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Many of the ideas and principles contained in it, as the au«
tbor avows, are drawn from an elaborate treatise on the
" Philosophy of the Human Voice," by Dr. James Rush of
Philadelphia ; and the labor of Dr. Barber has been, to give
them a practical application, with such elucidations and illus-
trations, as should render the work an elementary guide to
the future orators of our country.

The first fifty pages are devoted to the subject of Articu-
lation, containing preliminary observations on the importance
of distinctness and accuracy as the basis of good delivery^

Digitized by


188t.] Batif'i Orammr •/ £foeiitfMiii 869

ftiid tables and explanations of the different elements of Ar-
ticulate sounds in the English language.

The preliminary remarks are just and forcible, and we
recommend them to the serious attention of every one who,
whether reading or speaking on any occasion whatsoever,
desires to be listened to with either pleasure or profit. With
regard to the elementary doctrines of articulation in detai!,
we are not so well satisfied. The author begins with taking
for an example the word man^ which he divides into its three
elementary sounds of m, a, n, and undertakes to give each
as a distinct sound. Now we have never seen a definition of
a ctmsonont which did not state^ that it could not be sounded
without the help of a vowel ; and if Dr. Barber be able to
sound *t and n, or any other consonants except in conjunct
tion, actual conjunction, with a vowel, every body hitheito
must have been in the wrong ; that they have been so, we
do not feel inclined to admit. According to our ideas, the
only diiiinct sounds in the language are those of the vowels,
which are sent forth from the vocal organs of the larynx
through the open mouth, the organs of which by slight move<«
HicsDts, without any occlusion or bringing in contact of oppo*
site parts, give them all the modification necessary for their
easy aad perfect utterance. When in uttering a vowel
sound, opposite parts, either external or internal, of the
mouth are at the same time brought in contact with each
other, a peculiar modification of the vowel sonod takes- place,,
which modification is called a consonant, and varies accord-
ing to the exact mode and force of the contact. R wbea
pronounced by itself, that is, as ar, is the only consonant
uttered without some such contact ; the reason may be found
in its expressing one of the sounds of a. This contact is not
a sound but a peculiar sort of aspiration or inflexion ; and
therefore to utter the sounds of the consonants as distinct
sounds we hold to be an impossibility, and directions for do-
ing so, and descriptions of them, to be not only futile, but
likely to endanger the formation of a habit of harsh utterance.
The author observes with great good nature, that he never yet
in his lectures ^' pronounced the vocal elements of the lan-
guage without exciting the mirthful wonder of his audience."
Not without reason we should think; especially since he
compares the sound of », as spoken by itself, to the lowing
of an ox.

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370 ^ Barher^i Oramimr of JESbcM^Mli. [May,

This elementary error io some degree runs through the
explanations, and roars the doctrine, which in some respects
with regard to the vowels contains matter worthy of atten-
tion. The whole is too much drawn out ; since the really
necessary rules for distinct and accurate articulation might
be comprised in much less space. The introduction of a
diagram to illustrate a vanishing sound, seems to us perfectly
useless if a reader has any tolerable conception of the mean-
ing of language.

After this, which may be considered as an introduction,
the author enters upon the proper subject of Elocution, or
the employment of all those various intonations, cadences,
and pauses in the utterance of language, necessary for giving
perfect expression to its import, and suited to render the
utterance agreeable to the ear of the listener.

The subject is copiously treated under various heads, far
too numerous to be particularly mentioned within the limits
to which our remarks must be confined. In a number of
these divisions we have noticed much pertinent and useful
matter. As a whole, the treatise may not unjustly be spo-
ken of as minute and profound, and with regard to the analy-
sis and discrimination of the various modifications of souad,
as existing in the natural expression of passions and emotions,
it appears to us to be generally correct and philosophical.

