Joseph Edwin Frobisher.

Acting and oratory : designed for public speakers, teachers, actors, etc. online

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Online LibraryJoseph Edwin FrobisherActing and oratory : designed for public speakers, teachers, actors, etc. → online text (page 1 of 36)
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'The ORATOR should have





PRIOR to the publication of Voice and Action, and several
lesser works since issued, the material of the following
pages had been accreting in a mass of both original and selected
MS. notes. These observations on Acting and Oratory were
originally intended more particularly for personal use, but an in-
creasing frequency of reference, by way of assistance to pupils,
has seemed to necessitate their arrangement in a more concise
and available form.

Considering the present effort as rather eclectic in its char-
acter, embracing as it does such variety of purpose and research,
one can readily allow for the diversity of styles, even in differ-
ent sections, and perhaps its sometimes apparently contradic-
tory opinions, and illogical arrangement.

The intention has been to begin with the simpler and more
practical ideas of the topics treated, and progressively advance
to the higher and more aesthetic of each division.

It is sincerely hoped, with this premise the method may not
be too harshly blamed, and the matter none the less enjoyed.

Special acknowledgments are due to Rev. WM. R. ALGER
for personal permission to make extracts from his " Life of Ed-
win Forrest," also grateful thanks to Messrs. HOUGHTON, OS-
GOOD & Co., for hints from Gould's Tragedian, Messrs. W. A.
POND & Co., for use of SIEBER'S "Art of Singing," SCRIBNEK,



ARMSTRONG & Co., for extracts from MC!LVAINE'S "Elocution;"
and SEILER'S " Voice in Singing,'' by LIPPINCOTT & Co.

In conclusion, it must be remembered that this work, even
in its fullness, can, at its best, be merely suggestive ; but if it
should prove another means of encouraging studious thought in
the direction implied by its title, the hope excited by its publi-
cation will have been fully answered.

New York, June, 1879.

NOTE. During the construction of the present work a number have
asked why it was not called ORATORY and ACTING and precedence given
in its title to Oratory instead of Acting.

The brief answer to all who might similarly question would be that a
good orator needs precisely the same requisites that are claimed for a good
actor, and that Acting ought to be considered as really the foundation of

Without prolonged discussion in a limited preface page it might be
added that Demosthenes, the Father of Orators, was instructed by ati
actor ; Garrick taught clergymen the reading of the Liturgy ; Mrs. Sid-
dons, by her wondrous acting, taught the best Orators of the age ; the elder
Booth redd the Lord's Prayer to clergymen who declared, while weeping,
they had never heard it before ; Talma instructed Napoleon, in the man-
ner of giving audience as an emperor. A whole chapter might be written
and not exhaust the claims of Acting as the basis of the nobler art of
Oratory. J. E. F.




INSTRUCTION. The Teacher Principles Culture under Supervision
False Training Mind Forced Instruction Romance Transi-
tion Cast-iron Rules Inner Meaning Art without System Pre-
scribed Rules Natural Orators Premature Feats Voice Index
Different Voices 11

TEACHING THE YOUNG. Vocal Habits Common Prattle Faults

Avoided Self-Culture Copying, Imitation 14

PRACTICAL. Breathing " Coup de la, glotte " Laying Hold 18

ARTICULATION. Small Words Thin, Deliberate, Powerful Articu-
lation 20

PURE TONE. Noise, Musical Sounds Depth, of Voice Tenor Voice. 20

FORCE. Lablache Amount of Air Eagle Actors and Clergymen
Management of Voice Weak Voice Vocal Compass, Strength,
Flexibility, Command, Drawling Magnificent Chest The An-
cients 22

PITCH. Rapid Pronunciation Walking, Running Measure Musical
Intervals Middle, High, Low Notes Intonation Tremor. .... 24

TIME. Pauses Suspensive Quantity Mechanical Dexterity 26

EMPHASIS. Expression Shades of Voice New Paragraph Drift

Special Effects Degree Monotony The Indians 27

GESTURE. Manifestation Motionless Affectation Pulpit, Bar,

Stage 30

DR. RUSK. General Hints Audience Three Things Manner Va-
riety Adjustment Well Started Meditation Truth Excite-
ment Beginners Habits Food Cicero Quintillian 31

GENERAL HABITS. Tone, Gesture, Attitude Confidence Conceit

Preparation Nervousness Audience listen. . . .^ 44

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIVE. Dexterities To See Teach Oneself Free-



dom, Error Circle Agony, Science Without Effort Duty to
be Happy Reserved Power Dilettanti Modern Italians De-
tails 50

