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easy. It was something similar - with a greater value - to that personal
punctuation with which skilful readers often divide the text which they

It was particularly in recitative, the style, moreover, least subject to
precise laws, that Delsarte used this license; and it was in this style
that he especially excelled.

And is it not in what remains unwritten that the singer's true greatness
is revealed? What dilettante has not felt the power of a more incisive
attack of the note; of that prolongation of the note, held
imperceptibly, which, having captured it, holds the attention of the

But, to hear these things, it is not necessary, as the saying is, "to
bestride _technique_." In so far as the training of the voice is
concerned, Delsarte gave himself a scientific basis. He was the first to
think that it would be well to know the mechanism of the organ, that it
might be used to the best advantage, both by avoiding injurious methods
of exercising it, and by aiding the development of the tone by
appropriate work.

In his rooms were to be seen imitations of the larynx - in pasteboard - of
various sizes. His pupils, it seems to me, could profit but little by
these far from pleasing sights. At the utmost it increased their
confidence in the man who desired an intimate acquaintance with
everything relating to the art which he taught. It is to teachers
particularly that the introduction of this auxiliary into the study of
the vocal mechanism may have been of some value. I have lately learned
that several singing teachers use these artificial larynxes. Can
priority be claimed for Delsarte? I can only affirm that he refers to
them in a treatise signed by himself, and dated in the year 1831.

I shall not enter into the details of this contingent side of the
method; the statement of the facts is enough to lead all those who are
interested, to devote thought and study to the matter. I prefer to dwell
upon the things which Delsarte carried with him into the grave, having
written them only on the memories of certain adepts destined to
disappear soon after him.

_On Respiration._

Delsarte established his theory of _diaphragmatic breathing_ in
accordance with his anatomical knowledge. It consists in restoring the
breath, without effort, from the commencing lift of the diaphragm to the
production of the tone. He opposed it to the _costal breathing_, which
brings the lungs suddenly into action by movements of the chest and
shoulders, and causes extreme fatigue. "The chest," he says, "should be
a passive agent; the larynx and mouth, aiding the diaphragm, alone have
a right to act in breathing; the action of the larynx consists of a
depression, that of the mouth should produce the canalization
(concavity) of the tongue and the elevation of the veil of the palate."

To this first idea is attached what the master taught in regard to the
distinction between _vital breath_ and _artificial breath_. It is
certain that one may sing with the natural respiration; but it is
rapidly exhausted if not augmented by additional inhalation; for it
results in dryness and breathlessness, which cause suffering alike to
singer and listener. The _artificial breath_, on the contrary, preserves
the ease and freshness of the voice.

_On the Position of the Tone._

The placing of the tone was one of Delsarte's great anxieties. According
to his theory, the attack should be produced _by explosion_. He rejected
that stress which induces the squeezing out of the tone after it is
produced. The way to avoid it is to prepare rapidly and in anticipation
of the emission of the note.

These ideas demand oral elucidation; but it is enough to declare them,
for teachers and singers to recognize their meaning.

_On the Preparation of the Initial Consonant._

The preceding lines refer to vocalization; but Delsarte applied the same
process to pronunciation. He directed that the _initial consonant_
should be prepared in the same way as the attack on the tone; it was
thus produced distinctly and powerfully, that is, in less appreciable
_extent of time_. Such is the concentration of the archer preparing to
launch an arrow; of the runner about to leap a ditch. The master, in no
case permitted that annoying compass of the voice before a consonant, so
frequently employed by ordinary singers. The Italians justly translate
this disagreeable performance by the word _strascinato_ (dragged out or


Delsarte has been severely blamed for the way in which he trained the
voice. I have nothing to say in regard to those who imputed to him
physical and barbarous methods of developing it; but it may be true that
he endangered it by certain exercises or by failure to cultivate the
mechanism. I do not feel myself competent to pronounce upon this
technical point, but I can give an exact account of what was done in his

Delsarte directed that the tones should be swelled on a single note, E
flat (of the medium); he claimed that by strengthening this intermediary
note the ascending and descending scales were sympathetically
strengthened. He thus avoided, as he said, breaking the high treble
notes by exercises which would render the cords too severely tense,
convinced morever, that at a given moment a burst of enthusiasm and
will-power would take the place of assiduous practice.