These are its merits, and however paradoxical it may
seem, they are likewise its defects. To illustrate our mean-
ing, let the book be taken up and attentively perused by a
scholar, who from practice and observation has gained a
knowledge of the different modulations of the voice^ as ex-
pressive of meaning, and as harmonious to the ear, and who
MS such a command of his own vocal organs, that be can
employ these modulations at pleasure in his own enunciation.
In repeating according to his own judgment the various pas-
sages of prose and poetry used by the author as illustrations,
and comparing the various tones produced with the scales,
&c., connected with these passages in the work, he will, we
think, recognise their correctness, and if his ear be fine and
musical, he will be able to follow the author into the niceties
of his analysis; but without a musical ear, and perhaps we
might say, some musical skill also, this last cannot well be
done. Let an ordinary reader or speaker, however, one of
moderate knowledge and abilities, such as the generality of

Digitized by


188S.] Marier^M Ofmnmar oflSocuHan. 871

our young men at college, particularly those not musically
gifted, take up the work and commence a diligent perusal and
study of it, he will soon find himself bewildered among the nu*
merous divisions of the subject, and inappreciable distinctions
of sound and scales ; and, with the exception of such passages
of general remark as have been already referred to, the farther
be proceeds, the worse confounded will confusion become,
till all is a perfect chaos in his mind. He will be lost in the
mazes of the subject, resembling, to use a homely but not
unapt comparison, '^ a chicken in a field of peas." In short,
the very minuteness of detail with which the subject is treat-
ed, will prevent him from comprehending it. Yet it is for
persons of whom this last supposition offers an example, that
the work is intended, and, as a manual of instruction, we
think that in this particular it must fail to effect its purpose.

It is true, that with the help of an accomplished instructer,
who can give practical illustrations, some, even many, of
these difilculties in the way of comprehension may be sur-
mounted, and the pupil may acquire appropriate inflections
and management of the voice ; but it will be by the ear, by
observation and imitation, and not by the help of the defini-
tions and scales and diagrams. He may be able to repeat
all the definitions, and answer correctly all the questions in
the book, but they will not advance him one tittle in the
management of his own voice ; and such ability will only
afford an instance of a truth too often overlooked, that learn-
ing is not knowledge, though they are much too often con-
founded. Attempting to form the intonations and modula-
tions of the voice by means of scales and diagrams, is ex-
tremely apt to give a very evidently artificial, and therefore
faulty, delivery ; the means may be far too readily traced in
the result.

It may be asked, How then are the requisites of a good
delivery to be obtained ? To answer this question at all fully
would carry us far beyond the limits to which we must re-
strict ourselves on this subject. The only answer we can
^ve must be a general one. To practice must be added the
uniiation of nature. This is the source of oratorical excel-
lence ; an observation of the tones, the looks, and the ves-
tures displayed under the influence of real passion or emotion,
and an adoption of them according to the exigency of the
caae. Assistance may doubtless be rendered by well adapt-

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87S Barber^s TrtMi^ hn Gesiurt. [Ifaty,

ed works and treatises ; but they must Be -of a difierest
character in several respects^ from that of the work before
us ; although there are parts in it of which we approve, such
as many of the general observations or leading remarks in
some of the divisions, and the section entitled '^ Analysis of
Written Language/^ Yet the observation and imitatioo of
nature, and the Uiil understanding of the purport of what is
read or spoken, must be the main things, seconded by an
accurate and distinct articulation, which is indeed an alUim-*
portant preliminary qualification. To this much of the labor
of Demosthenes was directed, and imitation was to him, as it
must be CO others, the means of acquiring this. Borne writeri
we recollect not whom, speaking of the unwearied labors of
the great orator on this point, observes with genuine Gallic
unction, ^^ that he did not disdain even to go to the dogs to
learn by the imitation of them how to pronounce the letter
R." If there be any truth in this, it may seem to illustrate
our remark ; but we cannot help thinking there must be
some mistake ; for we do not see how he could gain the pro*
posed end, unless the dogs of ancient Greece spoke a lan«*
guage very different from the bow-wow-wow of the caoioe
race of modern days.