RHYTHM. Measurement Grecian Ear Shakespeare, Miltoii Pulse,
Swearing Animals The Heart, Watches Indians Jugglers
Metre Speech Breathing Verse, Scanning Examples
Poetry, The Bible 69


EXERCISE, HEALTH. Inaction Sound Constitution Moods Athena
Vexation 79

FOOD, CONDITION. Habits Fat Out-door Life Wilberforce, Bux-

ton Recreation Day-time Sleep Bathing 80

SUNLIGHT. Rooms Po wer Beauty Massage Spontaneous Force

Muscles Vitality Endurance Exercise, Drill 82

.^ESTHETIC GYMNASTICS. Olympic Games The Weakling Unhappy

Temper Peel, Bright, etc. Mental Effort 86

THE ATTENTION. Brain Power Pure Air Mutation Change of

Scene Memory Stupidity Races 88

STUDY, MEDITATION. Enterprise, Conceit 93

MENTAL MOODS. The Lungs The Atmosphere Mountains Dys-
pepsia Cognitions 95


TASTE. Genius, Talent 109

REFLECTION, INTUITION. Form, Creative ^Esthetics Sensibility

Unreality, Reality Camoens 112

IMAGINATION. Perceptions Cultivated Business Man Right Eth-
ics Stretching the Mind Infinity Conjecture Thought, Feel-
ing, Will . 119

BEAUTY. The True Artist Soul and Sense Traditions Mannerism
The Drama Dante, Tasso Aglae Thetis Ocean Law
Symmetrical, Picturesque The Voice Words all Colors 127

SUBLIMITY. Terror Candor The Unknown The Theatre Fan-
tastical Reality The Eye The Laugh Grandeur Uniformity
Vast, Rugged, Gloomy Magnitude 135

NATURE. Sculpture Design Transfiguration Great Things done
easily Effort, Power Iron Bars Scholastic Stiffness Waves.
Ripples 139



GENIUS. Reserve Creative Absolute Superficial Imitation
Deep Emotion Little Geniuses Mere Method What a Man
does Aspiration, Inspiration Will, Study Tempestuous Pas-
sions 143


THEATRE FRANCAIS. Its Method Voice Training Racine Mad-
ame Talma Rachel 146

ACTING SAMSON. Talma's Advice Translation ' Mis-en-scene '

Rachel at Sixteen Quarrels 161

ACTING TALMA. Sketch Acting The Passions Society Sensi-
bility, Imagination, Intelligence Le Kain Meditation Climax 169

ORATORS. Demosthenes Cicero Gracchus Cato Pericles St.
Paul Spurgeon Pitt Mitts Webster Clay Lacordaire 174

ACTORS. Eoscius Betterton, (Acting) Gibber Barton Booth
Wilkes Barry Betterton Talma Garrick Elizabeth Barry
Sarah Siddons Edmund Kean Mrs. Jordan The elder Booth
Macready Fechter Salmni Janauschek Mile. Georges
Cunniberti Baron RacJiel Ristori, (Scribe, etc.) Forrest 182

SINGERS. Lablache Parepa Patti Campanella 232

ARTISTS, ETC. Angelo Canova Di Vinci Shakespeare, etc 234

LARGE THEATRES. Ideals Kemble, Cooke, Kean 237


CRITICISM, ANALYSIS. See Listen Study Observation Vivid En-
joyments Perfection The Senses Faults and Beauties Stand-
ard Mediocrity Defects, Qualities The Mass Feelings, Princi-
ples Public Opinion Competent Judges The Stage Justice
Fal?e Delicacy Independence Amiable Critics Cynics Fal-
coners Red Contempt 248

PREJUDICE. Great Debuts Readings Acting Stars Stock Acting
Debutantes.. 262

H A Li/8, ETC. Habit Lungs Echoes Heat Wires 264

THE VOICE. Muscles Voice made, forced, worn out Colds, Cures,

etc. Laryngitis Catarrh Tonsils Constipation Headache.. . . 264

NIGHT- AIR. Toilet for Stage, etc. Sleeplessness Somnambulism.. , . 265
AMUSEMENT. Smoking Insanity, Lunacy Abstraction Lady Mac-
beth 272

APPLAUSE. Simplicity Laughter Piano Duel 276



THE HAIR, COSTUME. Faces Hair Mustache Forehead Xose
Flowers Feathers 280

COSTUME. Check Stripes Unity Dignity Style Drapery-
Shoes Colors Blonde Brunette 282

