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it becomes loud on the high key. All passions cannot express
themselves in soft tones ; but they may all express themselves
in loud ones. The loudness of tone, therefore, is governed
by passion, without in itself being indicative of the character
of passion. But loudness in connection with key migh^
perhaps, be formed into a scale to denote the degrees of

It appears in the utterances, as connected or interrupted, as
free or suppressed, as rapid or slow. These, again, mark degrees
of excitement. Passion at its highest excitement is interrupted,
slow, and suppressed 5 at lesser degrees of excitement, connected,
free, and rapid.

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1848.] Philosophy of Expression in Oratory, 708

Above ally the lan^age af the tone appears in expression.
Of all the varieties of the tone that we have as yet enumerated,
softness alone marks a kind of passion, and is, therefore, involved
in expression. All the othe^rs mark only a state of the passions,
without being distinctive marks of the passions themselves.
But expression marks the kind of passion. It is that peculiarity
of tone which passion gives to the voice to denote its kind, and
to communicate with the human heart. But what is this pecu-
liarity of tone ? How can it be described ? We say, the tones
of love and tenderness, the tones of compassion, the tones of
confidence, the tones of fear and horror, the tones of malice,
cj^vy, jealousy, and revenge, &c. But can we say anything
further'? Can we tell what are the distinctive expressions of
these tones 1 It is impossible. They are like light and colors
known by the sensation, but incapable of being represented
under any symbols. Expression is but another name for the
language of passion itself, which we have already designated as
the universal language of the heart, which the heart always
speaks and always understands. It rec|uires to be described by
no other language, to be translated into no other language,
because the most perfect language in itself; and that it cannot
be described or translated is the very condition of its perfection.

The enquiry which we started respecting the origin of those
modifications of the voice which are essential to intelligible
speech, must extend itself, also, to those modifications of the
voice which belong to passion, and if the former cannot be
traced to custom, much less the latter. Intonations to mark the
thought might be a subject of convention, but conventional
intonations are precluded by the very idea of passion, which
never deliberates and contrives, but speaks and acts. The
signs of passion in the voice, like the signs of passion in the ejre
and in the muscles of the countenance, are an inspiration ot

A question here arises of a very interesting nature. Can the
language of passion in the tone be cultivated or made a subject
of education 1

In the first place, it is obvious from what has been said above, that
no rules can be laid down in language for the tones of passion,
nor any symbols contrived to represent them ; we can know them
only in themselves.

There are but two methods by which these tones could be
learned. Either by attending the public assemblies, if great
orators chance to be found there, and listening to their tones of
passion under the excitement which ^eat occasions and mo-
mentous interests produce, or by listening to the recitation of
passionate pieces by professors of elocution. The first would
undoubtedly be the superior method of the two, but Would be

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704 Philosophy of Expression in Oratory. [Oct

attended with the difficulty, that such schools of elocution would
be rare, their instructions infrequent, and accessible only to a
few. Yet, supposing it were otherwise, could the tones of
passion indeed be learned from the public speaking of great
orators t A little reflection will convince us that it is impracti-
cable. The orator speaks in the tones of passion, because he is
under the inspirations of passion ; with him it is nature and
truth, and, therefore, it is power. The student of oratory returns
home electrified by the display, and ambitious of imitating the
splendid modeU He attempts it, and catches tones and manner,
as he imagines, with tolerable success. But has he the genuine
tones of passion ? His tones confessedly are imitations, and,
therefore, must be artificial. The orator, rapt with his sub-
ject, and glowing with passion, forgets tone and manner, and it
IS because he forgets tone and manner, and yields himself to
thought and feeling, that he is what he is. While the student
<^ oratory, on the other hand, making the tone and manner his
objectj passes by the very power which produces them.