The last hundred and fifty pages of the ^^ Grammar of
Elocution " are filled with exercises, divided as to time by
bars, scored to mark the accents of each syllable, and with
pauses or rests denoted by >figures. This, as a whole, seems
to us one of the most useful parts of the book, and with the
assistance of the general remarks will be worth more to the
learner than all the rest. The notation of these Exercises
we consider to be good, though in a few passages that we
noticed, our ears and taste would have prompted some

When we first took up the " Treatise on Gesture,'^ which
b abstracted mainly from Austin's Chironomia, and saw the
forbidding display of symbolical apparatus and diagrams, and
the figures of amputated feet and hands in all positions, we
were seized with a sort of prejudice, good-natured indeed^
but which even of this kind it is not well to cherish, as being
not very favorable to candid examtnaiioa. And when we
looked furtheri and our eyes took in the long array of pic*
tu]:ed men and women, in all the various attitudes of oratori-*
cal gestbulation, the Chironomia brought at once to our

Digitized by


183*J Barber^M Tr^0€ofi Gesture, 378

recollection ^Jm-ftructor chironomon of Juvenal, which for
the benefit of our unclassical readers we shall present in the
sufficiently faithful translation of Gifford :

^ Lo ! the spruce carver^ to his task addrest,
SkiDs, like c harlequin, from place to place,
And waves bis knife with pantomimic grace,
Till every dish be ranged, and every joint
Dissected, by just rules, from point to point
Thou think'st this folly -—'t is a vulgar thought —
To such perfection, now, is carving l)rought,
That different gestures, by our curious men
Are used for different dishes, hare and hen."

It may be thought profane to compare with each other the
impression made upon the mind, and the excitement pro-
duced on the palate, through the eye ; but it will not be con-
sidered very far-fetched, when it is recollected that some of
the greatest philosophers, critics, and orators of recent times
have been among the most distinguished proficients in the
refinements of the modern Epicurean school.

When we went beyond a mere cursory external gazing at
the pages and illustrations of this book, which we exceed-
ingly fear very few have done, we found many things worthy
the attention of every public speaker. The more general
directions for the position of the feet for the sake of the com-
fort and freedom of the speaker and a graceful appearancci
are doubtless useful ; and many of the rules in regard to the
movements of the arms, hands, and fingers are important :
and no less important are the enumeration and 'description of
faults in the management of these parts of the body. The
same is true in respect to a great part of the directions con-
cerning the motions of the head and eyes, the body and
limbs, and to the cautions given against excess in the use of
gesture, and violence in the manner of usin^ it. But these
are things which this " Treatise " possesses in common with
many other works of a similar kind, and might well enough
have been annexed to the ^' Grammar of Elocution." It is
to what is peculiar to this treatise, and to that of the author
from which it is chiefly taken, that Dr. Barber must attach
the chief importance.

Passing over what pertains to the positions of the feet
which has more to do with theatrical exhibition, than with
oratory as (connected with the most important interests of
society, — we proceed to the main subject, namely, the po-

VOL. I. NO. V. 46

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374 BarherU TVetfflMhOft Gesture, [May,

sitions and motions of the arms and hands. The movements
of the arms '^ simple and unforced/' amount by arithmetical
calculation to ^^ one hundred and thirty-nine," as we are
told ; besides the varieties occasioned by " deflections from
the exact line " prescribed. So that> as the author remarks,
" This view of gesture, in the very outset of the system,
shows how prolific it is." The movements of the hands and
fingers are not, we should judge, by a rough guess, much less
numerous than those of the arms ; though the same permu-
tations and combmations are not gone through with, for ob-
taining a similar result. Suppose then the different motions
for the arms from the shoulder to the extremities of the hand,
to be something less than three hundred ; this is a pretty
large alphabet of gesture, and it is little more than an alpha-
bet according to the author's account.

'' If the different classes of gestures of the band are combin-
ed with the elevations and transverse positions of the arm, the
result will be a very comprehensive system of gesture, capable
of recording, for the most part distinctly and impressively, the
sentiments of the pablic speaker, in the various circumstances
in which he may be placed. The elements are here placed
before the student. The combinations mast be left to his own
taste and discretion. He will find, however, in the Illustra-
tions, important aids in the prosecution of his design." p. 21.

