Delsarte System of Oratory
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1. The Complete Work of L'Abbe Delaumosne

2. The Complete Work of Mme. Angelique Arnaud

3. All the Literary Remains of Francois Delsarte (Given in his own words)

4. The Lecture and Lessons Given by Mme. Marie Geraldy (Delsarte's Daughter) in America

5. Articles by Alfred Giraudet, Francis A. Durivage, and Hector Berlioz

Fourth Edition New York Edgar S. Werner 1893

Copyright By Edgar S. Werner 1882, 1884, 1887, 1892


Delaumosne On Delsarte.

Biographical Sketch Preface

Part First.


Chapter I.

Preliminary Ideas—Criterion of the Oratorical Art.

Chapter II. Of The Voice.

Organic Apparatus of the Voice—The Voice in Relation to Compass—The Voice in Relation to Vowels—Practical Conclusions

Chapter III. The Voice in Relation to Intensity of Sound.

What is Understood by Intensity of Sound—Means of Augmenting the Timbre of the Voice—Rules for Intensity of Sound

Chapter IV.

The Voice in Relation to Measure.

Of Slowness and Rapidity in Oratorical Delivery—Of Respiration and Silence—Inflections—Rules of Inflection—Special Inflections

Part Second.


Chapter I. Of Gesture in General

Chapter II. Definition and Division of Gesture.

Gesture is the Direct Agent of the Heart—Gesture is the Interpreter of Speech—Gesture is an Elliptical Language

Chapter III. Origin and Oratorical Value of Gesture

Chapter IV. The Laws of Gesture.

The Priority of Gesture to Speech—Retroaction—Opposition of Agents—Number of Gestures—Duration of Gesture—The Rhythm of Gesture—Importance of the Laws of Gesture

Chapter V. Of Gesture in Particular.

The Head—Movements of the head: The Normal State, The Eccentric State, The Concentric State—Of the Eyes—Of the Eyebrows

Chapter VI. Of The Torso.

The Chest—The Shoulders.

Chapter VII. Of The Limbs.

The Arms—Inflections of the Forearm—Of the Elbow—Of the Wrist—Of the Hand: The Digital Face, The Back Face, The Palmar Face—Of the Fingers—Of the Legs.

Chapter VIII. Of the Semeiotic, or the Reason of Gesture.

The Types which Characterize Gesture—Of Gesture Relative to its Modifying Apparatus

Chapter IX. Of Gesture in Relation to the Figures Which Represent It.

Part Third. Articulate Language.

Chapter I. Origin and Organic Apparatus of Language.

Chapter II. Elements of Articulate Language.

Chapter III. The Oratorical Value of Speech.

Chapter IV. The Value of Words in Phrases.

The Conjunction—The Interjection in Relation to its Degree of Value—A Resume of the Degrees of Value

Chapter V. French and Latin Prosody

Chapter VI. Method.

Dictation Exercises

Chapter VII. A Series Of Gestures For Exercises.

Preliminary Reflections—The Series of Gestures Applied to the Sentiments Oftenest Expressed by the Orator: (1) Interpellation; (2) Thanks, Affectionate and Ceremonious; (3) Attraction; (4) Surprise and Assurance; (5) Devotion; (6) Interrogative Surprise; (7) Reiterated Interrogation; (8) Anger; (9) Menace; (10) An Order for Leaving; (11) Reiteration; (12) Fright—Important Remarks



Arnaud On Delsarte.

Part Fourth.

Chapter I. The Bases of the Science

Chapter II. The Method.

Ellipsis—Shades and Inflections—Vocal Music—Respiration—Position of the Tone—Preparation of the Initial Consonant—Exercises— Appoggiatura—Roulades and Martellato—Pronunciation—E mute before a Consonant—E mute before a Vowel.

Chapter III. Was Delsarte a Philosopher?

Chapter IV. Course of Applied AEsthetics.

Meeting of the Circle of Learned Societies—Theory of the Degrees.

