as the agreement between the motion of the feet and the music in dancing.
Hence we may see the propriety of a common action in colloquial argumentation, when we wish to enforce the particulars of any series; which is, by striking the table at the end of each particular, in order to impress it on the mind. This is the impulse of unpremeditated feeling, and may be truly called the action of nature; and if we can but acquire a habit of accompanying a premeditated series with the same action, we shall give it a force and beauty well worthy the attention of the speaker.
But this emphatic stroke, as it may be called, must be used with judgment. The hand is to give it only to such members as require the falling inflection of voice, as those which require the rising may be properly accompanied by raising the hand.
Thus, in Cicero's oration against Verres :
I demand justice of you, fathers, upon the robber of the public treasury, the oppressor of Asia Minor and Pamphylia, the invader of the rights and privileges of Rómans, the scourge and curse of Sicily.
Here the hand may very properly enforce the two first members with the downward stroke, but at the third it should rise with the rising inflection, and fall with the falling upon the last.
A question, therefore, requiring the rising inflection on each particular, must have each particular, accompanied by a raising of the hand, as in the following example.
Would an infinitely wise being make such glorious beings for so méan a purpose? Can he delight in the production of such abórtive intelli. gence, such short-lived reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not to be exérted, capacities that are not to be grátified?
Spectator, No. 111. This elevation of the hand on each particular will certainly mark that suspence and degree of surprise which are inseparable from this species of question, as the downward stroke of the hand accompanying the falling inflection will give it double force and energy.
If the student wishes to acquire an easy, unaffected and regular style of action, he may consult Elements of Gesture, prefixed to the Academic Speaker.
Thus has been attempted a regular course of instruction, which, from the new points of view in which several of the parts have been placed, it is hoped will be found generally useful. Those who wish to enter more fully into this subject, and have leisure and inclination for philosophical reflections upon it, may consult a work lately published, called Elements of Elocution; where the nature of accent and emphasis, the variation and modulation of the voice, and the expression of the passions, emotions, and sentiments, are copiously and systematically considered.
IN a rhetorical grammar, it may be justly expected that composition, which forms so essential a part of rhetoric, should not be entirely omitted: yet so much has been written on this part of the art, and so ably has it been treated both by the ancients and moderns, that I might well excuse myself by referring my read
ers to Aristotle, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Quintilian, and Cicero, among the former,—and to Blair, Campbell, and Priestly, among the latter,-for every thing that learning, genius, and experience, have produced upon the subject. What I can offer must be little more than gleanings, after so copious a harvest; and if even these gleanings should be claimed as the property of those who have preceded me, I shall willingly forego my claim, and be content to rank in this field as an humble compiler of a few scattered hints, which have occurred to me in a long course of teaching a part of rhetoric which has not been so much laboured by my predecessors.
In the first place we must lay down as a maxim of eternal truth, that good sense is the foundation of all good writing. Understand a subject well, and you can scarcely write ill upon it. This, however, must be understood only of works of science; for works of imagination, beside a thorough acquaintance with the subject we write upon, require a quick discernment of the happiest manner of presenting a subject to the mind. This opens a wide field to the powers of man, as it takes in all the beauties of poetry and eloquence, beauties which, though founded in nature and good sense, owe almost all their force to the imagination and address of the writer.
Rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, therefore, seems to demand a union of both these powers. Good sense must be embellished with appropriate language, vivid imagery, and agreeable variety; and the imagination must be tempered by good taste, sound judgment, and chaste expression. In short, the rhetorician should above all things attend to the advice of the poet :