The Illustrations here mentioned are not the figures which
we have already referred to, representing the attitudes or
certain states of gesture to the eye, which in the body of the
work are described, the several descriptions being numbered
to correspond with the figures ; but they are ceitain select
passages of poetry and prose to which symbolical letters are
attached, indicating the gesture suited to particular words or
phrases. This symbolical apparatus of letters is abundantly
explained, first separately, then combined in sets, then by a
^'synoptical arrangement," and lastly by an alphabetical
tabular arrangement. Besides this, each piece selected for
illustration is followed by a " Glossary explanatory of the
Symbolical Letters," and some " Analytical Observations."

We have thus endeavoured to give as far as possible, in so
small a compass, an account of Dr. Barber's <^ Treatise on
Gesture," called practical, but which will not be likely to
be very thoroughly practised. It is not dlfiicult to under-
stand it, though It must require considerable exercise of

Digitized by


1833.] Barier'9 Vrtaiise on Guh»e. 378

memory to retain it for the sake of use. When we speak
of its being easily understood, we mean what is merely ex-
ternal and mechanical^ which of itself every one will adcDOwl-
edge is of no yalue. The value of gesture must consbt in
aiding or enforcing the expression of sentiment or emotion ;
and the prescribing of rules for adapting it to this end, must
give considerable scope to imagination. The voice is the
chief interpreter of inward feeling, expressed in natural lan-
guage, aided too by the countenance, concerning which all
rules are vam ;. and though the action may often be so suited
to the word as to attract attention and increase the effecli
yet we doubt whether any two natural orators, if we may so
speak, will be found, who bear any striking resemblance to
each other in this respect. So long as gesture is a mere
practice of rules, it is impossible that the art should be dis-
guised ; and consequently in this state it has nothing to do
with eloquence, — it is upon the same level with dancing or
gymnastic exploits. They may all be usefiil in their effect^
and gesture most of all, when art is forgotten. But in ges-
ture It should be forgotten before it grows into habit. We
have heard and seen public speakers, somewhat advanced
in life, who never threw off the gesture of the schools, grace-
ful it might be, but artificial and unexpressive. And we have
seen awkward men, too, who never moved an arm, a hand,
or finger by rule, who were full of energy and effect in their
action. Lest, however, we should be thought too latitudina-
lian in our notions, we freely acknowledge that it is the busi-
ness of rules and teaching to correct every thing awkward,
as far as possible, and to point out what is graceful. But
the daneer to be avoided, is that of teaching too much, and
too artificially ; and this is the sum of our objections to Dr.
Barber's '^ Practical Treatise " ; though we are aware that
his remarkable and well-known success in his vocation may
be alleged as an unanswerable reply to our opinions thus hon-
estly expressed.

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87« WMtr^i English Grammar. [May,

Ajtt. IV. — 1. An BUroduction to English Grammar y on
an AnaUfiieal Plan^ adapted to the Use of Students in
CoUeges and the Higher Classes in Schools and Acade^
mies. By Samusl Webber, A. M., M. D. Cambridge.
Hilliard b Brown. 1832. 12mo. pp.116.

ft. A New Grammar of the English Language. New York.
Collins & Hannay. 1831. 12mo. pp. 78.

Db. Webber in bis *' English Grammar/' while he ad-
heres to a plan much more analytical than that of any other
grammar of our language which has come to our knowledge,
retains the common nomenclature in the division of words,
and treats them in such a way as to combine a regard to
classification and practical use, with philosophical analysis.
In doing this he has been necessarily deprived of the privi-
lege of whieh most of his predecessors, since the time of
Lowth, have freely availed themselves. They have followed
in the track of that great philologist, occasionally filling* up
some of his outlines, and deviating here and there in matters
of fashion, rather than of substantial import ; while they hare
actually fallen behind him in some of the more- philosophical
parts of his " Introduction to English Grammar.'' Dr. Web*
ber's Grammar, therefore, is in its general appearance a
new work. He has abandoned altogether the hackneyed
and inadequate set of definitions which have heretofore been
the common stock of grammarians, as if by joint inherit*
once, and has resorted to explanations which, if they some-
times require too much study for the idle and inexperienced,
always reward examination by imparting a well-defined
meaning, resulting from thorough induction.