Chapter V. The Recitation of Fables.

Chapter VI. The Law of AEsthetics.

Chapter VII. The Elements of Art.

The True. The Good. The Beautiful.

Chapter VIII. Application of the Law to Various Arts.

Dramatic, Lyric and Oratorical Art. Application of the Law to Literature. Application of the Law to Architecture. Application of the Law to Sculpture. Application of the Law to Painting.

Chapter IX. Delsarte's Beginnings.

Chapter X. Delsarte's Theatre and School.

Chapter XI. Delsarte's Family.

Chapter XII. Delsarte's Religion.

Chapter XIII. Delsarte's Friends.

Chapter XIV. Delsarte's Scholars.

Chapter XV. Delsarte's Musical Compositions.

Chapter XVI. Delsarte's Evening Lectures.

Chapter XVII. Delsarte's Inventions.

Chapter XVIII. Delsarte before the Philotechnic Association.

Chapter XIX. Delsarte's Last Years.

Literary Remains Of Francois Delsarte.

Part Fifth.

Publisher's Note.

Delsarte's Last Letter To The King Of Hanover

Episode I. Episode II. Episode III. Episode IV. Episode V.

Semeiotics of the Shoulder.

Episode VI. Episode VII.

What I Propose. The Beautiful.


Reversal of Processional Relations.

Passion of Signs, Signs of Passion.

Definition of Form.

On Distinction and Vulgarity of Motion.


Definition of Gesture.

Attitudes of the Head.

Attitudes of the Hands.

Affirmation of the Hand.

Table of the Normal Character of the Nine Attitudes.

Attitudes of the Legs.

The Holy Trinity Recovered in Sound.



Vocal Respiration. Logical Respiration. Passional Respiration.

Vocal Organ.

Definition Of The Voice.

What the Register is. On Shading. Pathetic Effects. On the Tearing of the Voice.


Medallion of Inflection.

The Nature of the Colors of Each Circle in the Color Charts.

The Attributes of Reason.

Random Notes.

Part Sixth.

The Lecture and Lessons Given by Mme. Marie Geraldy (Delsarte's Daughter) in America.

Part Seventh.

Article by Alfred Giraudet. Article by Francis A. Durivage. Article by Hector Berlioz.

Delaumosne On Delsarte.

The Delsarte System,


M. l'Abbe Delaumosne,

(Pupil of Delsarte.)

Translated by Frances A. Shaw.

Francois Delsarte.

Francois Delsarte was born November 11, 1811, at Solesme, a little town of the Department of the North, in France. His father, who was a renowned physician and the author of several inventions, might have secured a fortune for his family, had he been more anxious for the morrow, but he died in a state bordering upon poverty.

In 1822, Francois was apprenticed to a porcelain painter of Paris, but, yielding to a taste and aptitude for music, in the year 1825, he sought and obtained admission to the Conservatory as a pensioner. Here a great trial awaited him—a trial which wrecked his musical career, but was a decided gain for his genius. He had been placed in the vocal classes, and in consequence of faults in method and direction, he lost his voice. He was inconsolable, but, without making light of his sorrow, we may count that loss happy, which gave the world its first law-giver in the art of oratory.

The young student refused to accept this calamity without making one final effort to retrieve it. He presented himself at the musical contest of 1829. His impaired voice rendered success impossible, but kind words from influential friends in a great measure compensated for defeat.

The celebrated Nourrit said to him: "I have given you my vote for the first prize, and my children shall have no singing-master but you."

"Courage," said Madame Malibran, pressing his hand. "You will one day be a great artist."

But Delsarte knew that without a voice he must renounce the stage, and yielding to the inevitable, he gave up the role of the actor to assume the functions of the professor. After his own shipwreck upon a bark without pilot or compass, he summoned up courage to search into the laws of an art which had hitherto subsisted only upon caprice and personal inspiration.

After several years of diligent study, he discovered and formulated the essential laws of all art; and, thanks to him, aesthetic science in our day has the same precision as mathematical science. He had numerous pupils, many of whom have become distinguished in various public careers—in the pulpit, at the bar, on the stage, and at the tribune.

Madame Sontag, when she wished to interpret Gluck's music, chose Delsarte for her teacher. Rachel drew inspiration from his counsels, and he became her guardian of the sacred fire. He was urgently solicited to appear with her at the Theatre-Francais, but religious scruples led him to refuse the finest offers.

Madame de Giradin (Delphine Gay), surnamed the Muse of her country, welcomed him gladly to her salon, then the rendezvous of the world of art and letters, and regretted not seeing him oftener. He was more than once invited to the literary sessions of Juilly college, and, under the spell of his diction, the pupils became animated by a new ardor for study.

Monseigneur Sibour had great esteem and affection for Delsarte, and made him his frequent guest. It was in the salon of this art-loving archbishop that Delsarte achieved one of his most brilliant triumphs. All the notable men of science had gathered there, and the conversation took such a turn that Delsarte found opportunity to give, without offence, a challenge in these two lines of Racine:

L'onde approche, se brise, et vomit a nos yeux, Parmi des flots d'ecume, un monstre furieux.

("The wave draws near, it breaks, and casts before our eyes, Amid the floods of foam, a monster grim and dire.")

"Please tell me the most emphatic and significant word here," said Delsarte.

All reflected, sought out and then gave, each in turn, his chosen word. Every word was selected save the conjunction et (and). No one thought of that.

Delsarte then rose, and in a calm and modest, but triumphant tone, said: "The significant, emphatic word is the only one which has escaped you. It is the conjunction and, whose elliptic sense leaves us in apprehension of that which is about to happen." All owned themselves vanquished, and applauded the triumphant artist.

Donoso Cortes made Delsarte a chosen confidant of his ideas. One day, when the great master of oratorical diction had recited to him the Dies Irae, the illustrious philosopher, in an access of religious emotion, begged that this hymn might be chanted at his funeral. Delsarte promised it, and he kept his word.

When invited to the court of Louis Philippe, he replied: "I am not a court buffoon." When a generous compensation was hinted at, he answered: "I do not sell my loves." When it was urged that the occasion was a birth-day fete to be given his father by the Duke of Orleans, he accepted the invitation upon three conditions, thus stated by himself: "1st. I shall be the only singer; 2d. I shall have no accompaniment but the opera chorus; 3d. I shall receive no compensation." The conditions were assented to, and Delsarte surpassed himself. The king paid him such marked attentions that M. Ingres felt constrained to say: "One might declare in truth that it is Delsarte who is king of France."

Delsarte's reputation had passed the frontier. The king of Hanover committed to his instruction the greatest musical artiste of his realm, and was so gratified with her improvement that, wishing to recompense the professor, he sent him the much prized Hanoverian medal of arts and sciences, accompanied by a letter from his own royal hand. Delsarte afterwards received from the same king the cross of a Chevalier of the Guelph order.

Delsarte's auditors were not the only ones to sound his praises. The learned reviews extolled his merits. Such writers as Laurentie, Riancey, Lamartine and Theophile Gautier awarded him the most enthusiastic praise. Posterity will perpetuate his fame.

M. Laurentie writes: "I heard Delsarte recite one evening 'Iphigenia's Dream,' which the audience had besought of him. The hall remained thrilled and breathless under this impaired and yet sovereign voice. All yielded in rapt astonishment to the spell. There was no prestige, no theatrical illusion. Iphigenia was a professor in a black frock coat; the orchestra was a piano, giving forth here and there an unexpected modulation. This was his whole force; yet the hall was mute, hearts beat, tears flowed from many eyes, and when the recital ended, enthusiastic shouts arose, as if Iphigenia in person had just recounted her terrors."