He also taught that this special exercise of the medium would prevent
the separation of the registers, that phylloxera of the vocal organ,
which wrecks so many singers, and causes them so many sorrows. This was
the way to gain that mixed voice, the ideal held up to the scholars as
being the most impressive and the most exquisite; that which at the
same time ravished the ear and charmed the heart.

This master considered the chest-voice as more particularly physical;
and the head-voice, it must be confessed, is too much like the voice of
a bird, to awaken sentiment and sympathy.

Delsarte himself possessed this mixed voice; in him, it seemed to start
from the heart, and brought tears to eyes which had never known them.
The power of that tone - allied to the perfection of shading, diction and
lyric declamation - caused every listening soul to vibrate with latent
emotion which might never have been waked to life save by that appeal.

I return to the practice of swelled tones upon the note E flat. This
note certainly acquired broad and powerful tones about which there was
nothing forced, and which were most agreeable. This development was
communicated to the neighboring notes. But did not these advantages take
from the compass of the scale? If so, were they a counterbalance to the
injury? I repeat that I dare not affirm anything in this respect.

Delsarte, assuredly, did not give as much space to vocalization as other
teachers, especially those of the Italian school.

It is also undeniable, that dramatic singing - the style which he
preferred - is dangerous to the vocal organism; particularly when one
practices the _shriek or scream_, which produces a fine effect when
skilfully employed, but is most pernicious in excess.

Delsarte was too conscientious an artist not to sacrifice his voice, at
certain moments, to his pathetic effects; but he was very careful to
warn his scholars against the abuse of this method; he directed them to
use it but very rarely, and with the greatest precaution.

I should also say, in his favor, that light voices were very differently
trained from heavy ones. Madame Carvalho, who began her studies in his
school, did not alter the flexible but feeble organ she brought there.
Mlle. Chaudesaigues and Mlle. Jacob, under Delsarte's tuition, attained
to marvels of flexibility, without losing any of their natural gifts.


Delsarte brought about a revolution in French music in everything
relating to appoggiatura, or rather, he restored its primitive meaning.
The way in which he interpreted it has created a school.

He taught that the root of the word - appoggiatura - being _appuyer_ (to
sustain), the chief importance should be given in the phrase, to
appoggiatura, by extent and expression; the more so that this note is
generally placed on a dissonance; and, according to this master's
system, it is on the dissonance - and not at random and very frequently,
as is the habit of many singers - that the powerful effect of the
vibration of sound should be produced.

Contrary to this opinion, the appoggiatura was for a long time used in
France as a short and rapid passing note; it thus gave the music a
vivacious character, wholly discordant with the style of serious
compositions; the music of Gluck was particularly unsuited to it.

_Roulade and Martellato._

In every school of singing the roulade is effected by means of the
_staccato_ and _legato_. Delsarte had a marked prejudice in favor of the
martellato, which partakes of both. He compared it, in his picturesque
way of expressing his ideas, to pearls united by an invisible thread.


The master's pronunciation was irreproachable; not the slightest trace
of a provincial accent; never the least error of intonation, the
smallest mistake in regard to a long or short syllable. What is perhaps
rarer than may be thought, he possessed, in its absolute purity, the
prosody of his native language, alike in lyric declamation and in the
_cantabile_. His penetrating tones added another charm to the many
merits which he had acquired by study.

Pronunciation, therefore, was skilfully and carefully taught in
Delsarte's school. The professor's first care was to correct any
tendency to lisp, which he did by temporarily substituting the syllables
_te, de_, over and over again, for the faulty R. This substitution
brought the organ back to the requisite position for the vibration of
the R.

This process is now in common use; but I cannot say whether it was
employed before Delsarte's day. He obtained very happy results from it.