If the first method be impracticable then, ajbrtioriy the second
must be impracticable. A professor of elocution is himself either
an imitator or an actor. If ne is a mere imitator, inasmuch as he
has not the genuine tones of passion himself, he cannot teach
them. By an actor, we mean one who by a powerful imagination
tranrforming himself into the very character he represents, loses
his own being in the imagined being of another, and then speaks
like that being, under the full force oi imagined circumstances also,
the genuine language of passion. Such was Garrick. Such was
Siddons. Now a professor of elocution may have this high
and splendid power of genius. But still the tones of passion
cannot be learned from him, for the same reason that they
cannot be learned from a great orator. Nor will it be possible
for him, as it is not possible for any ^reat actor, to ^Te to
another the power of acting, however minute and laborious he
may be in his instructions ; and that for this plain reason, that
imagination and feeling cannot be taught. But if it were possible
to communicate the power of acting, this would not constitute
oratory. The orator speaks his own sentiments, the actor the
sentiments of another ; and although by the imagination the
sentiments of another should become for the time the sentiments
of the actor or of the pupil of this system ; still it would be a mo^
circuitous and unnatural way of amving at the power of speaking
one's own sentiments with the truth of passion, to practise in
imaginary situations. The conclusion is, therefore, inevitable,
that the tones of passion cannot be taught, or made directly the
subject of education.

The intellectual powers frame their language by studied and

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1848.] Pkihsophy of Expression in Oratory. 705

laborious efforts. But it is the absolute and unvarying condition
of the language of the passions, that it be unstudied. This holds
true both with respect to the thought and the tone. The Ian-
^age cannot be spoken unless the passion is present, and then
It has the spontaneity, strength, and splendor of inspiration;
then every heart becomes a conductor, and in the largest masses
the passion is at once everywhere present, to thrill and to subdue.

There are many facts which illustrate and confirm these

The first we shall mention, and one, too, most worthy of notice,
is that great orators have never been made in the schools of
oratory. We believe it is equally true that no great actor has
ever been formed by theatrical discipline. They may have
labored like Demosthenes to overcome natural defects, to
strengthen the voice, to acquire a clear and correct pronunciation,
to remove bad habits ; they must have labored to furnish the
intellect, and to acquire a command of their native tongue. But
the language of passion they were never taught, and they were
great Mcause thev never affected it but left it to its proper
power, knowing full well that studied contrivances can no
more make the language of passion, than passion can make
studied contrivances. Another fact no less curious than im-
portant is, that many great orators and actors have never
appeared at the same time. There was but one Pericles in
Athens, in the time of Pericles; but one Demosthenes, in
the time of Demosthenes ; but one Cicero in Rome ; but
one Chatham in the British Parliament; but one Patrick
Henry in the Legislature of Virginia; and a Garrick and a
Siddons appeared without competitors. Now, if the tones of
passion can be taught, why have not orators and actors multiplied
themselves since multitudes hung in admiration upon their lips 7
But instead of multiplying themselves, their very splendor and per-
fection prevented it and retained them in solitary conspicuity.
The passions as independent and formative powers were for*

5otten and became impersonated in their great representatives,
'o speak the language of the passions was to speak like Demos-
thenes, or like Garrick : the aspirant lost the consciousness of that
which was within himself in endeavoring to copy the model with-
out; and as no one could speak like Demosthenes, or like Garrick,
without feeling like them, the efforts to imitate produced at best
plausible counterfeits, and often disgusting caricatures. Have
we not ourselves frequently observed the very striking effects of
the same influence ; how, when at the bar, or in the pulpit, or at
the head of a literary institution, some man of distinguished
powers of oratory has bjeen found, those who aimed at oratorical
accom{)lishments strove to copy his tones and manner, multiplying
his caricatures without ever producing among all their numbers

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706 Philosophy of Expression in Oratory. [Oct.

eren a duplicate of the orator himself? They forgot the secret of
his power, which lay in experiencing passion, while they merely
imitated its external manifestations.

Again — great orators have generally appeared during times of
high excitement — when liberty or religion were contending for
their rights* Then all the powers of the soul are led on by the
highest energies of passion ; then the poor tricks of art are de-
spised, and nature speaks. In addition to this, we find that all
men are orators when under the strong movements of noble pas-
sion. Compassion, benevolence, patriotism, religion, in their
genuine and commanding influences unloose the tongue as they
open the heart of any man. Some of the most brilliant displays
of oratory are made by the untutored savage, simply because he
feels deeply and speaks only as he feels.