After Delsarte had gathered so abundant a harvest of laurels, fate decided that he had lived long enough. When he had reached his sixtieth year, he was attacked by hypertrophy of the heart, which left his rich organization in ruins. He was no longer the artist of graceful, supple, expressive and harmonious movements; no longer the thinker with profound and luminous ideas. But in the midst of this physical and intellectual ruin, the Christian sentiment retained its strong, sweet energy. A believer in the sacraments which he had received in days of health, he asked for them in the hour of danger, and many times he partook of that sacrament of love whose virtue he had taught so well.

Finally, after having lingered for months in a state that was neither life nor death, surrounded by his pious wife, and his weeping, praying children, he rendered his soul to God on the 20th of July, 1871.

Delsarte never could be persuaded to write anything upon themes foreign to those connected with his musical and vocal work. The author of this volume desires to save from oblivion the most wonderful conception of this superior intellect: his Course of AEsthetic Oratory. He dares promise to be a faithful interpreter. If excuse be needed for undertaking a task so delicate, he replies that he addresses himself to a class of readers who will know how to appreciate his motives.

The merit of Delsarte, the honor of his family, the gratification of his numerous friends, the interests of science, the claims of friendship, demand that this light should not be left under a bushel, but placed upon a candlestick—this light which has shed so brilliant a glow, and enriched the arts with a new splendor.


Orators, you are called to the ministry of speech. You have fixed your choice upon the pulpit, the bar, the tribune or the stage. You will become one day, preacher, advocate, lecturer or actor; in short, you desire to embrace the orator's career. I applaud your design. You will enter upon the noblest and most glorious of vocations. Eloquence holds the first rank among the arts. While we award praise and glory to great musicians and painters, to great masters of sculpture and architecture, the prize of honor is decreed to great orators.

Who can define the omnipotence of speech? With a few brief words God called the universe from nothingness; speech falling from the glowing lips of the Apostles, has changed the face of the earth. The current of opinion follows the prestige of speech, and to-day, as ever, eloquence is universal queen. We need feel no surprise that, in ancient times, the multitude uncovered as Cicero approached, and cried: "Behold the orator!"

Would you have your speech bear fruit and command honor? Two qualities are needful: virtue and a knowledge of the art of oratory. Cicero has defined the orator as a good man of worth: Vir bonus, dicendi peritus.

Then, above all, the orator should be a man of worth. Such a man will make it his purpose to do good; and the good is the true end of oratorical art. In truth, what is art? Art is the expression of the beautiful in ideas; it is the true. Plato says the beautiful is the splendor of the true.

What is art? It is the beautiful in action. It is the good. According to St. Augustine, the beautiful is the lustre of the good.

Finally, what is art? It is the beautiful in the harmonies of nature. Galen, when he had finished his work on the structure of the human body, exclaimed: "Behold this beautiful hymn to the glory of the Creator!"

What, then, is the true, the beautiful, the good? We might answer, it is God. Then virtue and the glory of God should be the one end of the orator, of the good man. A true artist never denies God.

Eloquence is a means, not an end. We must not love art for its own sake, that would be idolatry. Art gives wings for ascent to God. One need not pause to contemplate his wings.

Art is an instrument, but not an instrument of vanity or complaisance. Truth, alas! compels us to admit that eloquence has also the melancholy power of corrupting souls. Since it is an art, it is also a power which must produce its effect for good or evil.

It has been said that the fool always finds a greater fool to listen to him. We might add that the false, the ugly and the vicious have each a fibre in the human heart to serve their purpose. Then let the true orator, the good man, armed with holy eloquence, seek to paralyze the fatal influence of those orators who are apostles of falsehood and corruption.

Poets are born, orators are made: nascuntur poetae, fiunt oratores. You understand why I have engraved this maxim on the title-page of my work. It contains its raison d'etre, its justification. Men are poets at birth, but eloquence is an art to be taught and learned. All art presupposes rules, procedures, a mechanism, a method which must be known.

