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gives an unnecessary peculiarity and emphasis to manner.
This position of the hand is appropriate and expressive in particular allusions and emphatic descriptions. But its propriety in such circumstances, suggests equally its unsuitableness for a prevailing gesture. There are three faults very common in the manner of pointing; all of which render the frequency of the gesture more striking and disagreeable. The first of these is the gathering up, and pressing tight with the thumb, all the fingers but the one which points; and the pointing finger projected perfectly straight. There is a rigidness of expression in this style, which is unfavourable in its effect on the eye. [See Fig. 27.] The second fault is the opposite one, of all the fingers bending feebly inward, and the thumb scarcely, if at all, touching them; the fore-finger not projecting sufficiently to suit the purpose of pointing. (See Fig. 28.) The third fault is that of letting the hand droop from the wrist downward; the fingers generally, and the thumb spreading to a great distance, and the forefinger rising at the middle. [See Fig. 29.)
8. Placing the hand ed gewise, with the fingers straight and close. [See Fig. 30.]
The motion produced in consequence of this position, is like that of an instrument for cutting, but possesses none of the appropriate effects of delivery.
9. Clenching the hand, in the expression of great energy. [See Fig. 31.]
This form of action may be natural and appropriate in the intense excitement produced by some of the boldest flights of poetry, in which the presence of others is forgotten by the speaker, when he becomes entirely rapt in an imaginary scene of vehement passion. But it is utterly inappropriate in public discourse or address, which always implies the speaker's consciousness of his auditory; a just respect to whom should forbid all indecorous action, all approach to
bullying attitudes, and, on the same general principle, all extravagant expressions of excitement.
RULE. The position of the hand in the recitation of poetry, depends on the emotion which is expressed in the language of the piece; and the intensity of feeling which is peculiar to poetry gives rise to varied attitude and action, and, consequently, to various positions, of the hand. But in declamation, or speaking in the form of address, variety is not generally so important to the effect of delivery. Energy and propriety become, in such exercises, the chief objects of attention; and although there are some prose pieces entirely imaginative or romantic in character, and occasional passages in most speeches which produce a strong emotion; yet the general style of a public address may be considered as differing widely from the manner of poetic excitement, and inclining to the plainer forms of gesture, and consequently to the ordinary positions of the hand, when used for enforcing sentiment, rather than for expressing effects produced on the imagination. Pointing, and other varieties of gesture, may be occasionally proper in declamation ; but the prevailing action should be that of earnest assertion and persuasive appeal, which are expressed with the open hand.
The appropriate position of the hand, for the common purposes of speaking, implies that it is fully open, with an expression combining firmness, freedom, and grace; the palm sloping moderately from the wrist towards the fingers, and from the thumb towards the fourth or little finger ;-avoiding thus the flat position mentioned among the errors on this point; the thumb freely parted from the fingers, but not strained; the fore-finger nearly straight, and moderately parted from the other fingers; the two fingers in the middle of the
hand, close together, and inclining somewhat inward; the fourth finger parted at some distance from the others, and inclining more inwardly than any. [See Fig. 32.]
This position of the hand, when minutely analyzed, may, at first view, seem complex and comparatively difficult; but the difficulty is more apparent than real; for it is the natural posture of the hand, in reference to the common and habitual actions of life; the fore-finger inclining to a straighter and firmer position than the other fingers, because more constantly in exercise, and therefore rendered more rigid ; the second and third fingers inclining somewhat inward, as not possessing the force and firmness of the fore-finger, and keeping close together, as they naturally do in the common actions of grasping, lifting, &c.; and the fourth finger inclining more inwardly than any, because the feeblest of the fingers. The parting of the fore-finger and the little finger from the rest, is essential to the idea of the hand presented fully and freely open.*
The embarrassment which young learners sometimes feel in attempting a correct position of the hand, is partly owing to previous fixed habit, and partly to the slight difficulty of attending separately to the position of each finger, a difficulty exemplified when we try to do, at the same moment, a different action with each hand. A little practice and attention are for the most part sufficient to obviate the difficulty alluded to. But if, in any instance, it should prove insuperable, the simple position of the open hand may be substituted; avoiding only the flat posture, and the thumb close to the fingers.
POSITION AND MOVEMENT OF THE ARM. Remarks. The freedom and force of gesture depend entirely on the appropriate action of the arm. The free
* One of the happiest illustrations of this natural point of propriety in taste, occurs in West's celebrated picture, Christ rejected,' and may be traced in nearly every figure of all great productions in painting and sculpture.
play of the arm gives scope to gesture, which would otherwise be narrow, confined, and inexpressive. The elevated thoughts and grand images abounding in poetry, require a free, lofty, and energetic sweep of the arm in gesture; but speaking which has persuasion for its object, is naturally characterized by a less commanding and less imaginative style of action. soning, arguing, or inculcating, in the usual manner of speech, requires chiefly enforcing or emphatic gesture. Poetry abounds so in variety of emotion, that the action which accompanies the recitation of it, is frequent and forcible, and marked by vivid transitions, with a predominance of gracefulness in the whole manner. The style of speaking adapted to prose, is more calm and moderate, and more plain in its character; coinciding thus with the tenor of thought and language which usually pervades prose composition.
Action is the first, the simplest, and the most striking expression of feeling. It cannot, therefore, be dispensed with, but at the risk of losing the natural animation of manner. Under the regulation of taste, it becomes an harmonious and powerful accompaniment to speech, imparting additional force to language in all its forms, and aiding a full and clear conception of what is expressed. Gesture is not a mere matter of ornament, as it sometimes is supposed. Its main object is force of impression: the beauty or grace which it imparts to delivery is but an inferior consideration. To the young learner, however, whose habits are yet forming, the cultivation of correct and refined taste in regard to gesture, is a matter of great importance; and several of the following errors are mentioned as such, with a view to this consideration.
ERRORS. The leading faults in the management of the arm are the following:
1. A feeble and imperfect raising or falling of the arm, and the allowing it to sink into an angle at the elbow. [See Figs. 6, 8, and others in which the elbow is angular.]
This style of gesture has several bad effects, besides
its angular form, which is objectionable to the eye, as associated with mechanical motion and posture, rather than those of an animated being. It narrows and confines every movement of the arm, and prevents the possibility of free and forcible action, which can flow only from the whole arm fully, though gracefully, extended.
2. The opposite fault is that of an irregular force, which throws out the arm perfectly straight and rigid. [See Fig. 4.]
This position of the arm has also an objectionable and mechanical aspect, at variance with the idea of a natural use of the human frame and its limbs.
3. The habitual performing of gesture in a line from the speaker's side.
An occasional gesture of this sort may be proper; but a constant use of it gives either a feeble or an ostentatious air to delivery, as the gesture happens to be made with more or less energy.
4. A horizontal swing of the arm, used invariably.
This action expresses negation appropriately, and may be occasionally employed for other purposes; but it lacks force for energy and emphasis, and if habitually used to the exclusion of other gestures, it renders the speaker's manner tame and ineffective.
5. A want of distinction in the use of gesture, in regard to the lines in which it terminates, the space through which it passes, and the direction in which it moves.
This indiscriminate use of gesture interferes, of course, with its appropriate expression; substituting one style of action for another, and serving, sometimes, no other purpose than to manifest the animation of the speaker, instead of imparting energy to meaning or emotion. (See Rule 2, for distinction of gesture.]