페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

sums up in it the whole power of language; and in certain circumstances, has more force alone, than all the united endeavors, of words, tones, and gestures, can come up to. Such were the precious drops that fell from Milton's Eve, which Adam kissed away; as

gracious signs of sweet remorse,

And pious awe, that feared to have offended.

But though in this written language of nature, she has given such forcible, and distinct characters, to all the animal passions of man, and proportionally to such as have a near affinity to them, or are blended with them; yet she has laid down the same law, with regard to the visible signs of the exertions and emotions of all his nobler faculties, as she has done with regard to the tones. In both she has furnished the means with equal liberality; but has left it to the invention and care of man, to make a right use of them, and apply them in suitable degrees. By the exertion of such skill and pains, it would be found that the visible language alone, which can be shewn in the features and limbs of man, is of itself sufficient, without other aid, to every purpose of social communication. To instance only in two articles, the eyes, and hands; what inward emotion is there which cannot be manifested by these? Do not the eyes discover humility, pride, cruelty, compassion, reflection, dissipation, kindness, resentment? Is there an emotion of fancy, is there a shade of ridicule, which they cannot represent? Let any one who has seen Mr. Garrick perform, consider how much he was indebted to the language of his eyes, and there will be no occasion to say more, to give him

an idea of the extent and power of expression, to which that language may be brought.

With respect to the power of the hands, every one knows that with them, we can demand, or promise; call, dismiss; threaten, supplicate; ask, deny; shew joy, sorrow, detestation, fear, confession, penitence, admiration, respect; and many other things now in common use. But how much farther their powers might be carried, through our neglect of using them we little know. And indeed the extensiveness of this visible language, would scarce gain credit with us, notwithstanding all the accounts of it handed down from antiquity, particularly with respect to the mutes, had we not instances of natural deaf mutes, now living, who have been compelled to the study and practice of this language, through the misfortune of having been born without the sense of hearing.

Having sufficiently shewn the force and extent of this language of nature, and the absolute necessity of it to man, in order to the exertion, exercise, and manifestation of all his nobler faculties, it may justly excite wonder to reflect, that it has been in general so little cultivated; and that history furnishes us with an account, but of two nations, out of the great variety that have inhabited this peopled globe since the creation, that ever applied themselves to the regular study and practice of it, so as to bring it to perfection. And these were the Greeks and Romans; who raised themselves to such an height above the rest of mankind, that when we examine their history, survey their mighty works, and compare them with those of other nations,

their proportion to the rest of the world, seems to be that of the Brobdignags to the Lilliputians.

It is true that in some other countries, this language of signs, has in some degree prevailed; but the difference between the ancients and moderns, lies in this; that the ancients founded all their instituted signs, on nature; from her they drew all their stores; fitted them in the nicest and exactest manner to the emotions which they were to express; and adapted. them so to their artificial language, that their whole delivery formed the most complete harmony: the words, tones, looks, and gestures, corresponding to each other, in such a way, as that each contributed to enforce and adorn the other; and their united efforts exhibited the sentiments of the mind, in their full proportion and beauty. So that all mankind who saw and heard them, were charmed with the manner of their delivery, though they understood not their speech; and partook of their emotions, even without any communication of their ideas. But amongst the moderns, the instituted signs of tones, gesture, &c. were not founded on nature, but caprice and fancy: and obtained their whole force from fashion and custom. Consequently, they had neither meaning, nor beauty to any but the natives of each country, and were totally different from each other in the several countries; which is sufficiently known by all, who are conversant with the natives of France, Spain, and Italy. But of all nations in the world, the English seem to have the least use of this language of signs; there being few instituted signs of emotions, either of tones, looks, or gestures, that are

adopted into general use. On the contrary, each individual, either follows his own fancy in this respect, and has what is called a way of his own; or else adopts the manner of some other, who pleases his fancy, and of whom he is altogether a mimic.

From what has been said, it is apparent that no general practical rules, I mean such as would be of any efficacy, can be laid down in this respect. For general practical rules must be founded on general practice; and as there is no such standard, in this country, to refer to, it would be in vain to lay down such rules, as cannot be explained and enforced by examples. In some points, that demand practice, as well as speculation, the practical part must be obtained by the imitation of patterns, and continual exercise in that way, till the imitation becomes perfect, and passes into a habit. But where there are no general models to be copied from, there can be no general practice, founded on imitation. In Greece and Rome, all the public speakers, agreeing as much in the use of the same signs, or language of nature, as they did in the use of the same words, or language of art; afforded general, constant, and sure patterns of imitation to others. In France, Italy, and Spain, as in each country, there is an uniform, steady use of the same signs, though in a more confined way, yet so far they also afford sure patterns of imitation. But in our own country, where there are scarce any traces of a general agreement in the use of such signs, there can be no observations drawn from general practice, no rules laid down that require explanation by examples, and no manner recommended,

which demands the aid of patterns. In this case, all that can be done is, to lay down such rules to individuals, as shall enable them to avoid faults, not acquire beauties. It is in the power of rules to compass the former, the latter cannot be obtained without models and practice. I say cannot be obtained; for to some, nature has been uncommonly bountiful; and in those who have had the good fortune to escape ill habits, a native grace will appear, beyond what could be acquired by art alone; but of this the instances are rare. If instances of such extraordinary gifts are few, much fewer are the examples of such as have not been corrupted by custom. And indeed when these gifts are bestowed in the most eminent degree, they are capable of great improvement by art; so that industry is equally useful, if not equally necessary to all.

It has been already observed, that as there is no common standard to be referred to, no general models for imitation, in the use of tones and gesture; each individual, either forms a manner peculiar to himself, or adopts that of some other, that strikes his fancy. Of these two ways, there can be no doubt which a man should follow. He that forms to himself a manner of his own, will probably acquire such a one as will be most consonant to his own powers and his own feelings. The very ease with which he falls into this, and the difficulty, as well as absurdity, of putting any constraint upon his nature, and forcing his organs, where he has no object of imitation in view, will of course accomplish this point. But he who endeavors to adopt the manner of another, loses sight of his own

« 이전계속 »