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necessary preliminary in every case of improvement. But you and Master E. exaggerated, and, I think, caricatured the scenes you have described so graphically, with a view no doubt to add some life to our conversation, as well as argument for industry and rigid criticism.
How much mortification, expense, and loss of time would be saved, if children were always properly instructed, and kept on a steady course! but few enjoy that fortune : in general, very much of the business of succeeding years consists in getting rid of the bad habits, errors and prejudices contracted in previous ones.
It is my wish that our conversation while here should take a range wide enough to afford each an opportunity to ask questions, and to contribute from his own reflections, or from books, whatever he may think interesting on the subject of elocution.
G.–The author of TelemachusI cannot now call his name
A.-Fenelon, Bishop of Cambray.
G.–Thank you. In some of his writings, he says, a speaker’s body must betray action, when there is movement in his words; and his body must remain in repose when what he utters is of a level, simple, unimpassioned character. Nothing seems to me so shocking and absurd as the sight of a man lashing himself to a fury in the utterance of tame things. The more he sweats, the more he freezes my very blood.
T.--Yes, truly, nothing could be more just, nor more pertinent. It is what every body feels; but what few could so well express.
A.—I have been trying to call up an anecdote, which the same author, I think, tells of himself; as a practical illustration of making too much of a character, and drawing too deeply upon the sympathies of an audience. It occurred while he was preaching the funeral sermon of the Duchess, who, I believe, was not known to be the most distinguished for the purity of her life. After, he says, I had given a long list of her virtues and graces, and swept the whole catalogue of ancient and modern heroines, and finding among them all, no parallel ; I exclaimed with increased warmth, Where shall we place thee? the beautiful, the lovely, the sainted one! where shall we place thee ? At that moment, a gentleman rising, looked up with provoking gravity; and pointing to the place where he had been sitting, exclaimed, “Here, Sir, in my seat—I am léaring it."
T.--An excellent anecdote, and well told ! but in our places of worship at the present day, to show up such a piece of affectation in the same way, would be a great outrage : it would be far better to forego the wit, than to desecrate the place. I have seen the anecdote before ; I cannot say where : but you have dressed it up in your own style ; and, I think, with some embellish.ment.
H.-While reading a passage in the life of Sir Isaac Newton, the other day, I was forcibly reminded of the instruction which is so repeatedly urged here,—that all improvement in our manners, gestures and every thing else, depends on attention. Being asked how he had discovered the true system of the universe, he replied, “By continually thinking upon it. If I have done the world any service, it was due to nothing but industry In just
and patient thought : I kept the subject under consideration constantly before me, and waited till the first dawning opened gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
J.-Since we are upon quotations, I will offer one from Austin's Chironomia on Articulation. articulation, the words are not hurried over, nor precipitated syllable over syllable. They are delivered out from the lips as beautiful coins, newly issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed, perfectly finished, neatly struck by the proper organs, distinct, sharp, in due succession, and of due weight.
T.–These are beautiful gems, and it is beautiful to see youth treasuring them up for future ornament and use : to see them putting their fingers, as it were, upon the very mainsprings of knowledge : and going on under the strong conviction that upon themselves they depend mainly for all their future improvement !
J.-So we are to suppose that whatever means we employ to perfect ourselves in the art of reading and speaking, when the work is fully accomplished, we shall do just as if nature directed and controlled the whole.
T.-Yes : and if you ever become distinguished speakers—and I have no doubt many of you will—all will be ready to exclaim, that do not understand the true secret, What wonderful gifts nature has bestowed upon these young gentlemen!
CONVERSATION-BETWEEN MR. GORDON, HIS FAMILY, DR. BURKE, THEIR
PASTOR, AND DR. ABBOTT.
Mr. Gordon.-My son William has been looking over Austin's Chironomia, and some other works on elocution, and has become quite interested in the plates.
Dr. Abbott.-And what opinion have you formed from studying them, Master Gordon ?
Wm. G. - That the work we use is so far defective.
Dr. A.-And did not the thought occur to you that the author might have good reason for omitting such figures ?
Wm. G.-If he had, I should like to know what they are ; for I have been much gratified in looking at them, and, I think, profited.
Dr. Burke.—And I feel a curiosity to hear, too, what can be urged against a practice that has now become all the rage.
Dr. A.—As it regards illustrations in other works, I have nothing to say, only that it appears at the present time to be carried to a ridiculous extent: for poets and novelists need but to use the word tree, cow, cat or cottage, and there stands the picture ; as if this would help us to a clearer notion of them than what has been imparted by seeing every day the objects themselves. I think I can see very plainly why pictorial displays of passions and gestures should have no place in such a work.
Mrs. G.-How could our children ever gain so clear views of the strong passions that agitate the soul as from these pictures ? And then, the outlines of gesture and attitudes—why, Sir, by means of these diagrams, they come to know an orator from all other figures, as readily as they know a pump from a common post.
Dr. A.–And these are among the strong reasons why I would reject them. Children are led away from the field of their own experience and observation, into that of imagination ; and so, robbed of a most attractive charm—the simplicity of nature. She furnishes looks, attitudes and motions for every strong passion, better far than any art can supply : let the real passion be felt, and all these concomitants are sure to be associated : where it is not, all means to show it effect but the counterfeit--a mere picture display.
Dr. B.-But if all these pictures, that represent the passions, are true to nature, what special harm can there be in studying them ? they cannot tend to what is unnatural ; and may tend to a better imitation of nature.
Dr. A.—Yes, they may, I grant you, if those who use them have the requisite knowledge and experience ; just as an artist may attain to the highest finish by studying the best specimens of his art. But admit they are true to nature—although in general they are notthey are false guides ; for they show only the most prominent cases; and such are very rarely required. They go wholly beyond the experience of the class for whom