We bring more or less aptitude to the study of an art, but every profession demands a period more or less prolonged. We must not count upon natural advantages; none are perfect by nature. Humanity is crippled; beauty exists only in fragments. Perfect beauty is nowhere to be found; the artist must create it by synthetic work.

You have a fine voice, but be certain it has its defects. Your articulation is vicious, and the gestures upon which you pride yourself, are, in most cases, unnatural. Do not rely upon the fire of momentary inspiration. Nothing is more deceptive. The great Garrick said: "I do not depend upon that inspiration which idle mediocrity awaits." Talma declared that he absolutely calculated all effects, leaving nothing to chance. While he recited the scene between Augustus and Cinna, he was also performing an arithmetical operation. When he said:

"Take a chair, Cinna, and in everything Closely observe the law I bid you heed"—

he made his audience shudder.

The orator should not even think of what he is doing. The thing should have been so much studied, that all would seem to flow of itself from the fountain.

But where find this square, this intellectual compass, that traces for us with mathematical precision, that line of gestures beyond which the orator must not pass? I have sought it for a long time, but in vain. Here and there one meets with advice, sometimes good but very often bad. For example, you are told that the greater the emotion, the stronger should be the voice. Nothing is more false. In violent emotion the heart seems to fill the larynx and the voice is stifled. In all such counsels it behooves us to search out their foundation, the reason that is in them, to ask if there is a type in nature which serves as their measure.

We hear a celebrated orator. We seek to recall, to imitate his inflections and gestures. We adopt his mannerisms, and that is all. We see these mannerisms everywhere, but the true type is nowhere.

After much unavailing search, I at last had the good fortune to meet a genuine master of eloquence. After giving much study to the masterpieces of painting and sculpture, after observing the living man in all his moods and expressions, he has known how to sum up these details and reduce them to laws. This great artist, this unrivaled master, was the pious, the amiable, the lamented Delsarte.

There certainly was pleasure and profit in hearing this master of eloquence, for he excelled in applying his principles to himself. Still from his teachings, even from the dead letter of them, breaks forth a light which reveals horizons hitherto unknown.

This work might have been entitled: Philosophy of Oratorical Art, for one cannot treat of eloquence without entering the domain of the highest philosophy.

What, in fact, is oratorical art? It is the means of expressing the phenomena of the soul by the play of the organs. It is the sum total of rules and laws resulting from the reciprocal action of mind and body. Thus man must be considered in his sensitive, intellectual and moral state, with the play of the organs corresponding to these states. Our teaching has, then, for its basis the science of the soul ministered to by the organs. This is why we present the fixed, invariable rules which have their sanction in philosophy. This can be rendered plain by an exposition of our method.

The art of oratory, we repeat, is expressing mental phenomena by the play of the physical organs. It is the translation, the plastic form, the language of human nature. But man, the image of God, presents himself to us in three phases: the sensitive, intellectual and moral. Man feels, thinks and loves. He is en rapport with the physical world, with the spiritual world, and with God. He fulfils his course by the light of the senses, the reason, or the light of grace.

We call life the sensitive state, mind the intellectual state, and soul the moral state. Neither of these three terms can be separated from the two others. They interpenetrate, interlace, correspond with and embrace each other. Thus mind supposes soul and life. Soul is at the same time mind and life. In fine, life is inherent in mind and soul. Thus these three primitive moods of the soul are distinguished by nine perfectly adequate terms. The soul being the form of the body, the body is made in the image of the soul. The human body contains three organisms to translate the triple form of the soul.

The phonetic machinery, the voice, sound, inflections, are living language. The child, as yet devoid of intelligence and sentiment, conveys his emotions through cries and moans.

The myologic or muscular machinery, or gesture, is the language of sentiment and emotion. When the child recognizes its mother, it begins to smile.

The buccal machinery, or articulate speech, is the language of the mind.

Man, neither by voice nor gesture, can express two opposite ideas on the same subject; this necessarily involves a resort to speech. Human language is composed of gesture, speech and singing. The ancient melodrama owed its excellence to a union of these three languages.