_E mute before a Consonant._

Delsarte did not allow that absolute suppression of the E mute before a
consonant, which seems to prevail at present, and which produces so bad
an effect in delivery. As the evil, at the time of which I speak, was
yet comparatively unknown, he did not make it a case of conscience; but
if he never lent himself to this ellipsis, he, "the lyric Talma," "the
exquisite singer," as he has frequently been called, should we not
regard his abstinence as a condemnation from which there is no appeal? I
do not believe, moreover, that either Nourrit or Dupré authorized by
their example a habit so contrary to the rules of French versification,
so disagreeable to the well-trained ear and so opposed to good taste.
Such young singers as have yielded to it, have only to listen to
themselves for one moment to abandon it forever.

It is certain that E mute can in no instance be assimilated to the
accented E; but to suppress it entirely, is to break the symmetry of the
verse, to put the measure out of time. It is unmistakable that the
weakness of the vowel, or mute syllable, concerns the sound, not the
duration. Let it die away gently; but for Heaven's sake, do not murder
it! Voltaire wrote: "You reproach us with our E mute, as a sad, dull
sound that dies on our lips, but in this very E mute lies the great
harmony of our prose and verse." Littré recognizes two forms of the E
mute: the E mute, faintly articulated as in "_àme_;" and the E mute
sounded as in _me, ce, le;_ but he does not allude to an E which is
entirely null.

Once more, then, that there may be no misunderstanding, let me say that
the word _mute_ added to the E, has but a relative sense, in view of the
two vowels of the same name and marked with an acute or a grave accent.

One fact throws light on the question: did any author ever make a
character above the rank of a peasant or a lackey, say:

/ "_J'aime' ben Lisett' J'crois qu'ell' m'en veut!"_ P/

Take an example from Voltaire (tragedy of the Death of Caesar): "_Voilà
vos successeurs, Horace, Décius_." Evidently, if the E mute had not been
counted, the second hemistich of the Alexandrine verse would have had
but five syllables instead of six.

Would any one like to know how the heresiarchs of the E mute would

In this instance they would repeat the A of the penultimate, aspirating
it and pronouncing thus: "_Voilà vos successeurs, Hora ... as',

In this way they would have the requisite number of syllables; but they
would be wholly at odds with the dictionary of the good actors of the
Théâtre Français.

This falsification is especially common in singing, though it is no less
revolting in that field of art. How often at concerts - the force of
tradition saves us at the theatre - do we hear even artists of great
reputation pronounce:

"_Quel jour prosp'' plus de mystè..er_," instead of: "_Quel jour
prospère plus de mystère._" And, in one of the choruses of the opera
"_La Reine de Chypre_":

"_Jamais, jamais en Fran ... anç'
Jamais l'Anglais ne régnera!_"

Instead of:

"_Jamais, jamais en France,
Jamais l'Anglais ne régnera!_"

This anomaly is most offensive in the final syllable of a verse, because
there the measure is more impaired than ever, and in this way that
alternation of male and female rhymes is suppressed, which produces so
flowing and graceful a cadence in French verse.

_E mute before a Vowel._

The encounter of E mute in a final syllable, with the initial vowel of
the word which follows it, makes the defect more apparent and
accordingly easier to fight against.

Delsarte's process was as follows: When a silent syllable is
immediately followed by a word beginning with another vowel, the E mute
(by a prolongation of the sound of the penultimate) is suppressed with
the next letter. Thus in the aria of _Joseph_ (opera by Méhu):

"_Loin de vous a langui ma jeune.. sexilée;_" and in _Count Ory: "Salut,
ô vénéra ... blermite._"

In these cases, by an unfortunate spirit of compensation, the abettors
of the innovation, suppressing the grammatical elision, sing thus:

"_Loin de vous a langui ma jeune ... ess'exilée."
"Salut, ô vénréra ... abl'erm ... it!_"

Littré's Dictionary gives us the same pronunciation as Delsarte; and his
written demonstration is even more positive. We find _favorables
auspices, arbres abattus_, written in this way:
"_fa-vo-ra-ble-z-auspices, arbre-z-abattus._"

It is, however, very difficult to express these differences exactly, in
type: what Littré expresses _radically_ by typographic characters, is
blended with most natural delicacy by the voice of a singer.