DECORATIONS. Colors Costumes Scenes 285

THE PASSIONS. Active, Passive Passion, Affection 286

THE TEMPERAMENTS. Athletic Sanguine Lymphatic Nervous
Bilious Emotional Pleasure, Pain Excitable Persons Joy
Grief Anger Fear 287

EMOTION. Discipline Styles Intensity 295

ACTING OF THE PASSIONS. Intoxication Laughter Suffocation
Fainting Death 297



ACTING. Conception Face, Body, Voice Copying Authors Aaron
Hill Mrs. Cibber Aerial Element Training Work Angelo
Interpretation German Theatres Symbolical, Mimetic 303

FROM ALGER'S FORREST. Great Ones Atlantean Self-Possession
Sympathetic Voice Conventional Suppression Impersonal
Colossal The JEsthetic Theatre The Actor's Career Charity
The True Actor Humility Society Leisure Solitude Psyche
Petty Interests Leading Idea Imperfect Intuition Ease.
Extended Base ' Soul of the Violin ' Sobbing Blushing Re-
ality Tenderness High Mellow Note Bodily Exercise Visible
Manifestations, Invisible Movements Impetuosity ' Creating '
Characters Tragedy and Comedy Finesse Torture Faces of
Actors 309

DELSARTE. Synopsis of System 353

FAILURE IN ACTING. Perfection Rubens' Martyrs Gusto Popu-
larity The Hands Conventional Acting From Alger's Forrest 354

SCHOOLS OP ACTING. Romantic Sensational Melodramatic Clas-
sic Natural Artistic. The Active Sublime The Passive Sub-
lime The Beautiful The Vivid Stimulants Realistic Acting
Authors and Plays Acting Women Dramatic Screams Dis-
sipation Age of Actors Day of Performance Stage Fright
Good Words from Goethe Rehearsals Rules of Life 377

(JoKiiiK. The Dramatic Instinct . . 405




HE business of life is to learn ; pride resents the offer to
teach, indolence declines it.

The teacher opens the mind, shortens study, gives result, in
brief, of years of toil ; shows how to progress more rapidly ;
opens the way to recognize nature, and to use the faculties she
has given ; to admire and enter into principles that might
otherwise prove unpalatable.

Principles save labor and trials to those who might ultimately
get along and.never usje them. To admire on them is the only
way to imitate without loss of originality.

The road to art is long, and made so by mistakes and the
difficulty of analyzing things addressed to the taste and feelings.
Nature uninstructed degenerates. When culture is not under
strict, artistic supervision there results a painful, uncertain, un-
satisfactory effort. It makes one less sympathizing, less capable
of enjoyment from effort of others, and narrows down the art
because one-sided.

Vanity comes from false training ; it is empty, loose, negli-
gent, mannered, artificial, fantastic ; a sensual vagueness. In-
terest and passion beget no fruit ; a monotonous circle ; ineffec-
tual activity. It is the destruction of ideality because not
through artistic ideas but through pathological reality. It
should be the love of truth, the hate of falsity and pretence ;
and to build up by character and force.

12 ACTI.\<i -I.V7) ORATORY.

It must be mind to have permanent delight, for with a true
taste nature returns after culture. We go back to nature
through her laws, and power returns with increase.

Forced instruction is ineffectual. Few have been taught to
any purpose who have not been, in great part, their own teachers.

Those instructions are best which are given through affection
to the instructor, for then, the mind is more open to receive
them. Youth desires an overflowing heart, daring thoughts,
and speedy deeds. Instruction must be blended with romance,
imagination and reality, but not to so great a degree as to dis-
turb the ground tone of truth, for excess stupefies. Younger
pupils are oftenest best taught by those who are a degree ad-
vanced above them, and in classes.

During the period of transition the voice must be exercised
very moderately, or given up entirely. The same caution must
be used in singing, which is identical with speaking. It must
be perfect control over vocal organs before one can attain to
excellence. But method must be flexible, not cast iron, rules,
or it ceases to be a means to become an end, and is a hindrance.
One who forgets its inner meaning becomes its slave, and shows
a narrowness of mind unfitted for comprehensive purposes. An
intelligent method which remembers what is to be attained is a
most powerful instrument; and it matters not. how clever or
brilliant, but art without system will sooner or later come to
grief. Regular habits once attained are alone a fortune, and
they grow and widen of themselves. Yet everything executed
by prescribed rules will at first be formal, stiff, embarrassed and
precise. The rule will be perpetually present to the mind of the
student, and he will, perhaps, be awkward and confused, and
the fear of making constant mistakes will render him more
constrained and irresolute than if he were to give way to his
habitual actions.