Each of these organisms takes the eccentric, concentric, or normal form, according to the different moods of the soul which it is called to translate.

In the sensitive state, the soul lives outside itself; it has relations with the exterior world. In the intellectual state, the soul turns back upon itself, and the organism obeys this movement. Then ensues a contraction in all the agents of the organism. This is the concentric state. In the moral or mystic state, the soul, enraptured with God, enjoys perfect tranquility and blessedness. All breathes peace, quietude, serenity. This is the normal state,—the most perfect, elevated and sublime expression of which the organism is capable.

Let us not forget that by reason of a constant transition, each state borrows the form of its kindred state. Thus the normal state can take the concentric and eccentric form, and become at the same time, doubly normal; that is, normal to the highest degree. Since each state can take the form of the two others, the result is nine distinct gestures, which form that marvelous accord of nine, which we call the universal criterion.

In fine, here is the grand law of organic gymnastics:

The triple movement, the triple language of the organs is eccentric, concentric, or normal, according as it is the expression of life, soul or spirit.

Under the influence, the occult inspiration of this law, the great masters have enriched the world with miracles of art. Aided by this law the course followed in this work, may be easily understood.

Since eloquence is composed of three languages, we divide this work into three books in which voice, gesture and speech are studied by turns. Then, applying to them the great law of art, our task is accomplished.

The advantages of this method are easily understood. There is given a type of expression not taken from the individual, but from human nature synthetized. Thus the student will not have the humiliation of being the slave or ape of any particular master. He will be only himself. Those who assimilate their imperfect natures to the perfect type will become orators. Fiunt Oratores.

Success having attended the first efforts, let the would-be orator assimilate these rules, and his power will be doubled, aye increased a hundredfold. And thus having become an orator, a man of principle, who knows how to speak well, he will aid in the triumph of religion, justice and virtue.

Part First.


Chapter I.

Preliminary Ideas—criterion of the Oratorical Art.

Let us note an incontestable fact. The science of the Art of Oratory has not yet been taught. Hitherto genius alone, and not science, has made great orators. Horace, Quintilian and Cicero among the ancients, and numerous modern writers have treated of oratory as an art. We admire their writings, but this is not science; here we seek in vain the fundamental laws whence their teachings proceed. There is no science without principles which give a reason for its facts. Hence to teach and to learn the art of oratory, it is necessary:

1. To understand the general law which controls the movements of the organs;

2. To apply this general law to the movements of each particular organ;

3. To understand the meaning of the form of each of these movements;

4. To adapt this meaning to each of the different states of the soul.

The fundamental law, whose stamp every one of these organs bears, must be kept carefully in mind. Here is the formula:

The sensitive, mental and moral state of man are rendered by the eccentric, concentric or normal form of the organism.[1]

Such is the first and greatest law. There is a second law, which proceeds from the first and is similar to it:

Each form of the organism becomes triple by borrowing the form of the two others.

It is in the application of these two laws that the entire practice of the art of oratory consists. Here, then, is a science, for we possess a criterion with which all phenomena must agree, and which none can gainsay. This criterion, composed of our double formula, we represent in a chart, whose explanation must be carefully studied.

The three primitive forms or genera which affect the organs are represented by the three transverse lines.


II. Conc. 1-II 3-II 2-II Ecc. Conc. Norm. Conc. Conc. Conc.

III. Norm. 1-III 3-III 2-III Ecc. Norm. Norm. Norm. Conc. Norm.

I. Ecc. 1-I 3-I 2-I Ecc. Ecc. Norm. Ecc. Conc. Ecc.

The subdivision of the three genera into nine species is noted in the three perpendicular columns.

Under the title Genus we shall use the Roman numerals I, III, II.

Under the title Species we employ the Arabic figures 1, 3, 2.

I designates the eccentric form, II the concentric form, III the normal form.

The Arabic figures have the same signification.