We mention another fact. In Greece and Rome the decline
of oratory began with and in the schools of the rhetoricians.
The great masters of oratory were formed under the hand of
nature. But when in the power and consideration which they
attained, the value of oratory was seen, then numerous teachers
sprang up and endeavored to rival nature by the rules of art. But
as the true motive and the plastic energy were wanting thejr pro-
duced merely showy forms of elaborate finish, without life or
expression, which gained popularity only when the occasions of
genuine eloquence had ceased, and persevering pomp and pre-
tension had succeeded in corrupting the public taste.

It is to be noticed, also, as a fiact of no uncommon occurrence,
that orators whose power we are compelled to acknowledge are,
notwithstanding, obnoxious to criticism. This admits of only
one explanation. Their bad pronunciation, their awkward
gesticulations, their harsh and provincial tones, although forming
serious defects, cannot prevent the language of the passions
from reaching the heart.

Contrasted with this is the fact, that those who have prac-
ticed with care under what is esteemed the best instruction
fail to affect us. They, indeed, may be considered beyond
criticism. The emphasis and inflexions are all made at the
proper places. The intonations are clear and elegant. The
bursts of passion apt and striking, and the gesture graceful. We
admire the speaker, but we do not feel the power of eloquence.
Instead of giving effect to thought, the thought becomes only the
occasion and instrument of personal display. In the former
instances, all the graces and proprieties may be wanting, but die

{presence of the soul of oratory compensates for their absence,
n the latter instances, all the graces and proprieties are present^
but the soul of oratory is wanting, for which nothing can com-
There is still another fact : the professed teachers of otatory

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1848. J Philosophy of Expression in Oratory. 707

are rarely found to exert the powers of oratory. They are,
indeed, nice in criticism, and often elegant and pleasing in their
recitations, but still they are mere imitators, or, at the highest,
actors. If mere imitators, then their rules have most signally failed-
with respect to themselves. They have not attained to the
language of the passions. Or, suppose them to have gained the
high and fascinating power of acting, still this is not oratory.
They do not present iis the example of speaking one's own
sentiments with a truth and power to electrify and subdue.
Imitation and acting not only fail in presenting us oratory in
themselves, they do not even contain the discipline of oratory.
Why do not those who are great in both exert the power of
oratory *? Why do they not control the bar, surround the pulpit
with conviction, hold the assemblies of the people in silence by
the majesty of truth, and fill the senate with their thunders ? If
imitation and acting formed the discipline of oratory, those who
are accomplished in both ought to give us the illustrations in
their own persons. But it is not difficult to prove that the habits
induced by these arts are unfavorable to oratorv. With respect
to the first, namely, imitation, can an artificial discipline of the
Toice prepare it for speaking the tones of nature? Can the
affected utterance of the sentiments of another, which you do not
feel, prepare you for the impassioned utterance of your own
sentiments t No more than the heart can be taught to feel by
affecting feeling, or the countenance be made to express the
genuine emotions of the soul through the grimaces of hypocrisy.
Oratory and imitation are not the same in kind, they are op-
posites. Their resemblance is only the resemblance of the
counterfeit to the real ; but the counterfeit can never be trans-
muted into the real.

With respect to acting, it also is not the same in kind. The
actor imagines a character and circumstances, and then speaks
under the influence of passions awakened by these imagi-
nations. He thus becomes habituated to speak out of his proper
self. He is Richard or Hamlet. The more complete the trans-
formation, the better for his purpose. But how different is
this from speaking on a real occasion, where the subject is
connected with the speaker's heart, without the intervention
of the imagination. It is easy to perceive that the habits of
mind, generated bjr the real, cannot assimilate with those gene-
rated by the imaginary occasion. The first is direct thinking
and feeling, connected with present and visible interests, and
actual responsibilities, and, therefore, sustained and flowing on.
The other is without original thought, with feelings limited to
the remote, attended with no sense of responsibility, and evanes-
cent as a dream. Could Qarrick have taken the place of
Chatham? — ^were his habits of thought and feeling such as to fit

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108 Philosophy of Expression in OraUnry. [Oct*

him for the oratory of Chatham 1 As well might Chatham have
taken the place of Garrick.

