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but not rapidly, from side to side; the eyes being directed generally to those of the persons who are addressed, but not fastening particularly on individuals. The abstraction of the mind, implied in the appropriate recitation of some pieces in poetry, may, however, render it inconsistent to give to delivery the air of address; as, for example, in the reciting of any pássage in which a distant or imaginary scene is called up vividly to the thoughts. The eyes should, in such cases, be directed away from those of the audience, and be fixed on vacancy. All inappropriate and ungraceful play or working of the features, should be carefully avoided.
POSITION AND MOVEMENT OF THE HAND.
Remarks. The hand is, in most forms of action, the great organ of the mind. Its power of expression in communication, when used alone, or accompanied by speech, is peculiar and extensive. The position or action of the hand invites, repels, refuses, rejects, implores, or threatens, more forcibly than even the voice or the countenance. The language and meaning of gesture lie in the hand; and these cannot be expressed without an appropriate use of this organ. The arm is, in gesture, but the inferior agent to move and exert the hand, the great instrument of all expression addressed to the eye. The tones of the voice, and the action of the features, are, no doubt, the chief vehicles of meaning. But next to these comes the hand, as an important agent in delivery; and, in some kinds of emotion, it even takes the precedence of the voice:in all those passions, for instance, which by their excess tend to render the tongue mute. In unimpassioned speaking, the gesture of the hand is not so prominent; but it still serves a useful purpose in
accompanying, aiding, and enforcing the impressions produced by the voice. It helps to concentrate the action of the senses towards the objects which are presented to the mind, and, though a subordinate, is yet an indispensable, instrument of appropriate and impressive delivery.
ERRORS. The chief faults in the position of the hand, are,
1. A feeble gathering in of the fingers towards the palm. [See Fig. 19.]
The proper use of the hand is thus lost. As the fingers are bent in, in this position, they hide the palm,-a part which bears the same reference to the use of the hand in gesture, that the countenance does to the head. Without the exhibition of the features, there can be no meaning gathered from the view of the head; so without the exposure of the palm, there is no expression in the hand. The open hand is essential to most gestures, on the principle that such a position, and no other, harmonizes with the idea of communication. The error now objected to will appear in its true light, if we advert to the difference between the acts of giving and receiving, as they influence the position of the hand. Suppose, for a moment, the case of two persons in the attitudes relatively, of giving and receiving alms. The individual who receives the gift, holds his hand in a hollow position, for the sake of receiving and retaining what is bestowed; while the individual who bestows, necessarily opens the hand, to convey to that of the other the gift which is conferred. The position, in the former case, which is nearly that now mentioned as a fault, is that of reception, and cannot be appropriate in delivery, which is an act of communication or of transferring. The hand partly closed has no speaking expression to the eye; to produce this effect, it must be opened fully and freely. [See Fig. 20.]
2. A flat and square position of the hand, with the fingers straight and close. [See Figs. 21 and 22.]
This position has to the eye the effect of the mechanical placing of a piece of board, rather than the appropriate appearance of a human hand,-from which the idea of pliancy can never be naturally separated. The awkward air of this position is much increased, if the thumb is placed close to the fingers. [See Fig. 22.] The want of separation in the placing of the fingers, has an influence nearly as unfavourable as that of allowing the hand to be partly closed.
3. A half pointing position of the fingers, which has neither the definiteness of pointing, nor the speaking expression of the open hand. [See Fig. 23.]
This fault savours of studied and artificial grace, whilst every point of detail in gesture should be characterized by a natural and manly freedom.
4. An indefinite spreading of the fingers, which lacks energy and expression. [See Fig. 24.]
This style of position has, unavoidably, a vague and feeble character, which impairs the effect of gesture, and seems to take away the expression of life from the hand.
5. A displayed position of the fingers, differing from the correct position, by inclining the little finger outward and downward, instead of inward; and parting it too widely from the other fingers. [See Fig. 25.]
This position seems studied, finical, and affected; it produces the effect of caricature, and, from its mincing style, is unavoidably associated with feebleness.
6. Too frequent use of the repressing gesture which turns the palm downward. [See Fig. 26.]
This gesture is appropriate in particular descriptive passages of poetry, but is unsuitable for but is unsuitable for prose, unless in a highly imaginative style.
7. Too frequent use of the pointing gesture, which
gives an unnecessary peculiarity and emphasis to
This position of the hand is appropriate and expressive in particular allusions and emphatic descriptions. But its propriety in such circumstances, suggests equally its unsuitableness for a prevailing gesture. There are three faults very common in the manner of pointing; all of which render the frequency of the gesture more striking and disagreeable. The first of these is the gathering up, and pressing tight with the thumb, all the fingers but the one which points; and the pointing finger projected perfectly straight. There is a rigidness of expression in this style, which is unfavourable in its effect on the eye. [See Fig. 27.] The second fault is the opposite one, of all the fingers bending feebly inward, and the thumb scarcely, if at all, touching them; the fore-finger not projecting sufficiently to suit the purpose of pointing. [See Fig. 28.] The third fault is that of letting the hand droop from the wrist downward; the fingers generally, and the thumb spreading to a great distance, and the forefinger rising at the middle. [See Fig. 29.]
8. Placing the hand edgewise, with the fingers straight and close. [See Fig. 30.]
The motion produced in consequence of this position, is like that of an instrument for cutting, but possesses none of the appropriate effects of delivery.
9. Clenching the hand, in the expression of great energy. [See Fig. 31.]
This form of action may be natural and appropriate in the intense excitement produced by some of the boldest flights of poetry, in which the presence of others is forgotten by the speaker, when he becomes entirely rapt in an imaginary scene of vehement passion. But it is utterly inappropriate in public discourse or address, which always implies the speaker's consciousness of his auditory; a just respect to whom should forbid all indecorous action, all approach to
bullying attitudes, and, on the same general principle, all extravagant expressions of excitement.
RULE. The position of the hand in the recitation of poetry, depends on the emotion which is expressed in the language of the piece; and the intensity of feeling which is peculiar to poetry gives rise to varied attitude and action, and, consequently, to various positions, of the hand. But in declamation, or speaking in the form of address, variety is not generally so important to the effect of delivery. Energy and propriety become, in such exercises, the chief objects of attention; and although there are some prose pieces entirely imaginative or romantic in character, and occasional passages in most speeches which produce a strong emotion; yet the general style of a public address may be considered as differing widely from the manner of poetic excitement, and inclining to the plainer forms of gesture, and consequently to the ordinary positions of the hand, when used for enforcing sentiment, rather than for expressing effects produced on the imagination. Pointing, and other varieties of gesture, may be occasionally proper in declamation; but the prevailing action should be that of earnest assertion and persuasive appeal, which are expressed with the open hand.
The appropriate position of the hand, for the common purposes of speaking, implies that it is fully open, with an expression combining firmness, freedom, and grace; the palm sloping moderately from the wrist. towards the fingers, and from the thumb towards the fourth or little finger;-avoiding thus the flat position mentioned among the errors on this point; the thumb freely parted from the fingers, but not strained; the fore-finger nearly straight, and moderately parted from the other fingers; the two fingers in the middle of the