Page images
PDF
EPUB

XXXIII.

I SHALL only add further on this head, that LECT. in order to fucceed well in delivery, nothing is more neceffary than for a Speaker to guard against a certain flutter of fpirits, which is peculiarly incident to those who begin to speak in public. He must endeavour above all things to be recollected, and master of himself. For this end, he will find nothing of more use to him than to study to become wholly engaged in his fubject; to be poffeffed with a fense of its importance or seriousness; to be concerned much more to perfuade than to please. He will generally please most, when pleafing is not his fole nor chief aim. This is the only rational and proper method of raising one's felf above that timid and bashful regard to an audience, which is fo ready to difconcert a Speaker, both as to what he is to say, and as to his manner of faying it.

I CANNOT conclude without an earnest admonition to guard against all affectation, which is the certain ruin of good delivery. Let your manner, whatever it is, be your own; neither imitated from another, nor affumed upon some imaginary model, which is unnatural to you. Whatever is native, even though accompanied with several defects, yet is likely to pleafe; fhows us a man; because it has ance of coming from the heart. Gg 4

because it the appearWhereas a delivery,

XXXIII.

LECT. delivery, attended with feveral acquired graces
and beauties, if it be not eafy and free, if it
betray the marks of art and affectation, never
fails to difguft. To attain any extremely
correct, and perfectly graceful delivery, is
what few can expect; fo many natural talents
being requifite to concur in forming it. But
to attain, what as to the effect is very little in-
ferior, a forcible and perfuafive manner, is
within the power of moft perfons; if they will
only unlearn falfe and corrupt habits; if they
will allow themfelves to follow nature, and
will speak in public as they do in private,
when they fpeak in earnest and from the
heart. If one has naturally any grofs defects
in his voice or geftures, he begins at the wrong
end, if he attempts at reforming them only
when he is to fpeak in public. He should be-
gin with rectifying them in his private manner
of Speaking; and then carry to the Public
the right habit he has formed. For, when a
Speaker is engaged in a Public Difcourfe, he
fhould not be then employing his attention
about his manner, or thinking of his tones and
his geftures.
If he be fo employed, study
and affectation will appear. He ought to be
then quite in earneft; wholly occupied with
his fubject and his fentiments; leaving Na-
ture, and previously formed habits, to prompt
and fuggeft his manner of delivery.

[ocr errors]

LECTURE XXXIV.

MEANS OF IMPROVING IN ELOQUENCE.

XXXIV.

HAVE now treated fully of the different LE C T. kinds of Public Speaking, of the Compofition, and of the Delivery of a Discourse. Before I finish this fubject, it may be of ufe to fuggeft fome things concerning the properest means of Improvement in the Art of Public Speaking, and the most neceffary studies for that purpose.

To be an Eloquent Speaker, in the proper fense of the word, is far from being either a common or an eafy attainment. Indeed, to compofe a florid harangue on fome popular topic, and to deliver it fo as to amuse an Audience, is a matter not very difficult. But though fome praise be due to this, yet the idea, which I have endeavoured to give of Eloquence, is much higher. It is a great exertion. of the human powers. It is the Art of being perfuafive

XXXIV.

LECT perfuafive and commanding; the Art, not of pleasing the fancy merely, but of speaking both to the understanding and to the heart; of interesting the hearers in fuch a degree, as to feize and carry them along with us; and to leave them with a deep and ftrong impreffion of what they have heard.. How many talents, natural and acquired, muft concur for carrying this to perfection? A ftrong, lively, and warm imagination; quick fenfibility of heart, joined with folid judgment, good fenfe, and prefence of mind; all improved by great and long attention to Style and Compofition; and fupported alfo by the exterior, yet important qualifications, of a graceful manner, a presence not ungainly, and a full and tuneable voice. How little reafon to wonder, that a perfect and accomplished Orator, fhould be one of the characters that is most rarely to be found?

LET us not defpair, however. Between mediocrity and perfection, there is a very wide interval. There are many intermediate spaces, which may be filled up with honour; and the 'more rare and difficult that complete perfection is, the greater is the honour of approaching to it, though we do not fully attain it. The number of Orators who ftand in the highest clafs is, perhaps, fmaller than the number of Poets who are foremoft in poetic fame; but the ftudy of Oratory has this advantage above

that

XXXIV.

that of Poetry, that, in Poetry, one must be an LECT. eminently good performer, or he is not fupportable :

-Mediocribus effe Poëtis

Non homines, non Dî, non conceffère columnæ *.

In Eloquence this does not hold. There, one may poffefs a moderate ftation with dignity. Eloquence admits of a great many different forms; plain and fimple, as well as high and pathetic; and a Genius that cannot reach the latter, may shine with much reputation and usefulness in the former.

WHETHER Nature or Art contribute most to form an Orator, is a trifling inquiry. In all attainments whatever, Nature must be the

prime agent. She must bestow the original talents. She muft fow the feeds; but culture is requifite for bringing these feeds to perfection. Nature must always have done fomewhat; but a great deal will always be left to be done by Art. This is certain, that ftudy and difcipline are more neceffary for the improvement of natural genius, in Oratory, than they are in Poetry. What I mean is, that though Poetry be capable of receiving affiftance from Critical Art, yet a Poet, without

* For God and Man, and lettered poft denies, That Poets ever are of middling fize.

FRANCIS.

any

« PreviousContinue »