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GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR SPEAKING; EXTRACTED FROM VARIOUS AUTHORS.
OF PRONUNCIATION IN GENERAL.
HE best judges among the ancients have represented Pronunciation, which they likewise called Action, as the principal part of an orator's province; from whence he is chiefly to expect success in the art of persuasion. When Cicero, in the person of Crassus, has largely and elegantly discoursed upon all the other parts of oratory, coming at last to speak of this, he says, "All the former have their effect as they are pronounced. It is the action alone which governs in speaking; without which the best orator is of no value; and is often defeated by one, in other respects much his inferior." And he lets us know, that Demosthenes was of the same opinion; who, when he was asked what was the pricipal thing in oratory, he replied, Action; and being asked again a second and third time, what was next considerable, he still made the same answer.
And, indeed, if he had not judged this highly necessary for an orator, he would scarcely have taken so much pains in correcting those natural defects, under which he laboured at first, in order to acquire it. For he had both a weak voice, and likewise an impediment in his speech, so that he could not pronounce distinctly some particular letters. The former of which defects he conquered, partly by speaking as loud as he could upon the shore, when the sea roared and was boisterous; and partly by pronouncing long periods as he walked up hill; both of which methods contributed to strengthen his voice. And he found means to render his pronunciation more clear and articulate, by the help of some little stones put under his tongue. Nor was he less careful in endeavouring to gain the habit of a becoming and decent gesture; for which purpose he used to pronounce his discourses alone before a large glass. And because he had an ill custom of drawing up his shoulders when he spoke, to amend that, he used to place them under a sword, which hung over him with the point downward.
Such pains did this prince of the Grecian orators take to remove those difficulties, which would have been sufficient to discourage an inferior, and less aspiring genius. And to how great a perfection he arrived in his actic under all these disadvantages, by his indefatigable diligence and application, is evident from the confession of his great adversary and rival in oratory, Eschines; who, when he could not bear the disgrace of being worsted by Demosthenes in the cause of Ctesiphon, retired to Rhodes. And being desired by the inhabitants, he recited to them his own oration upon that occasion; the next day they requested of him to let them hear that of Demosthenes; which, having pronounced in a most graceful manner, to the admiration of all who were present," How much more (says he) would you have wondered, if you had heard him speak is himself!"
We might add to these authorities the judgment of Quintilian; who says, that "It is not of so much mo
ment what our compositions are, as how they are pronounced; since it is the manner of the delivery, by which the audience is moved."
The truth of this sentiment of the ancients, concerning the the power and efficacy of pronunciation, might be proved from many instances; but one or two may here suffice. Hortensius a cotemporary with Cicero, and while living, next to him in reputation as an orator, was highly applauded for his action. But his orations after his death, as Quintilian tells us, did not appear answerable to his character; from whence he justly concludes, there must have been something pleasing when he spoke, by which he gained his character, which was lost in reading them.
But perhaps there is scarcely a more considerable instance of this than in Cicero himself. After the death of Pompey, when Cesar had gotten the government into his own hands, many of his acquaintance interceded with him in behalf of their relations and friends, who had been of the contrary party in the late wars. Among others, Cicero solicited for his friend Ligarius; which, Tubero understanding, who owed Ligarius a grudge, opposed; and undertook to represent him to Cesar as unworthy of his mercy. Cesar himself was prejudiced against Ligarius; and there, fore, when the cause was to come before him, he said, "We may venture to hear Cicero display his elo. quence; for I know the person he pleads for to be an ill man, and my enemy.'
But however in the course of his oration, Cicero so wrought upon his passions, that by the frequent alteration in his countenance, the emotions of his mind were very conspicuous. And when he came to touch upon the battle of Pharsalia, which had given Cesar the empire of the world, he represented it in such a moving and lively manner, that Cesar could no longer contain himself, but was thrown into such a fit of shivering, that he dropped the papers which he held in his hand. That was the more remarkable, because Cesar was him