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a nervous and elegant style of Elocution, are as essential, almost, as force of argument and grace of language. How many a good story is marred in the telling: how many a good sermon is lost in the preaching : how many a good speech, excellent in matter, argument, arrangement, language, falls listless on the ear, from the apathetic, inelegant, and powerless manner of the speaker! Elocution is indeed a part of oratory essential to its perfection. He who would touch the heart, “and wield at will the fierce democracie,” must have
.“wit, and words, and worth, Action and utterance, and the power of speech, To stir men's blood !”
And how is this power and grace of delivery to be acquired ?-for acquired it must be—it is born with no man: it is indeed to this part of oratory that the saying “orator fit” is peculiarly applicable. It is an art; and is to be attained by rule, by training and discipline, by constant and well regulated exercise, by using the mental faculties to a quick power of analysis of thought, and by the cultivation of the ear and vocal organs for a ready appreciation and execution of tone.
Let me here take the opportunity of answering the objections of those who are in the habit of promulgating the opinion, that Elocution cannot be taught-that is, that it is not an art; for to deny that it admits of rules, and principles, is to deny it
the place of an art. The name of the Right Rev. Dr. WHATELY, Archbishop of Dublin, is the greatest that I find among the list of these objectors; and in answering his objections to all or any System of Elocution, I shall be able, I think, to dispose of the whole question—"Can Elocution be taught?"
Dr. Whately, in his ELEMENTS OF RHETORIC (Part IV. c. 2.), while be admits, and indeed insists on the importance of a good Elocution, emphatically protests against any system for its attainment; his own directions being that every person should read and speak in a natural manner; and he says (§ 3. p. 356.), “ that in reading the Bible, for example, or anything which is not intended to appear as his own composition, it is desirable that he should deliver it as if he were reporting another's sentiments, which were both fully understood and felt in all their force by the reporter.” Admitted: this is one of the objects of Elocution : and how is it to be attained ? He tells us “the only way to do this effectually, with such modulations of voice, 8c. as are suitable to each word and passage, is to fix the mind earnestly on the meaning, and leave nature and habit to suggest the utterance :" and for this plan “ he lays claim to some originality of his own" (Part IV.c.i. $ 1.), though he says (c. ii. § 2.) that “ it is not enough that the reader should himself actually understand a composition; it is possible, notwithstanding, to read it as if he did not; and, in the same manner, it is not sufficient that he should himself feel and beimpressed with the force of what he utters; he may, notwithstanding, deliver it as if he
were unimpressed.” Now, can anything be so vague and so contradictory as such directions as these ? “ Don't use any system of Elocution ; it will give. you a false style ; but read and speak naturally, as if you understood and felt what you are reading and speaking ; nature and habit will show
you though, at the same time, however clearly you may understand, and however deeply you may feel what you are delivering, it is quite possible that you may, notwithstanding, deliver it with an utter absence of understanding and feeling."
And why ? Clearly for the want of a system, which by rules and principles of art shall render such a contradiction next to impossible.
The right reverend and learned Doctor (c. ii. § 2.) lays it down that, “To the adoption of any such artificial scheme of Elocution—(that is, by a peculiar set of marks for denoting the pauses, emphases, &c.)—there are three weighty objections :" and the reverend and learned logician states the objections to be, “ 1st. That the proposed system must necessarily
be imperfect; ~ 2dly. That if it were perfect, it would be a cir
cuitous path to the object in view : and, "3dly. That even if both these objections were
removed, the object would not be effectually
obtained." That is, even if the system were perfect, and not only perfect, but direct, still it would not be effectual ! To the learned Doctor, who is a master of the syllogism, and of every form of argument, this
may be clear; but I confess it puzzles my duller apprehension to understand how inefficiency can follow from the perfection of means working directly to their end. However, let us examine how the learned and reverend Doctor proceeds to prove the validity of his objections to this artificial system of Elocution. He says in the same section, “ First, such a system must necessarily be imperfect, because, though the emphatic word in each sentence may easily be pointed out in writing, no variety of marks would suffice to indicate the different tones in which the different emphatic words should be pronounced : though on this depends frequently the whole force, and even sense of the expression.”
As an instance, he gives the following passage, (Mark iv. 21.): "Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel or under a bed ?” And he adds, “I have heard this so pronounced as to imply that there was no other alternative, and yet the emphasis was laid on the right words !"
What emphasis ? The Doctor (with respect I speak it) clearly is not versed in the distinction between inflection and emphasis, or in the difference between one species of emphasis and another. I reply to him, that a pupil who had had three lessons only in Elocution, on a good analytical system, could not have been guilty of the gross perversion of sense, by false reading, instanced above; for he would have learnt very early in his course the inflection due to a simple interrogative, - that apposition of meaning requires apposition of inflection - and that, to make antithetical inflections and
emphasis on words having apposition of meaning, is such a total subversion of every rule of Elocution and common sense, as to excite wonder at the possibility of any rational being falling into so absurd
* And the same pupil, if called upon to mark to the eye the correct reading of the above sentence, could immediately do it, so as to preclude the commission of so gross an error --equal, in its absurdity, to that of the aspiring youth, who, reckless of pause, inflection, or emphasis, stated that
“ His name was Norval on the Grampian hills," —
leaving the hearer to imagine that in the lowlands he went under another cognomen.
The right reverend Doctor proceeds to say, that such a system, if perfect, must be circuitous, because it professes to teach the tones, emphasis, &c., which nature, or custom, which is a second nature, suggests - that is, because its principles must be founded on nature. And he asks triumphantly“ Then, if this be the case, why not leave nature to do her own work?”
The answer is obvious: because were we to leave nature to do her own work, we should never emerge
from a rude state of nature; her work would be . “ferox, dura, aspera."
It is natural to man to walk erect; but the infant is assisted in its earliest efforts : and though every person can walk, it is not every person, by any means, who carries himself firmly, easily, and
* Vide APPOSITION. pp 115. 116.