Thus, according to Delsarte, the E mute of a final syllable should be
suppressed before a vowel, on condition of a prolongation of the sound,
in harmony with the penultimate syllable.

According to Delsarte again, according to Voltaire, according to Littré,
the E mute is weakened, more or less, but never completely suppressed,
before a consonant.

Finally Legouvé, whose voice is preponderant in these matters, whose
books are in the hands of the whole world, has never entered into this
_lettricidal_ conspiracy.

I hope to be pardoned this long digression, thinking it my duty to
protest against such a ludicrous method of treating French prosody; I do
so both in the name of æsthetics and as a part of my task as biographer
of Delsarte.[6]

Chapter III.

Was Delsarte a Philosopher?

If we consider philosophy in the light of all the questions upon which
it touches, the subjects which it embraces, we must answer "No;" but if
we concentrate the word within the limits of æsthetics, we may reply in
the affirmative. Did not Delsarte point out the origin of art, its
object and its aim?

Not that this master never exceeded the limits of his science and his
method. He had sketched out a "Treatise on Reason," and had begun to
classify the faculties of being, entering into the subject more
profoundly than the categories of Kant; but all this only exists in mere
outline, in a technology whose terms have not been weighed and connected
together by a solid chain of reasoning: logic has not uttered its final
word therein.

A separate volume would be required to give an idea of these _gigantic
sketches_, which must remain in their rudimentary state.

If Delsarte had finished his work, it would seem that he must have
leaned toward the scholastic method, now so much out of favor; but
certainly he would put his own personality into this, as into everything
that he undertook to investigate; for he was held back on the steeps of
mysticism by the science which he had created, and which could only
afford a shelter to the supernatural as an extension of those psychical
faculties which have been called intuition, imagination, etc.

Then the influence of Raymond Brucker, who died shortly after Delsarte,
being lessened, and conscientious and patient study having fed the flame
in that vast brain, we might have obtained affirmations of a new order.
And Delsarte might have met with thinkers like Leibnitz, Descartes and
Jean Reynaud, on that height where religion is purged of superstition
and fanaticism, philosophy set free from atheism and materialism!

If Delsarte had a fault, it was that he regarded all modern philosophy
as sensuous naturalism; and if reason sometimes seemed to him
suspicious, it was because he often confounded it with sophistry, which
reasons indeed, but is far from being _reason_.

Let us regret that Delsarte never finished his complete philosophy; but
let us be grateful to him for having raised his art and all arts to the
level of philosophy, by giving them truth as a basis and morality as a
final aim; which fairly justifies, it seems to me, the title of
_artist-philosopher_, which I have sometimes applied to him.

I should not neglect, in this connection, to set down the explanation,
given by Delsarte, of what he meant by the word _trinity_, as used in
his scientific system. The reader cannot fail to see the elements of a
system of philosophy in this succinct statement, this outline to be
filled up:

"The principle of the system lies in the statement that there is in the
world a universal formula which may be applied to all sciences, to all
things possible: - this formula is _the trinity_.

"What is requisite for the formation of a trinity?

"Three expressions are requisite, each presupposing and implying the
other two. Each of three terms must imply the other two. There must also
be an absolute co-necessity between them; thus, the three principles of
our being - life, mind and soul - form a trinity.


"Because life and mind are one and the same soul; soul and mind are one
and the same life; life and soul are one and the same mind."

Chapter IV.

Course of Applied Æsthetics.

_Meeting of the Circle of Learned Societies_.

Independently of its method, which was especially applicable to dramatic
and lyric arts, Delsarte's doctrine, as we have seen, drew from the
primordial sources, which are the law of things, the principles of all
poetry, all art and all science. The intense light which he brought
thence was too dazzling for young scholars, whose minds were rarely
prepared by previous education. It, nevertheless, overflowed into the
daily lessons, and gave them that peculiar and somewhat singular aspect,
which acted even upon those whose intelligence could not cope with it.
Such is the mysterious magic of things which penetrate before they

But these lofty problems demanded an audience in harmony with their
elevation. Delsarte soon attracted such. Under the title "Course of
Applied Æsthetics," he collected in various places, notably at the
"Circle of Learned Societies," profane and sacred orators, and learned
men of all sorts. There he could develop points of view as new as they
seemed to be strikingly true. It was on leaving one of these meetings,
that a distinguished painter thus expressed his enthusiasm: "I have
learned so much to-day, and it is all so simple and so true, that I am
amazed that I never thought of it before."

