Page images
PDF
EPUB

the grace

of action, the piercing glance, or gentle languish, or ħery flash of the eye ; whatever of lively passion, or striking emotion of mind, whatever of fine imagination, of wise reflection, or irresistble reasoning ; whatever of excellent in human nature, all that the hand of the Creator has impressed of his own image upon the noblest creature weare acquainted with, all this appears in the consuminate speaker to the highest advantage. And whoever is proof against such a display of all that is noble in human nature, must have neither eye nor, ear nor passion, nor imagination, nor taste, nor understanding.

Though it may be alledged, that a great deal of gesture, or action, at the bar, or in the pulpit, especially the latter, is not wanted, nor is quite in character; it is yet certain, that there is no part of the man, that has not its proper attitude. T'he eyes are not to be rolled along the ceiling, as if the speaker thought himself in duty bound to take care how the flies behave themselves. Nor are they to be constantly cast down upon the ground, as if he were before his judge, receiving sentence of death.

Nor to be fixed upon one point, as if he saw a ghost. The arms of the preacher are not to be needlessly thrown out, as if he were drowning in the pulpit ; or brandished, after the manner of the ancient pugiles, or boxers, exercising themselves by fighting with their own shadow, to prepare them for the Olympic contests. Nor, on the contrary, are his hands to be pocketed up, nor his arms to hang by his sides as lank as if they were both withered. The head is not to stand fixed, as if the speaker had a perpetual crick in his neck. Nor is it to nod at every third word, as if he were acting Jupiter, or his would-be-son, Alexander.

A judicious speaker is master of such a variety of decent and natural motions, and has such command of attitude, that he will not be long enough in one posture to offend the eye of the spectator. The matter, he has to pronounce, will suggest the propriety of changing from

* With ravish'd ears
The monarch hears;
Affumes the god,
Affects to nod,
And foems to shake the spheres.

DaYDEN'S ODE,

tiine to time, his look, his posture his motion, and tone of voice, which if they were to continue tou long the same, would become tedious, and irksome to the beholders. Yet he is not to be every moment changing posture, like an harlequin, nor throwing his hands about, as if he were shewing legerdemain tricks.

Above all things, the public speaker is never to forget the great rule, ARS EST CELARE ARTEM.

It would be infinitely more pleasing to see him deliver himself with as litsle motion, and no better attitude, than those of an Egyptian mummy, than distorting himself into all the violations of decorum, which affectation produces. Art, seen through, is execrable.

Modesty ought ever to be conspicuous in the behaviour of all, who are obliged to exhibit themselves before the eye of the public. Whatever of gesture, or exertion of voice, such persons use, they ought to appear plainly to be drawn into them by the importance, spirit or humor of the matter. If the speaker uses any arts of delivery, which appear plainly to be studied; the effect will be that his awkward attempt to work upon the passions of his hearers, by means, of which he is not master, will render him odious and contemptible to them. With what stiff and pedantic solemnity do some public speakers utter thoughts, so trifling, as to be hardly worth uttering at all! And what unnatural and unsuitable tones of voice, and gesticulations, do others apply, in delivering what, by their manner of delivering, one would be apt to question, not only whether it is their own composition, but whether they really understand it.

The clergy have one considerable apology from the awkwardness of the place they speak from. A pulpit is, by its very make, necessarily destructive of all attitude. What could even a Tully do in a tub, just big enough for him to stand in, immersed up to the arm-pits, pillowving his chin upon its cushion, as Milton describes the sun upon the orient wave ? But it is hard!y to be expected, that this, orany other impropriety in sacred matters, of which there are many greater, should be altered. Errors, in them,

grace of

become, by long establishment, sacred.* And I doubt not, but some of the narrower part of the clergy, as well as of the people, would think any other form of a pulpit, than the present, though much fitter for exhibiting the speaker to an advantge, an innovation likely to prove dangerous to religion, and which is worse, to the church.

Nor is it to be expected, that decorum of manner, in preaching, should be carried to any great perfection in England, while reading is thought to be preaching. If the Greek and Roman orators had read their sermons, the effect would have been, I suppose, pretty much the same as that which sermons produce among 11s.

The hearers might have, many of thein, dropped asleep. In soine foreign countries, preachers are so much aware of the disadvantage of reading, that such, as have weak memories, have a prompter behind, in the pulpit, out of sight. However, it must be owned, that, if preachers would bestow a little pains in committing to the memory the substance of their discourses, so as not to be slaves to written notes, and endeavour to gain a tolerable readiness at exteinporary amplification (which at the bar is indispensable) their discourses might have effect, though the eye should now and then be cast upon the notes, if not in a clumsy manner, and with hesitation. Quintilian himself will not object to so much use of notes. as I have here allowed ; though he obsolutely requires his orator to be possessed of a memory. I

follows:

* See the writings of many of the clergy themselves to this purpose, as Dr. Clark, Hare, Haadly, Whifton, Cla;ton, &c. the CANDID DISQUISITIONS, and the CONFESSIONAL.

