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“Grace,” says lord Kames, “may be defined, that agreeable appearance which arises from elegance of motion, and from a countenance expressive of dignity. Expressions of other mental qualities are not essential to that appearance, but they heighten it greatly.”
The gracefulness of rhetorical action depends partly on the person, and partly on the mind. Some are so happily formed that all their motions are graceful ;* and some minds are so noble, that they impart genuine grace to the most uncouth forms: both these cases, however, are comparatively rare.
Grace, like the ideal beauty of the painter, and of the sculptor, is not commonly to be found in the individual living model, but to be collected from the various excellencies of the many.
Neither true grace, nor consummate eloquence, can be acquired by those who are totally deficient in natural qualifications; yet they to whom nature has not denied some portion of talents, may improve in both, precisely in proportion to the degree of their application.
The grace of oratorical action consists, chiefly, in the facility, the freedom, the variety, and the simplicity of those gestures which illustrate the discourse.
Action, to be graceful, should be performed with facility ; because the appearance of great effort is incompatible with ease, which is a constituent of grace It should also be performed with freedom: no gestures can be graceful which are either confined by external circumstances, or restrained by the mind. If an orator should address an assembly from a narrow window, it
Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye,
would be in vain for him to attempt graceful gesture Confinement, in any less degree, is proportionably in. jurious to grace. Thus, the crowded courts, which impede the inotions of the advocate, and the enclosed pulpit, which not unfrequently conceals more than half the preacher's figure, are equally injurious to graceful action. Greece, the native soil of manly eloquence and true taste, was not the originator of the pulpit.
The restraint arising from diffidence is also prejudicial to grace. It has, however, this advantage - 't may be effectually corrected by perseverance.
For the maintenance of grace, in rhetorical action, variety is indispensable. The iteration of the same gesture, or set of gestures, however graceful in themselves, betrays a poverty of resource which is altogether prejudicial to the speaker.
Simplicity and truth of manner, if they do not constitute grace in themselves, are inseparable from it. Gestures which are manifestly contrived for the mere display of the person, or for the exhibition of some foppery, as, for instance, a fine ring, instantly offend.
To simplicity of gesture is opposed affectation, which destroys every pretension to genuine grace. The more showy the gestures are, unless they are adapted to the subject, and to the character of the speaker, the more do they offend the judicious by their manifest affectation. When the profligate speaks of piety, the miser of gene. rosity, the coward of valour, and the corrupt of interrity, they are only the more despised by those who know them.
The faults of manner are analogous to those of character, and almost equally disgusting : such as the assumption of dignity where there is none in the sentiment; pathos, where there is nothing interesting; vehemence in trifles, and solemnity upon common-place subjects.
It is an observation founded in fact, that the action of young children is never deficient in grace: for which
two reasons may be assigned; first, because they are under no restraint from diffidence, or from any other cause, and therefore use their gestures, with all 'sincerity of heart, only to aid the expression of their thoughts; and, secondly, because they have few ideas of imitation, and consequently are not deprived of natural grace by affectation, nor perverted by bad models.
The grace of action, according to Hogarth, consists in moving the body and limbs in that curve which he calls the line of beauty.* When action is considered independent of language and sentiment, this definition will, perhaps, be found generally correct. Rhetorical action, however, derives its grace, not only from the actual motions of the speaker, but also from the congruity of his motions with his own character and situation, as well as with the sentiments which he delivers. The dignity which is a becoming grace in a judge, would be quaint affectation in a young advocate; and the colloquial, but graceful familiarity of action, even of the most polished society, would be highly indecorous in the pulpit. Hence, it must be admitted, according to the just maxim of Cicero and Quintilian, that decorum constitutes true oratorical grace; and that this decorum admits of great variety of action, under different circumstances. Vehement action is sometimes both decorous and graceful; so also are abrupt and short gestures, if they bear the impress of truth and suitableness. Such are the gestures of an old man, when he is irritated. But the most flowing and beautiful motions, the grandest preparations, and the finest transitions of gesture, ill applied, and out of time, lose their natural character of grace, and become indecorous, ridiculous, or offensive.
See Hogarth's ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY.