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meaning. Before you accost a person, or enter a room, let me pull you by your sleeve and whisper in your ear, “Do not try to show off your sense : have none at all—that is your part.
Use plain language, if you can; just such as you find others use, who, in your idea, have no understanding ; and then, perhaps, you will get credit for having some.”
ON THE ELOCUTION OF THE PULPIT.
I CANNOT forbear regretting here, that a matter of such vast importance to preaching as delivery, should be so generally neglected or misunderstood. A common apprehension prevails, indeed, that a strict regard to these rules would be deemed theatrical ; and the dread, perhaps, of incurring this imputation, is a restraint upon many. But is it not possible to obtain a just and expressive manner, perfectly consistent with the gravity of the pulpit
, and yet quite distinct from the more passionate, strong, and diversified action of the theatre ? And is it not possible to hit off this manner so easily and naturally, as to leave no room for just reflection ? An affair this, it must be owned, of the utmost delicacy; in which we shall probably often miscarry, and meet with abundance of censure at first. But still, I imagine, that through the regulations of taste, the improvements of experience, the corrections of friendship, the feelings of piety, and the gradual mellowings of time—such an elocution may be acquired, as is above delineated; and such
as, when acquired, will make its way to the hearts of the hearers, through their ears and eyes, with a delight to both, that is seldom felt; whilst, contrary to what is commonly practised, it will appear to the former, the very language of nature, and present to the latter, the lively image of the preacher's soul. Were a taste for this kind of elocution to take place, it is difficult to say how much the preaching art would gain by it. Pronunciation would be studied, an ear would be formed, the voice would be modulated, every feature of the face, every motion of the hands, every posture of the body, would be brought under right management. A graceful, and correct, and animated expression in all these would he ambitiously sought after; mutual criticisms and friendly hints would be universally acknowledged ; light and direction would be borrowed from every quarter, and from every age. The best models of antiquity would in a particular manner be admired, surveyed, and imitated. The sing-song voice, and the see-saw gestures, if I may be allowed to use those expressions, would, of course, be exploded; and, in time, nothing would be admitted, at least approved, among performers, but what was decent, manly, and truly excellent in the kind. Even the people themselves would contract, insensibly, a growing relish for such a manner; and these preachers would at last be in chief repute with all, who followed nature, overlooked themselves, appeared totally absorbed in the subject, and spoke with real propriety and pathos, from the immediate impulse of truth and virtue.
Rev. James Fordyce.
HAMLET'S ADDRESS TO THE PLAYERS. SPEAK the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue : but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too inuch with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul, to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings; who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows, and noise : I would have such a fellow whipped for o'er-doing Termagent; it out-herods Herod : pray you, avoid it.
Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor; with this special observance, that you o'er-step not the modesty of nature : for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first, and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to shew virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure. Now this, overdone, or come tardy off, though it inake the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one, must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players, that I have seen play,—and heard others praise, and that highly,not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, nor man, have so strutted, and bellowed,
that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made them, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably. And let those, that play your clowns, speak no more than is put down for them : for there be of them, that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the meantime, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered; that's villainous; and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.
ON STUDY. Every youth, after he has left school, ought to improve his knowledge of those subjects which his inclination and interest lead him to pursue. It is according to the circumstances in which a youth is placed that I would have him draw out his plan of study. I am aware that it would be an impossibility for any one to point out a particular course, suited to youth of all capacities and in all situations; much general advice, however, may be given, calculated to be of service to one desirous of making himself acquainted with literature and science. He who really possesses
The wish to know, that endless thirst,
Which e'en by quenching is awaked, and prefers the innocent and lasting recreations of his books, to the momentary pleasures, if pleasures they can be called, of intoxication and dissipation, even though not endowed by nature with a superior genius, will soon make himself better acquainted with the truths of philosophy-get more extensive and correct ideas, and command more esteem and admiration, than he to whom nature has given good intellect, quick perception, and bright genius, but who neglects the cultivation of his talents. He who falls under the latter description, is often, in the pride of his heart, induced to believe he is sufficiently acquainted with every thing necessary to pass through the world, even with reputation. He thinks that he can obtain a just opinion of man from his own observation, and, therefore, does not condescend to study books. He also thinks, that labour and perseverance are beneath the soaring flight of genius. Away, vain youth, with such absurd and false notions as these. Who are those that have immortalized their names and done honour to the country which gave
them birth? who are those whose productions serve to entertain and enlighten the whole of mankind ? are they men who would not deign to be instructed ? are they individuals who thought assiduous study beneath them ? Read their biographies, they will unfold a different tale. It will be found that the far greater portion are men who sought for knowledge, and grasped at it as a miser would gold. How was it with Franklin, Milton, Newton ? nay—to go on enumerating those who owe their greatness to their industry and perseverance, would fill volumes with names. Away then with your idle excuses ! away with your nonsensical notions of genius being able to grasp all kinds of knowledge without application. It is not thus that it displays itself, no-a strong mind shows itself like a strong body, by being able to travel on when others have been obliged to stay through fatigue.