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A

PRACTICAL MANUAL

OF

ELOCUTION.

INTRODUCTION.

Importance of the study of Elocution.—How it must be prosecuted.--Encouragement to the learner.—Plan of the work.

Is a good Elocution of sufficient importance to deserve the attention of the American scholar? and can the principles of Elocution be so taught as to become practically useful to the speaker, or to him who is destined to become a speaker ? — These are important questions; and while a doubt: remains in regard to them, even the youthful learner must hesitate to enter on the subject with the zeal necessary to ensure success in this or any other branch of useful study. In regard to the first, I should be doing injustice to the intelligence of the reader, to attempt to discuss it. Who are the men that in our great republic are now attracting universal attention ? Who are they, to hear whom our Senate Houses, our Halls of Justice, and our Churches, are thronged to overflowing? Who are they, whom assembled multitudes, in our public halls, in the

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crowded squares and streets of our cities clamor for, and whose voices they will hear? They are not always the most learned men among us, nor are they always the most profound thinkers. Generally speaking, they are men of good sound common sense, who have a good Elocution. Eighteen hundred years ago, Quintilian said, “That even an indifferent discourse, assisted by a lively and graceful action (comprehending both voice and gesture] will have greater efficacy than the finest harangue which wants that advantage.” So it has ever been; so it will ever be.

But of what interest is all this to the American scholar to the reader of these pages? The same that he has in any question that concerns his future usefulness, or his future fame. Ours is a land of civil liberty, where force is never permitted to take the place of persuasion, where tyranny wrests not from man his native freedom of thought and speech, and where corruption and venality can never long hold the control of public affairs. Our institutions then are such as have ever fostered eloquence. We have a language, too, superior in several important respects to any modern tongue, and deficient perhaps in no single requisite to a strong and effective eloquence. The demand of the public also for a more spirit-stirring oratory is most obviously increasing. The evidence of this is found in the public favor, just referred to, which is bestowed on those who have cultivated a good elocution. If we look out upon the stage of political life, what attracts our eyes more strongly than the conspicuous positions assigned to those who have the action, the utterance, and the power of speech to stir men's blood ? We see the same, if we look at the great moral movements of the day. Whenever the eyes of the public centre on any human agent, as destined under Providence to effect any great moral reform, who is he but some one who can wield the omnipotent power of oral eloquence? This demand extends even to the sacred desk; and men begin to be restless when the pulpit is dull and prosing. Whenever they elsewhere see exhibited the attractions of an effective elocution, their minds revert to that day, when the simple preaching of righteousness, temperance and judgment could make even a Felix tremble, and they pray for its return.

Nor is this a mere capricious movement of the times. Intelligent men have begun to reason on the subject. They have satisfied themselves, that we possess all the essential elements of oratory which have ever been possessed by any people; and that the occasions for their development are not wanting. They see the freedom of debate allowed in our legislative halls; the constantly recurring opportunities for the statesman-orator to make his appeals directly to the popular assembly; the moral enterprises also, that are to be carried by direct appeals to the popular ear; the vast interests involved in questions which are discussed in our ecclesiastical assemblies, and which may well call forth the orator's best powers; and last, not least, they see the pulpit, where from week to week thousands stand to address their fellows, freely and unconstrained, on the sacred truths of a sublime religion, to impress on them the claims of a system of morality singularly pure and attractive, and to discuss topics of the most elevating and interesting nature. They see, too, that men can feel as well as reason, and that they love the feelings which eloquence inspires ;that whenever a good elocution exhibits itself in the speaker, the legitimate effects follow as certainly as when Demosthenes or Henry spoke in the senate house, or at the bar, and as certainly as when Whitefield electrified the multitudes who everywhere thronged-not more to hear the tones of his voice, and to see his action, than to feel the overwhelming power of his eloquence. A demand based on the clear perception of such truths shall not decline; and green and unfading are the laurels already entwined for the brows of those who—now rising into life-shall prepare

themselves to bear off the honors in such a contest for usefulness and honorable distinction.

Eloquence, or even oratory, does not however consist wholly in a good elocution. Elocution concerns only the external part of oratory, and may be considered both as a science and as an art. As a science, it teaches the principles from which are deduced rules for the effective delivery of what is eloquent in thought and language; as an art, it is the actual embodying in delivery of every accomplishment, whether of voice or of gesture, by which oratorical excitement is superadded to the eloquence of thought and language. In this last sense, it implies the cultivation of every external grace with which the delivery of language should be accompanied, whether in reading, in recitation, or in spontaneous utterance. As a science, then, it relates to the knowledge and the taste necessary to direct in the correct delivery of what is forcible in thought and expression ; and as an art, to the ability practically to execute that which is dictated by a well-instructed taste. This presents the general subject in a twofold light; and clearly points out the double office of a teacher of elocution, and the twofold excellencies of a perfect Text-Book in this interesting branch of study. It should give the taste to direct, and the power to execute.

These are perfectly distinct, though closely allied. Many speakers fail, not so much from not knowing how a passage

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