The Course of Applied Æsthetics was addressed to painters, sculptors,
orators, as well as to musicians, both performers and composers; and was
finally extended to literary men. This audience of scholars was no less
astonished and enchanted than others had been.

_Theory of the Degrees_.

The theory of degrees was largely developed at these meetings, and I
have purposely delayed it till this chapter. To understand this
theory - one of the most striking points in Delsarte's method, and
original with him, - one should have some idea of the grammar which he
composed for the use of his pupils.

I will not say that this treatise was complete in the sense usually
attached to the word grammar. There is no mention of orthography or of
lexicology; but all that is the very essence of language, that from
which no language, no idiom can escape - the constituent parts of
speech - are examined and investigated from a philosophic and psychologic
point of view. Just as the author examined the constituent modalities of
our being in the light of æsthetics, he seized the affinities between
the laws of speech, as far as regards the voice - _logos_ - and the moral
manifestations of art.

This production of Delsarte has undergone the fate of almost all his
works - it has not been printed. Indeed, I greatly fear that, all his
notes on the subject can never be collected; nevertheless that which has
been gathered together presents a certain development. I will not enter
into the purely metaphysical part, limiting myself, as I have done from
the beginning of this study, to making known the conceptions of Delsarte
only in so far as they refer to the special field of æsthetics.

In this category, we find the following definitions which serve to
classify the quantitative values or degrees: that is the extent assigned
to each articulation or vocal emission to enable it to express the
thoughts, sentiments and sensations of our being in their truth and
proportionate intensity:

1. _Substantive_ is the name given to a group of appearances, to a
totality of attributes.

2. _Adjective_ expresses ideas, simple, abstract, general and
medicative; it is an abstraction in the substantive.

3. _Verb_ is the word that affirms the existence and the co-existence
between the being existing and its manner of existing: that is to say it
connects the subject with the attribute. The verb is not a sign of
action, but of affirmation, and existence.

4. The _participle_ alone is a sign of action.

5, 6, 7. The _article, pronoun and preposition_ fit into the common

8. The _adverb_ is the adjective of the adjective and of the participle
(in so far as it is an attribute of the verb); it modifies them both,
and is not modifiable by either of them; it is a sign of proportion, an
intellectual compass.

9. The _conjunction_ has the same function as the preposition: it unites
one object to another object; but it differs from it, inasmuch as the
preposition has but a single word for its antecedent, and a single word
for its objective case, while the conjunction has an entire phrase for
antecedent, and the same for complement. It characterizes the point of
view under the sway of which the relations should be regarded:
restrictive, as _but_; hypothetical or conditional, as _if?_ conclusive,
as _then_, etc., etc. The conjunction presents a general view to our
thought, it is the reunion of scattered facts; it is essentially

10. The _interjection_ responds to those circumstances where the soul,
moved and shaken by a crowd of emotions at once, feels that by uttering
a phrase it would be far from expressing what it experiences. It then
exhales a sound, and confides to gesture the transmission of its

The interjection is essentially elliptical, because, expressing nothing
in itself, it expresses at the time all that the gesture desires it to
express, for ellipsis is a hidden sense, the revelation of which belongs
exclusively to gesture.

It must first be noted that these degrees are numbered from one to nine,
and that, of all the grammatical values defined, the conjunction,
interjection and adverb are classed highest.

Delsarte made the following experiment one day in the "Circle of Learned
Societies," during a lecture:

"Which word," he asked his audience, "requires most emphasis in the
lines -

"The wave draws near, it breaks, and vomits up before our eyes,
Amid the surging foam, a monster huge of size?"

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