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Such is the triumph of the perfect ORATOR;-a triumph due as much to the power and grace of delivery, as to the force of argument or the eloquence of diction.
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 maxim “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 the cultivation of the ear and vocal organs for a ready appreciation and execution of tone. And that system that furnishes the best and readiest means of attaining these objects, is the best system of Elocution : the one that fails of this is worth nothing
And here I will 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 Rt. Revd. 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 he admits, and indeed insists on the importance of a good Elocution, emphatically protests against any sys
tem 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 the very object of Elocution : and how is it to be attained ? He tells us—“the only way to do this effectually, with such modulations of voice, fc. 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 be impressed with the force of what he utters; he may, notwithstanding, de. liver 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 how ; though, at the same time, however clearly you may understand, and however deeply you may feel what
* London edition.
you are delivering, it is quite possible that 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., 92,) 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 im
perfect ; “ 2dly. That if it were perfect, it would be a circuitous 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 di. rectly 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 ne."
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 analyti. cal system, could not have been guilty of the gross perver. sion 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 error. 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 illogi. cal that it is painful to follow him step by step.
He proceeds to say, that such a system, if perfect, must be circuitous, because it professes to teach the tones, empha. ses, &c. which nature, or custom, which is a second nature, suggests—that is, because its principles must be founded on nature. And be 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,
It is natural to man to walk erect; but the infant is as. sisted 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 every time they indulge this their nature,