Imágenes de páginas

cape their fate. Are factories, rail-roads, and steam-engines the only business of life? Is it no concern of ours how we are discharging our duties to our fellows or our country? Surely, we should do well to recollect, that our acts have their influence on others; nay more, that the acts of others influence ourselves; that our government and freedom, the very security of our property itself, is dependent on these influences; and that, whenever the mass of the people are too ignorant of their own interests, in other words, of their own nature, to be able and willing to maintain for us these blessings, they must fall. How then are we to improve the people, for our own security even, if we know neither ourselves, nor them, nor human nature generally,-if we understand neither our instruments, nor our material, nor our model? We must lose no time in this matter, if we would remove the already too apparent evils which have sprung from past neglect. Our institutions, to judge from signs which can hardly be mistaken, are even now in danger. Opinions, the wildest and most extravagant in their conceptions, and the most dangerous in their results, yet find firm and numerous supporters. No experiment is too rash, no change too violent, to have its advocates. Whichever way we look, whether to our moral, or political, or religious controversies, we see still the same scene. Every inch of ground contested, not to say removed from under us, no common principle admitted, no common object aimed at,—we have surely little cause enough for exulting in the certainty of our physical knowledge, in view of the all-pervading insecurity of our moral systems. A better state of things must be produced. It is not at our option to withhold assistance from the effort, as from some idle fancy of a dreamer's benevolence. The most benevolent course is in this case the most selfish, the only one, indeed, which can benefit ourselves. In order to the individual's happiness, others must be happy; and the lowest, as strongly as the highest motives, urge on us the necessity of exertion for this object. We would

have ourselves and our neighbors enjoying health, rather than trying to remove disease; we would see all acting in their several relations well and wisely for the good of all; not constantly, by ignorance or rashness, prejudicing the common interest. To effect this, we must at once apply the only remedy for our present evils; we must acquire for ourselves, and induce others to acquire, a knowledge of themselves,-of human nature.



The various uses of the elements enumerated throughout this essay, contribute largely to the force and elegance of utterance. They must be employed. The question is, whether they should be learned from an assemblage, in current discourse, or from a separate and iterated practice on their individual forms.

I need not propose arguments in favor of the analytic and elementary system to those, who, from the habit of acquiring the sciences, have formed for themselves economical and effective plans of education. It is well for all others to take opinion in this matter, for a while at least, upon faith; and to know that the only reason why elocutionists have never employed this mode, is because they have been ignorant of the subdivided functions of speech. There are too many examples in science, of the useful application of analysis to the purpose of rudimental instruction, to suppose that the same means would not have been adopted in elocution, if they had been within reach of the master.

I look for no more, from a well devised practical system of elocution, than we are every day receiving from established arts. All men speak and reason, for these acts, as far as we know, are as natural as passion: but the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and logic, teach us to do

these things in the best manner. In short, doing them in the best manner is signified by the name of these arts. When the voice is prepared by elementary trial, the feeling which prompts the expression will find the pliant and strengthened organs ready to furnish a satisfactory and elegant accomplishment of its designs.

If the high accomplishments of elocution are an object of ambition, the system of instruction offered in this essay, will furnish the easiest and shortest means for success. After all that has been said, the best contrived scheme will be of little avail, without the utmost zeal and perseverance on the part of the learner. It is an impressive saying by an elegant genius of the Augustan age in Rome, and he drew the maxim from his own life and fame, that "nothing is given to mortals without indefatigable labor :" by which he meant to insinuate that those works which, from their rare and surpassing merits are supposed to proceed from a peculiar endowment by heaven, are, in reality, but the product of hard and unremitting industry.

It is pitiable to witness the wishes and conceits of ambition, without the accompaniment of its requisite exertions. The art of reading well is one of those accomplishments which all wish to possess, many think they have already, and some set about to acquire. These, after a few lessons with an elocutionist, and no toil of their own, are disappointed at not becoming themselves at once masters of the art, and abandon the study for the purpose of entering on some new subject of trial and failure. Such cases of infirmity are partly the consequence of the inconstancy of human nature; but they chiefly arise from defects in the usual course of instruction. Go to some, may I say all, of our colleges and universities, and observe how the art of speaking is not taught there. See a boy of but fifteen years, sent upon a stage, pale and choking with apprehension, in an attempt to do that, without instruction, which he came purposely to learn; and to furnish amusement to his class

mates, by a pardonable awkwardness, which should be punished, in the person of his pretending and neglectful preceptors, with little less than scourging. Then visit a conservatorio of music-see the orderly tasks, the masterly discipline, the unwearied superintendence, and the incessant toil to produce accomplishment of voice; and afterwards do not be surprised that the pulpit, the senate, the bar, and the chair of medical professorship, are filled. with such abominable drawlers, mouthers, mumblers, clutterers, squeakers, chanters, and mongers in monotony ; nor that the schools of singing are constantly sending abroad those great instances of vocal wonder, who sound along the high places of the world; who are bidden to the halls of fashion and wealth; who sometimes quell the pride of rank, by its momentary sensation of envy; and who draw forth the intelligent curiosity, and produce the crowning delight and approbation of the prince and the sage.




The history of the world is full of testimony to prove how much depends upon industry; not an eminent orator has lived but is an example of it. Yet, in contradiction to all this, the almost universal feeling appears to be, that industry can effect nothing, that eminence is the result of accident, and that every one must be content to remain just what he may happen to be. Thus multitudes, who come forward as teachers and guides, suffer themselves to be satisfied with the most indifferent attainments, and a miserable mediocrity, without so much as inquiring how they may rise higher, much less making any attempt to rise. For any other art they would have served an apprenticeship, and would be ashamed to practice it in public before they had learned it. If any

one would sing, he attends a master, and is drilled in the very elementary principles; and only after the most laborious process dares to exercise his voice in public. This he does, though he has scarce any thing to learn but the mechanical execution of what lies in sensible forms before the eye. But the extempore speaker, who is to invent as well as to utter, to carry on an operation of the mind as well as to produce sound, enters upon the work without preparatory discipline, and then wonders that he fails! If he were learning to play on the flute for public exhibition, what hours and days would he spend in giving facility to his fingers, and attaining the power of the sweetest and most expressive execution! If he were devoting himself to the organ, what months and years would he labor, that he might know its compass, and be master of its keys, and be able to draw out, at will, all its various combinations of harmonious sound, and its full richness and delicacy of expression! And yet he will fancy that the grandest, the most various and most expressive of all instruments, which the infinite Creator has fashioned by the union of an intellectual soul with the powers of speech, may be played upon without study or practice; he comes to it a mere uninstructed tyro, and thinks to manage all its stops, and command the whole compass of its varied and comprehensive power! He finds himself a bungler in the attempt, is mortified at his failure, and settles it in his mind forever, that the attempt is vain.

Success in every art, whatever may be the natural talent, is always the reward of industry and pains. But the instances are many, of men of the finest natural genius, whose beginning has promised much, but who have degenerated wretchedly as they advanced, because they trusted to their gifts, and made no efforts to improve. That there have never been other men of equal endowments with Demosthenes and Cicero, none would venture to suppose; but who have so devoted themselves to their art, or become equal in excellence? If

« AnteriorContinuar »