+ Inft. Orat. L. x. C. vii. I Dean Swift, in his Letter to a young Clergyman, writes on this subject, as

"I cannot but think, that what is read differs as much from what is repeated without book, as a copy does from an original. At the same time I am fully fenfible, what an extreme difficulty it would be upon you to alter this, and that if you did, your fermons would be much less valuable than otherwise, for want of time to improve and correct them. I would therefore gladly come to a comproinise with you in this matter.”

He then goes on to advisey trat he should write his sermons in a large fair hand, and read them over several times before delivering them, so as to be able, with the help of an eye, cast down now and then, upon the paper, to Pronounce them with ease and force.

E

o hear a judicious and elegant discourse from the pulpit, which would, in print, make a noble figure, murdered by him, who had learning and taste to compose it, but having been neglected as to one important part of his education, knows not how to deliver it otherwise than with a tone between singing and saying, or with a nod of his head, to enforce, as with a hammer, every emphatical word, or with the same unanimated monotony, in which he was used to repeat Quæ genus, at Westminster school; what can be imagined more lamentable ! yet what more common ! Were the educators of youth, intended for the ministry, of the opinion of the prince of orators, viz. that delivery is the first, second and third part of oratory, they would spare sometime from the many less necessary parts of school learning, to apply it to one so very essential; without which the weight of the most sacred subject, the greatest depth of critical disquisition, the most unexceptionable reasoning, the most accurate arrangement of matter, and the most striking energy of style, are all lost upon the audience, who sit unaffected, and depart unimproved. From 'hence it is, that while places of public worship are almost empty, theatres are crowded. Yet in the former the most interesting subjects are treated. In the latter all is fiction. To the former all are invited without any expense. The charge and trouble of attending the latter are considerable. But it will not be otherwise, so long as the speakers in the former take no more pains to enforce their public instructions than if they delivered fictions, and those in the latter bestow so much to make fictions seem true. It inay be said, this observation has often been made before. The more is the pity. And it ought to be often made again, and to be dwelt upon, till the fault is amended.

Did preachers Tabour to acquire a masterly delivery, places of public instruction would be crowded, as places of public diversion are now. Rakes and infidels, merely to shew their taste, would frequent them. Could all frequent them and none profit ?

It is common to hear complaints from the clergy, of the inattention of their hearers, even to dozing, and sometimes to profound sleep. But where does this complaint fall at last ? Even upon the preachers themselves, who

address their hearers with such coldness and indifference as to leave them nothing to do, but to go to sleep. Let the preacher but exert himself properly, and he may defy his hearers to go to sleep, or withdraw their attention for a moment.

The clergy are likewise very full of their complaints of the little effect their labours produce. Infidelity and vice, they cry, prevail more than ever. Churches are poorly filled. And those, who attend for fashion's sake, are not much better than their neighbours.

But what is the plain English of this lamentable ontcry? Why, truly, that they find people loath to go to the places of public instruction to be disgusted or lulled to sleep. And, that when they have them there, they cannot persuade them to quit their vices and follies by lolling twenty minutes upon a velvet cushion, and reading to them a learned discourse. That they cannot warm thein to the love of virtue by a cold, ill-read, pulpit harangue. That they cannot win their affections whilst they neglect all the natural means for working upon the human passions. That they cannot kindle in them that burning zeal which suits the most important of all interests, by talking to them with the coolness of a set of Stoic philosophers, of the terrors of the Lord, of the worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched, and of future glory, honor, and immortality, of everlasting kirigdoms, and heavenly thrones.

I know it is common for preachers to plead, in excuse of the frigidity of their manner, in addressing their audiences, their modesty, and fear of being accused of affectation. But are these any hindrance to the elocution of the actors, or even of the actresses ? who, by study and practice, come to get the better of timidity, and to attain an elegant and correct utterance (and are indeed, the only speakers we have in England) without any appearance of affectation ; which would render them insufferable. But do our preachers, in general, bestow any thought, or use any means, of any kind, for improving themselves in speaking ? The younger part of the players rehearse, and practice over and over, many a time, and are long under the tuition of the principal actors, before they appear in public. But there are, believe, no other public speakers among us, who take

« EelmineJätka »