The enquiry will here be made : If it be true that theJanguage
of passion cannot be taught, then ought not Elocution, as a
branch of education, to be exploded ? Elocution, according to
the current acceptation, ought to be exploded ; but in its place,
the true study oi oratory can be introduced.

All will agree that the study of oratory can relate to only two
things — the qualities of the voice and the qualities of the thought.
Now, our argument is, that the qualities of the voice depend
upon the qualities of the thought, so that the former can be deve-
loped only through the latter. The peculiar manner of deliver-
bg language, was at first inspired and fixed by the sentiments.
Now, although we may form rules by watching the voice, whelk
under the energies of passion, yet there must be an insurmount*
able difficulty m the way of reducing them to practice, inasmuch
as when we watch the tones, in order to conform to the rules, we
divert the mind from the inspirations of the sentiment An ar-
gument in favor of cultivating the tones of passion, has been
drawn from the astonishing enects which cultivation produces on
the voice with respect to musical execution. The cases, how-
ever, are by no means parallel. Music, although capable of
adaptation to sentiment, is not the expression of it. Language,
on the other hand, is the direct expression of sentiment. In
music, the voice is not obeving any particular passion or senti-
ment, but is passing through changes by fixed scientific connec-
tions. In oratory, the very condition is, that the voice obey the
passion and sentiment. The one is the law of melody, and the
other the law of the heart.

There is a cultivation, however, to which the voice may be
submitted, of a very important character. If it be defective
or weak, it may be corrected and strengthened by judicious
exercise, vdthout reference to sentiment. This was the case of
Demosthenes ; his efibrts were not to acquire the tones of pas-
sion, but to cure physical defects, namely, weakness and stam-
mering. Music may be cultivated in reference to the inflexions
and compass of the voice, as preparatory to oratory. A clear
articulation and a correct pronunciation are capital qualities,
which are also to be cultivated as preparatory to oratory*
Those modifications of the voice which have reference to the
intelligibility of language, such as emphasis, and the rising, fall*
ing, and circumflex inflexions, should be cultivated by exercises
in reading. This is necessary, especially for two reasons : first,
when taught to read in childhood through injudicious instruction
we acquire habits of intonation which are anything but natural.
These are apt to adhere more or less to the individual afterwards.
Now these, or any other errors, as respects intelligible speaking,

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1848.] Philosophy of Expression in Oratory. 709

may be corrected by reading' exercises, and the roice restored to
the influence of nature. Secondly: reading has an elocution of
its own, which we may attend to without conflicting with the
higher power of oratory. In mere correct reading we give a pe-
culiarity to the tone which indicates that we are expressing the
sentiments of another, we do not attempt to imitate or to act.
Now it is important that we do this with a good articulation and
intelligibly ; and this may be attained by practice. But if the
piece to be read contain the language of passion, then at once art
will fail, and the inspirations of passion must be relied upon.
To read such a piece by rule, however elegantly, is treason
against nature, for which we shall receive a retribution in the
production of artificial habits.