A young man, when he first learns to dance, moves with a
solemnity which approaches the ridiculous ; but this solemnity
in time wears off. The habit of appearing before audiences may
make a man bold, but between grace and boldness there is a wide
difference. Mere conventionality in any art seems ridiculous
contrasted with the vast conceptions of the soul. Instruction


means to first discover the germs of artistic susceptibility, to
remove the obstacles to their growth, 'and then train and foster
them. The aptness will be commensurate with the pleasure.
It should not be to subject each mind to the same rigid external
framework. Such uniformity is neither desirable nor necessary.
Yet it is by rule what others do by hazard. Sometimes effects
are produced accidentally, from a person's being habituated to
that which he attempts. It is to ascertain and methodize the
cause of his success so as to insure subsequent efforts, and con-
struct something similar to an art, for in some points chance and
art are not unlike. The so-called natural orators have become
so by laborious self-culture. Even the natural voice guided only
by instinct always gives true intervals, but the desire may be to
reproduce them at will. And an artist can attain a much more
apparent degree of perfection without theory, than a theorist
can without practice. Perception far outruns talent.

Success does not consist of premature, showy feats, to allure
and satisfy the mass. It means right direction, with self-trust
as its first secret to make sure.

Some crystallize at a certain average condition from want of
care and anxiety of development, instead of ripening slowly and
awaiting the formation of the intellect and the heart. Ease and
speed in the execution seldom give a work any lasting import-
ance or exquisite beauty. Refined is intellectual, spiritual ; neat
is plain. Elegant is not ridiculously fine ; polite is not elabo-
rate, hypercritical refinement ; tender is not coaxing.

Some are incapable, from coarseness of material, of real

The voice is an unerring index of mind and character ;
Fine voice, refinement ; coarse, harsh voice, inferior nature.
The good-natured person may rebuke ; the ill-natured encour-
age, but the voice remains the same. The voice may be culti-
vated, but assimilation to another's will prove abortive. The
most common defects to be overcome are weakness, roughness,
and brokenness. Weakness, from organs not powerful enough to
send out sufficient volume, disappears as general strength is in-
creased. In old age the organs shrink and the key is raised.
The weakness of a shrill voice is a real misfortune and admits


of little remedy. Coarseness is a mental fault and improves
with the mind. Thickness is generally from defect in organs ;
great care and watchfulness may cure it, but progress is not easy
or rapid. Brokenness, either high or low, and yet neither, is
difficult to remedy. To speak quickly exaggerates all the natu-
ral defects of the voice ; deliberation rectifies them.

Generally there is too much of the heavy hollow voice, rigid
movement, primness of manner, anxious exactness. It should
be genial culture, wide intercourse with mankind, frank, gen-
erous. With the innate faculties of a dull, unstirring soul, what-
ever usefulness she may have latent in her, yet when she puts
not these powers into action, when once they stagnate, they lose
their vigor and run to decay. Thus it is impossible for a grov-
elling genius to be guilty of error since he never soars but con-
tinues in the same track, while its very height exposes the sub-
lime to falls. If, however, a generous and noble nature be not
thoroughly formed by discipline, it will shoot forth many bad
qualities along with the good, as the richest soil if not cultivated
produces the rankest weeds.

Nothing more prevents a beginner from becoming a true
artist, than the excitement produced by premature elevation,
which gives one an overweening notion of present acquirements
and renders him impatient of criticism.

Sometimes there may be no gleam of sense and feeling, even
uncouth manner, and poverty of grace and refinement, and yet
wonderful inspiration.

Children and the Young.

Teach children from the first to read as naturally as in
familiar talk. Vocal habits are easier caught by children, and
unlearned with most difficulty by men. Young people think
that declamation is much different from conversation ; it is
truth only that is available. Young orators should be indulged
a little to encourage, to embolden ; not even correct them.
Give genius full scope ; discover fertility. Be cautious of ui.<-
couraging, or being over severe ; gentle in correcting or it may
create aversion. Consider efforts well for the present. Due


praise but not lavish. Have them neither discouraged, nor too
secure. Take down their common prattle, or equivalent, and
correct it and they will soon learn that reading is speaking at
sight ; older persons just as if their own sentiments, line by
line, keeping the attention constantly to the meaning. The
common faults of declamation can often be avoided by encour-
aging pupils to take the place of the teacher and explain some
.interesting topic with which they are familiar. Let it be a
description in plain, simple language, of something they have
seen, or read of. " Tell us about it," should be the form of in-
vitation. Let them not dream they are '"'speaking pieces."
It is better that very simple narratives should be attempted at
first. If necessary, let the more timid ones retain their seats ;
at least avoid being made too conspicuous. A natural manner,
the use of original language, the absence of all the accessories
of an exhibition, is the best means to a right beginning. Dec-
lamation, in the ordinary method, makes the poorest kind of
actors merely elocutionary ; but talk, insensibly led, step by
step, to assume the dignity of an address to an audience, devel-
ops natural oratory.

