« PreviousContinue »
cessarily 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 sense,-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 an
And the same pupil, if called upon to mark to the eye the correct reading of the above sentence, could imme. diately do it, (certainly, any pupil of mine could, 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.
But, really, the whole course of the right reverend prelate against a system of Elocution, is so weak and illogical that it is painful to follow it step by step.
He proceeds to say, that such a system, if perfect, must be circuitous, because it professes to teach the tones, emphases, &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 na. ture 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 gracefully. We see a stooping carriage, rounded shoulders, a shuffling gait, an uneven uncertain step ; yet all walk, and walk as their nature, or custom, (which, as Dr. Whately says, is second nature,) leads them; and
time they indulge this their nature,
they confirm themselves in the practice of a vicious habit. Hence, it is not thought preposterous, or unworthy of a gentleman, to learn to walk, or at least to improve his personal carriage, under the directions of a drill-serjeant and a fencing master; and to acquire by art and exercise the bearing and manly step which distinguish the gentleman from the uncultivated hind. Thus, it is clear, that it is not always enough to leave nature to herself: when so left, she fre. quently degenerates and becomes vitiated; and we are obliged to go back to certain principles, drawn even from herself, to restore her to her perfect form, complexion, and condition.
“Lastly,” says the right reverend Doctor, “if a person could learn thus to read and speak, as it were by note, with the same fluency and accuracy as are attainable in the case of singing, still the desired object of a perfectly natural as well as correct elocution, would never be in this way attained. The reader's attention being fixed on his own voice, the inevitable consequence would be, that he would betray more or less his studied and artificial delivery; and would, in the same degree, manifest an offensive affectation."
Now, the very object of a system of Elocution, such as the right reverend Doctor so strenuously condemns, is to give, by practice, on just principles, an habitual power of vocal intonation, inflection, and expression, suited to every condition of sense, every style of composition, every variety of feeling, every vicissitude of passion : and the Elocutionist who is thoroughly master of his art, no more fizes his at.
tention, while speaking, on his own voice, or on the rules by which he is producing his effects, than the Rhetorician, in the course of a composition or an oration, is thinking minutely of every rule of grammar, logic or rhetoric, by which to construct his sentences, to round his periods, to divide his discourse, or to conduct his argument. The skilful fencer, whom practice has made master of his weapon, uses it rapidly and with effect, without thinking of the names of the guards or parades that he is executing.
“When one is learning a language, he attends to the sounds; but when he is master of it, he attends only to the sense of what he would express.”—(Reid on the Mind.)
So, in pursuing a system of Elocution, the pupil acquires an easy habit, or style of delivery, by exercising himself, on rule, in giving voice and expression to the language of others, or to his own premeditated and pre-written effusions, till, from practice, what he has done continually, by rule and art, in set and studied speech, he comes at last to execute easily and naturally, and without thought of the means, in spontaneous and original effusions.
I shall conclude my answer to Dr. Whately's objections by an extract from his preface to his own ELEMENTS OF Logic: the remarks in which, in defence of a System of Logic, are, mutatis mutandis, exactly applicable to his own objections to a System of Elocution ; so that I am happy to have it in my power to be able to bring against him a much higher authority than myself-his own ; and to let the just reasoning contained in his “Elements of Logic,” refute the
false positions put forth in his “ Elements of Rhetoric.” He thus ably and happily maintains the utility of Logic, and shows the importance and necessity of a system for its attainment:
“One preliminary observation it may be worth while to offer in this place. If it were inquired, what is to be regarded as the most appropriate intellectual occupation of man, as man, what would be the answer ? The statesman is engaged with political affairs ; the soldier, with military ; the mathematician, with the properties of numbers and magnitudes; the merchant, with commercial concerns, &c.; but in what are all and each of these employed ?-employed, I mean, as men. Evidently, in reasoning. They are all occupied in deducing, well or ill, conclusions from premises; each concerning the subject of his own particular business. If, therefore, it be found that the process going on daily, in each of so many different minds, is, in any respect, the same, and, if the principles on which it is conducted can be reduced to a regular system, and if rules can be deduced from that system, for the better conducting of the process, then, it can hardly be denied, that such a system and such rules must be especially worthy the attention, not of the members of this or that profession merely, but-of every one who is desirous of possessing a cultivated mind. To understand the theory of that which is the appropriate intellectual occupation of Man in general, and to learn to do that well, which every one will and must do, whether well or ill, may surely