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hand, close together, and inclining somewhat inward; the fourth finger parted at some distance from the others, and inclining more inwardly than any. [See Fig. 32.1
This position of the hand, when minutely analyzed, may, at first view, seem complex and comparatively difficult; but the difficulty is more apparent than real; for it is the natural posture of the hand, in reference to the common and habitual actions of life; the fore-finger inclining to a straighter and firmer position than the other fingers, because more constantly in exercise, and therefore rendered more rigid; the second and third fingers inclining somewhat inward, as not possessing the force and firmness of the fore-finger, and keeping close together, as they naturally do in the common actions of grasping, lifting, &c.; and the fourth finger inclining more inwardly than any, because the feeblest of the fingers. The parting of the fore-finger and the little finger from the rest, is essential to the idea of the hand presented fully and freely open.*
The embarrassment which young learners sometimes feel in attempting a correct position of the hand, is partly owing to previous fixed habit, and partly to the slight difficulty of attending separately to the position of each finger, a difficulty exemplified when we try to do, at the same moment, a different action with each hand. A little practice and attention are for the most part sufficient to obviate the difficulty alluded to. But if, in any instance, it should prove insuperable, the simple position of the open hand may be substituted; avoiding only the flat posture, and the thumb close to the fingers.
POSITION AND MOVEMENT OF THE ARM.
Remarks. The freedom and force of gesture depend entirely on the appropriate action of the arm. The free
* One of the happiest illustrations of this natural point of propriety in taste, occurs in West's celebrated picture, Christ rejected,' and may be traced in nearly every figure of all great productions in painting and sculpture.
play of the arm gives scope to gesture, which would otherwise be narrow, confined, and inexpressive. The elevated thoughts and grand images abounding in poetry, require a free, lofty, and energetic sweep of the arm in gesture; but speaking which has persuasion for its object, is naturally characterized by a less commanding and less imaginative style of action. soning, arguing, or inculcating, in the usual manner of speech, requires chiefly enforcing or emphatic gesture. Poetry abounds so in variety of emotion, that the action which accompanies the recitation of it, is frequent and forcible, and marked by vivid transitions, with a predominance of gracefulness in the whole manner. The style of speaking adapted to prose, is more calm and moderate, and more plain in its character; coinciding thus with the tenor of thought and language which usually pervades prose composition.
Action is the first, the simplest, and the most striking expression of feeling. It cannot, therefore, be dispensed with, but at the risk of losing the natural animation of manner. Under the regulation of taste, it becomes an harmonious and powerful accompaniment to speech, imparting additional force to language in all its forms, and aiding a full and clear conception of what is expressed. Gesture is not a mere matter of ornament, as it sometimes is supposed. Its main object is force of impression: the beauty or grace which it imparts to delivery is but an inferior consideration. To the young learner, however, whose habits are yet forming, the cultivation of correct and refined taste in regard to gesture, is a matter of great importance; and several of the following errors are mentioned as such, with a view to this consideration.
ERRORS. The leading faults in the management of the arm are the following:
1. A feeble and imperfect raising or falling of the arm, and the allowing it to sink into an angle at the elbow. [See Figs. 6, 8, and others in which the elbow is angular.]
This style of gesture has several bad effects, besides
its angular form, which is objectionable to the eye, as associated with mechanical motion and posture, rather than those of an animated being. It narrows and confines every movement of the arm, and prevents the possibility of free and forcible action, which can flow only from the whole arm fully, though gracefully, extended.
2. The opposite fault is that of an irregular force, which throws out the arm perfectly straight and rigid. [See Fig. 4.]
This position of the arm has also an objectionable and mechanical aspect, at variance with the idea of a natural use of the human frame and its limbs.
3. The habitual performing of gesture in a line from the speaker's side.
An occasional gesture of this sort may be proper; but a constant use of it gives either a feeble or an ostentatious air to delivery, as the gesture happens to be made with more or less energy.
4. A horizontal swing of the arm, used invariably.
This action expresses negation appropriately, and may be occasionally employed for other purposes; but it lacks force for energy and emphasis, and if habitually used to the exclusion of other gestures, it renders the speaker's manner tame and ineffective.
5. A want of distinction in the use of gesture, in regard to the lines in which it terminates, the space through which it passes, and the direction in which it
This indiscriminate use of gesture interferes, of course, with its appropriate expression; substituting one style of action for another, and serving, sometimes, no other purpose than to manifest the animation of the speaker, instead of imparting energy to meaning or emotion. [See Rule 2, for distinction of gesture.]
6. The improper use of a poetic or romantic style of gesture, in the delivery of a prose speech or discourse. [See Rule 2.]
This style is as inappropriate as would be the reading of prose with the tones of poetry, and sacrifices the manly effect of simplicity and directness, for a false excitement of fancy.
7. A florid redundancy of gesture, producing incessant action and change of posture.
The effect of this fault is to impart a restless, unmeaning, and puerile activity of manner, which is inconsistent with deep feeling or grave thought.
8. The opposite error, is that of standing motionless and statue-like, in every limb.
This fault gives a dull, heavy, and morbid air to the speaker's manner, and deprives the train of thought expressed in the composition, of its natural effect on the mind. A clear perception of meaning, or a true interest in the subject of what is spoken, is justly expected to awaken the intellect of the speaker, and animate him to activity of feeling.
9. The fault of an arbitrary and studied variety of action.
To avoid deadness and monotony it is not necessary to assume any emotion not authorized by the sense of what is uttered. Variety of style is not always called for, as we may observe in the appropriate delivery of a long strain of vehement invective, in which the chief expression is that of reiterated force; or as we may observe in a connected train of calm thought or reasoning on a single point. The author of the composition is on all occasions accountable for the transitions of feeling; and the speaker is at fault only when he obviously omits their expression. A continuance of moderate and gentle action in persuasion, forms, sometimes, the very eloquence of delivery. All action, which does not spring directly from emotion
expressed in the piece which is spoken, is unnatural and offensive; and the more sprightly and varied its character, the worse is its effect.
10. The opposite error is that of using but one or two gestures, which perpetually recur in all pieces, and in all passages, how different soever their style and expression may naturally be.
There is a dryness and inappropriateness about this manner, which always renders it mechanical and wearisome, and sometimes absurd in its application to
11. Gestures performed in a manner which is regulated by their supposed gracefulness, rather than their connexion with meaning.
Grace is a negative rather than a positive quality of gesture; its proper effect is to regulate, chasten, and refine. Action, if just, is called for from other considerations than those of beauty or ornament,—from the natural demands of forcible and warm emotion : it does not suggest or create a single movement which would not otherwise exist. The action which energy has elicited, grace is to preserve from awkwardness. Beyond this point, true grace ceases to exist.
12. The most childish of all faults is that of imitative gesture, in which the speaker represents objects or actions by pantomimic motions.
The distinct and vivid conceptions produced by the recitation of poetry, may sometimes identify the imagination of the speaker so entirely with the forms. which the poet has called up to the mind, that the action of sympathy passes into that of assimilation; and, in lively and humorous emotion, actual imitation, judiciously indulged, is natural and appropriate. But not so in prose addresses, on serious occasions, which imply a full self-possession and a becoming dignity on the part of the speaker, with a constant regard to his audience. Imitative action in such circumstances, is