It is difficult to inculcate rules for self-culture upon one
whose character has taken a certain mould of development, for
character is slow of growth and cannot be suddenly changed
and by mere reflection. Will is like speech, it must be learned.
One cannot be taught volition except by practice. You cannot
talk philosophy to one whose antecedent life has been without
its bound. Time and systematic exercise are necessary to the
gradual organization of the structure which shall manifest it in
full function. No one can resolve by a mere effort of the will
to think or act in a certain way, but he can learn to withdraw
his mind from one direction and turn it in another until he
grows by degrees to the ideal set before him.

The development of the power of coordinating ideas and
feelings for the achievement of a special life-aim is the develop-
ment of the volitional power to achieve it. Like certain com-
plicated acts by the muscles, which could not be done except
by previous training. So can the thoughts and feelings for a


definite purpose in life, be rendered habitually obedient to the
dictates of the will in the pursuit of its ideal.

A person can without much real mental activity almost
automatically carry out instinctively, almost unconsciously,
"habits well acquired, and the conduct they dictate ; his knowl-
edge and action have become the automatic work of nerve-
centres that have been trained. The original labor of acqui-
sition has cost an expenditure of mental effort, but the faculty-
acquired, it demands little attention, and should occasion little
fatigue. The thoughts of -many run in a groove so well worn
that their difficulty is to get out of it. Real application to such
is severe. Genius may sometimes need the spur, but most
times the curb ; to the latter frequent respites from toil are the

Insensibility to what is truly great is the bane of every rising
genius. Merely organic pleasures have naturally a short dura-
tion ; when prolonged they lose their relish. There are higher
pleasures that depend not upon system and yet may not be known
without the light of art.

There are some so dull as to need the whip, and there are
the fiery, earnest, zealous, nervous ones, tremulous as the
aspen ; enthusiasts, who need to economize their nerve-force
or they will exhaust themselves. Such need plenty of sleep and
recreation. There are some also who cannot do to advantage
unless in sacred silence and uninterrupted.

Real progress commences when the inferior perceives in the
master that superiority which he covets. Copying may help
his practice, but it cannot give the aesthetic roundness and
juiciness, the breadth, and expansion, that springs alone from
within himself. If he have not these, let him cultivate such
talent as he has in its natural direction.

A beautiful combination in nature will often appear to evade
every rule. Pleasure to all, but especially to those producing
the same effects, but to others a sealed book.

The unpracticed eye cannot distinguish the qualities or de-
fects of a painting, nor the untutored ear the combinations of


harmony. Undoubtedly the habitual use of the eye and the ear
is sufficient, in many cases, to enable us to perceive the beauties
of painting, music or oratory ; but this is in itself an education.
There is, however, a great difference between this vague feeling,
which has no other origin than mere sensations, and that cer-
tainty of judgment which is the result of positive knowledge.
Every art has its principles, which we must study, in order to
increase our enjoyment, while we are forming our taste. Those
of oratory are more complex than those of painting or music,
but non-perception of form despises grace in eloquence.

It should not be to imitate too closely, but rather sugges-
tively ; not to magnify the manner beyond the just demands
of the matter. The voice and features must all be subject to
the strictest scrutiny. No second thoughts, no retouches, but
the right key at once. No amount of practice will effect this
if the inner natm'e has not been cultivated to the point where
grace becomes instinctive, and passion in its wildest moods sub-
ordinate to an intuitive controlling taste. But what is easy to
one may be awkward to another, and if copied will seem like
affectation. It is better to have no art than not enough to con-
ceal it. It is to correct faults to be no one else and have
own, natural way. It is to excel .nature by the symmetrical,
and not to imitate effects without investigating causes. ^Es-
thetic culture. True genius includes intuitive perception.
opying is delusive industry. Imitative art excites to satisfy,
and calls forth the soul to strengthen power. Seek within and
find everything. No slavish obedience but vary even from self,
if need be; for, however careful one may be at first, still by fre-
quent repetition he may fall into a mannerism, as is often the
case with clergymen.

Online LibraryJoseph Edwin FrobisherActing and oratory : designed for public speakers, teachers, actors, etc. → online text (page 1 of 36)