Declamation also, with certain restrictions, may be introduced
into our educational system. The pieces selected may be of the
narrative or descriptive kind, where the speaker is not required to
assume a character, but where he may speak under the influence of
his own naturally-awakened feeling. But then he ought not to
speak such pieces, unless, upon tnal, he finds his own feelings
readily entering into them. The sentimental are the best, but the
sentiments should be such as the speaker feels interested
in, such as he can easily make his own, such as he feels
he would himself have written had he possessed the ability. The
principle is, to select such pieces as will lead to the habit of ex-
pressing our own sentiments with unaffected interest. But what
shall we think of the practice of mounting the stage and, in the
character of Hannibal or Bonaparte addressing an army on the
eve of battle ; or in the character of Antony maicing a speech over
the body of Cssar ; or in the character of Hamlet uttering a
soliloquy ; or in the character of satan making a speech to the
fallen spirits in Pandemonium 1 If this were action it would
not be oratory. But it cannot be action. No imagination is vivid
enough for the performance. It is nothing more than a miserable,
absurd, and ridiculous attempt at imitation. If oratory cannot be
gained in this way, why practice it 1 It is worse than no instruc-
tion to learn what must be hereafter unlearned when we come
upon the great theatre of the world, where every man must act
his own character, and where, not frothy declamation, but burn-
ing thought must speak to men.

Another method of cultivating oratory, is the speaking of ori-
ginal compositions. This cannot be followed with too much
assiduity. If performed carelessly it avails little ; but if the com-
positions be prepared with pains and a laudable ambition, if the
subject be one m which the writer is interested, and which he
feels desirous to impress upon his hearers, there will be in the
whole performance a salutary discipline, both as respects elo-
quence of style and genuine oratory.

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710 Philosophy of Expression in Oratory. fOct.

Forensic debates are superior to all other exercises, when pro-
perly conducted. The speaker should speak only from his own
convictions, he should make ample preparation in the thought, and
then yield himself to the interest and ardor of discussion. Such
exercises may give birth to oratory ; they certainly will prepare
the way. Here mind comes in conflict with mind, and the studied
gesture and artificial tone are forgotten. The arts and tricks of
a spurious oratory could not be made to appear more despicable
than by introducing them into the forum.

In forming the orator, however, the principal discipline relates
to the thoughts and feelings. Oratory is composed of the tones
which thought and feeling inspire, and the thought and feeling
contain the only true measure of the oratory. The loftier thought,
the nobler and more glowing feeling of one mind will mark the
superiority of his oratory, if he speak inartificially. But still die
humbler thought, and the less soaring passion of another, will
have its measure of oratory.

Whilst, therefore, all that direct attention should be paid to
oratory which has been remarked above, let it be remembered that
the finished and disciplined intellect, the purified and exalted
heart, and a thorough ac(}uaintance with language, form its springs.
One of the strongest objections against popular elocution is, tnat
it deludes its pupils into the belief that they have became orators
by the cultivation of the voice, while as yet its fountains have
not been opened in the soul. Oratory is not an accomplishment
of the schoolboy, but the attribute of a ripened and godlike mind.

As a specimen of oratory, let us take the oratory of Lord
Bacon, as described by Ben Jonson : ^^ There happened in my
time one noble speaker who was full of gravity in his speaking.
No man ever spoke more neatly, more pressly, more mightily, or
suffered less emptiness, less idleness, in what he uttered. No
member of his speech but consisted of its own graces. His
hearers could not cough, or look aside from him without loss.
He commanded when he spoke, and had his judges angry ixt
pleased at his devotion. Tne fear of every man that heard him
was, that he should make an end.''

There is but one thing more that we shall mention as a part of
this discipline and preparation for oratory. It is this, to enter
into the world neither as an isolated nor as a selfish being, but
with all the generous sympathies of humanity, feeling that the
great interests of the world are common interests in which all must
bear a part. These interests are expressed by a few words, but
how vast their relations ! Art, science, law, politics, and reli-
gion. He that will enter the world to prosecute these in truth and
righteousness, must think, and feel, and speak ; and then thought
will be the birth of wisdom, and feeling will be the soul of
speech, and such speech will be oratory.

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1848.J Review of FiuTiey's Theology. 71 1

To conclude, all that can be done for oratory in education is
merely preparatory. We might as well try to make poets as to
make orators. We may prescribe fitting and genial studies and
exercises, but the orator, as well as the poet, can alone make
himself, or must be made by an inspiration from heaven.


Online LibraryWashington (State) Office of commissioner of publiThe Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 4 → online text (page 86 of 93)