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ESSAYS AND POSTSCRIPTS

ON ELOCUTION.

I. THE SCIENCE OF ELOCUTION.

To what extent is there a Science of Elocution? Fifty persons may deliver the same language in fifty different ways, and all may be equally effective. Can there, then, be a Science of Delivery? The answer is, that there can be, and that there is, in so far as there are points of agreement between the supposed fifty, or between all speakers. Principles may be acknowledged as universally true, and yet they may admit of different applications in given circumstances. Every thought is many sided, and it may present one or another of its facets to the observer, accordingly as it is viewed from different standpoints. All students of the subject may agree that a certain quality of utterance is indicative of a certain sentiment; but the presence of the sentiment and the applicability of the quality in any given case may, nevertheless, be a subject for diversity of opinion. There are, undoubtedly, Principles of Delivery, which must be admitted to be scientific, because their uniform working may be traced from speaker to speaker, and from nation to nation.

The first of these Principles is, that the Tones of the voice in speech are all more or less inflected—from grave to acute, or from acute to grave-and that each vocal flexion conveys with it a meaning, or one of a series of

meanings, instinctively associated with it by all persons. Thus the inflexion from grave to acute (') expresses incompleteness, anticipation, interrogation, dubiety, entreaty, deference, modesty, desire, and all attractive sentiments; and the inflexion from acute to grave (`) expresses precisely opposite meanings, namely: completeness, satisfaction, assertion, confidence, imperativeness, disregard, haughtiness, hatred, and all repellent sentiments. The two vocal movements are thus the negative and positive poles of logical and sentimental expressiveness. [See "Tones of Speech."]

The Key, or pitch, of the voice; and also the Rate, or time; and the Force of utterance, accord with the import of the language, and the speaker's expressive intention. A high key may be combined with gentle force, a low key with energy, and a quick or a slow rate with any degree of force, or with any key. Each of these qualities has its own inherent kind of expressiveness, and thus the modulative key, the rate, and the force of utterance must be conceded to be scientific elements in Elocution.

The Clausular division of sentences is a very important part of good delivery, and, as this is governed by definite rule, it also is entitled to be considered a Scientific element in Elocution. The divisions indicated by marks of punctuation merely guide the eye to follow the structure of a sentence. A reader who should make his oral divisions correspond to those marked off by commas, etc., would be a very bad reader. In intellectual reading, every portion of a sentence expressive of a separate fact or circumstance,

is given by itself. The grammatical subject, and its adjuncts; the predicate, and its adjuncts; the relative clause, and every clause expressive of a how, when, where, why, etc., are made to stand out distinctly from each other,

yet with such modulative alliances, as clearly denote and maintain their mutual relations. The cultivated reader has other means besides that of pausing for the manifestation of the logical divisions of his sentences. He will use the refined appliances of a shift of key, or of pitch, or a turn of inflexion, rather than resort to the rude stopping-brake under all circumstances. But, whatever his method, he will be governed by the principle of uniting no two words between which there is not a mutual relation in sense. The graduation of pauses, in accordance with a supposed time value of the different marks of punctuation, is erroneous and fanciful.

The laws of Emphasis demand recognition as chief elements in the Science of Elocution. There are three sources of emphasis: (I) novelty of thought in the context; (II) contrast to a preceding contextual thought; and (III) suggestion of unexpressed contrast. The first is the weakest, the last the strongest kind of emphasis. But novelty of thought is the most important emphatic principle, because it involves the corollary, that any thought which has been previously expressed or implied in the context is, in virtue of want of novelty, unemphatic.

No subject furnishes a higher intellectual exercise than the application of these laws of emphasis to the various kinds of composition, in prose, poetry, and the drama. Elocution has been degraded by nothing more than by the whimsical and false views which have been entertained in reference to emphasis. Important grammatical words, to the exclusion of words belonging to the subordinate classes

- adjectives in preference to nouns; adverbs to verbs; contrasted words without reference to their novelty; and often merely sonorous words - have been selected for the declaimer's rant and mouthing. In the guiding principles

above presented, a true scientific basis is established for this grand department of elocution.

Gesture, like emphasis, has been most misapprehendingly applied and taught; but here, also, principles can be adduced to justify the addition of oratorical action to the scientific departments of elocution. Gesture-including attitude and motion-is, properly, merely an accompaniment and enforcement of language; not a pictorial translation of words, but an embodiment of the spirit of utterance by suggestion of unexpressed particulars, and, chiefly, by showing the effect upon the speaker himself of the thoughts and sentiments involved. When action takes the place of language, it is pantomime; and when pantomime takes the place of oratorical action, the result is tautology; for nothing needs be, or should be, expressed by gesture which is fully conveyed in words. Imitative action is only appropriate when the object is to ridicule or to excite to merriment.

The mechanical part of gesture ought to be mastered by every speaker, so that he may be enabled always to move with grace, or stand still with ease. But he should also know when, as well as how, to move, and, chiefly, when to stand still.

An idea has been worked out with much detail for the government of gesture by physiological—and often fanciful-principles, assigning certain physical regions to certain classes of sentiments, etc.; but, while perhaps applicable enough in pantomime, such principles would be out of place in oratorical action. The sculptor or the painter might avail himself of them for his dumb exhibitions; but the speaker is not dumb, and gesture must, in his case, be subordinate to language.

Inflexion, Pitch, Time, Force, Clausing, Emphasis and

Action all having been shown to be under the government of Principles, to which appeal can be made for the regulation of elocutionary effects, enough has been said to prove that, although the Art of Delivery has been too generally treated as if it had no scientific basis, such a foundation really exists. Something, no doubt, remains to be done for complete formulation, but the Science of Elocution is certainly in its main particulars already developed.*

* For full practical details of the subjects referred to in this Article, see the Author's "Principles of Elocution" (Fourth Edition).

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