Such are the general character and merits of this work,
both in respect to its plan and execution. That part which
treats of the letters, of the vowel sounds, and the combina-
tions of letters, as a&cting their sounds, is marked by a
great degree of discrimination in most particulars, but is not
always accompanied with sufficient fulness of illustration.
The Etymological part we shall pass over with a very few
cursory remands, till we come to the verb. In some in-
stances, the author's phraseology, though logically exact,
might be somewhat simplified ; as for example, in the account
of the derivation of words, contained in the first paragraph

Digitized by


1833.] rVehher's Engluh Grammar. 371

upon Etymology. In denying to the substantive an object-
iye case, he seems to us to have been too fastidious. Case
is not merely a change of form which shows the relation of
a noun to other words, but also, and more philosophically,
the relation itself. But as in English we have no changes of
form to express the different relations, except that which
denotes possession, it would make our syntax very complex
and difficult, to apply rules to these relations, and to denomi*
nate them by all the terms which are used where inflexion
is most extended. Our grammarians, therefore, have not
gone beyond a third case called the Objective, which they
have generally introduced, and not without good reasons ;
for pronouns have this case in a distinct form. Besides it
appears a little awkward when the author comes to the Syn-
tax, to say, as he does very properly for the sake of consist-
ency, — " Every active verb has some noun, pronoun, or
equivalent expression, as its object ; the pronoun always in
the objective case." And again, — "Prepositions require
after them a noun, pronoun, or equivalent expression, as an
object, the pronoun in the objective case." It is for these
reasons that we think the author too fastidious in making
this innovation. In other respects we followed him with
great satisfaction till we came to the verb, the crux gram^
maticorumy and the occasion sometimes of angry conflicts.
For strange as it may seem, that grave grammarians should
ever be thus overtaken, yet we have stories in former times
of their pulling each other by the beard for alleged pertina*
city ; and in one instance, of the total loss of this excres-
cence, long, full, and flowing, as a forfeit of a wager regard-
ing the termination of a tense. And in times not long passed,
John Home Tooke turned up his nose at all the grammarians
tor their stupidity in analysing this part of speech ; and
quitting them with a sneer, abruptly closed his book, and
Mt his reader as much in the dark as before.

If Dr. Webber fails to satisfy us in all respects concerning
this intricate part of grammar, it is not to be wondered at«
He has certainly treated it with great acuteness, and will
doubtless make many skeptics upon some points which were
before considered as settled ; and if in some respects wd
have more faith than he in old grammatical usages, we fe^l
eonfident that our differences will not ^kindle a polemic heat
which shall lead to such serious issues as those to which we
have adverted.

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378 Webber's English Grammar. [Ma^,

Dr. Webber's principal innovation respecting the verb b
of a mixed kind, affecting the distribution of the Tenses, and
indiredtly the import of the Modes. At the close of his
remarks upon the modes, in which there is nothing very
peculiar, he thus mingles them with the tenses, upon which
he is about to speak :

"** Part of the general notion of time is conveyed by the modes
themselves ; thus, the Indicative, pointing out or declaring an
action as a fact, must represent it either as present or past ; the
Potential, declaring the power, will, intention, obligation, or
necessity to act,, which are prior to the action itself, must be
essentially future ; the Subjunctive, expressing the action as
a thing of doubt or contingency, also implies futurity ; as does
likewise the Imperative, because a command, exhortation, or
request to do a thing, supposes its performance to be yet to
come." p. 37.

Whatever is implied concerning time in the different
modes must, we apprehend, to speak logically, be considered
as an accident, and not as the sujf»stance. There are two ways
in which the whole subject of mode and time may be treat-
ed ; first, philosophically without regard to any particular lan-
guage ; and secondly, in a practical way, having regard only
to some one language. In a philosophical view there is no
well-ascertained limitation in the number of modes or tenses.
Practically regai:ded, the most convenient method is that
which we find in the Greek and Latin, where the modes and
tenses are fixed by inflexion. But so fickle is language that
perfect consistency could not be obtained in either. Neither in
Greek nor in Latin are there inflexions through all the modes
and tenses of the passive voice corresponding to the active,

Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 39 of 54)