The normal form, either in the genus or the species, we place in the middle column, because it serves as a bond of union between the two others, as the moral state is the connecting link between the intellectual and vital states.

Thus the first law relative to the primitive forms of the organs is applied in the three transverse columns, and the second law relative to their compound forms is reproduced in the three vertical columns.

As may be easily proven, the eccentric genus produces three species of eccentric forms, marked in the three divisions of the lower transverse column.

Since the figure 1 represents the eccentric form, 1-I will designate the form of the highest degree of eccentricity, which we call eccentro-eccentric.

Since the figure 3 represents the normal form, the numbers 3-I will indicate the normo-eccentric form.

Since the figure 2 designates the form which translates intelligence, the figures 2-I indicate the concentro-eccentric form as a species. As the species proceeds from the genus, we begin by naming the species in order to bring it back to the genus. Thus, in the column of the eccentric genus the figure 1 is placed after the numbers 3 and 2, which belong to the species. We must apply the same analysis to the transverse column of the normal genus, as also to that of the concentric genus.

Following a diagonal from the bottom to the top and from left to right, we meet the most expressive form of the species, whether eccentric, normal or concentric, marked by the figures 1-I, 3-III, 2-II, and by the abbreviations Ecc.-ecc. (Eccentro-eccentric), Norm.-norm. (Normo-normal), Conc.-conc. (Concentro-concentric). It is curious to remark how upon this diagonal the organic manifestations corresponding to the soul, that is to love, are found in the midst, to link the expressive forms of life and mind.

This chart sums up all the essential forms which can affect the organism. This is a universal algebraic formula, by which we can solve all organic problems. We apply it to the hand, to the shoulder, to the eyes, to the voice—in a word, to all the agents of oratorical language. For example, it suffices to know the eccentro-eccentric form of the hand, of the eyes; and we reserve it for the appropriate occasion.

All the figures accompanying the text of this work are only reproductions of this chart affected by such or such a particular organ. A knowledge of this criterion gives to our studies not only simplicity, clearness and facility, but also mathematical precision.

In proposing the accord of nine formed by the figure 3 multiplied into itself, it must be understood that we give the most elementary, most usual and least complicated terms. Through natural and successive subdivisions we can arrive at 81 terms. Thus multiply 9 by 3; the number 27 gives an accord of 27 terms, which can again be multiplied by 3 to reach 81. Or rather let us multiply 9 by 9, and we in like manner obtain 81 terms, which become the end of the series. This is the alpha and omega of all human science. Huc usque venies, et ibi confringes tumentes fluctus tuos. ("Thus far shalt thou come, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.")

It is well to remark that this criterion is applied to all possible phenomena, both in the arts and sciences. This is reason, universal synthesis. All phenomena, spiritual as well as material, must be considered under three or nine aspects, or not be understood. Three genera and nine species; three and nine in everything and everywhere; three and nine, these are the notes echoed by all beings. We do not fear to affirm that this criterion is divine, since it conforms to the nature of beings. Then, with this compass in hand, let us explore the vast field of oratorical art, and begin with the voice.

NOTE TO THE STUDENT.—Do not go on without a perfect understanding of this explanation of the criterion, as well as the exposition of our method which closes the preface.

Chapter II.

Of The Voice.

The whole secret of captivating an audience by the charms of the voice, consists in a practical knowledge of the laws of sound, inflection, respiration and silence. The voice first manifests itself through sound; inflection is an intentional modification of sound; respiration and silence are a means of falling exactly upon the suitable tone and inflection.

Sound being the first language of man in the cradle, the least we can demand of the orator is, that he speak intelligently a language whose author is instinct. The orator must then listen to his own voice in order to understand it, to estimate its value, to cultivate it by correcting its faults, to guide it—in a word, to dispose of it at will, according to the inclination of the moment. We begin the study of the voice with Sound; and as sound may be viewed under several aspects, we divide this heading into as many sections.

Compass of the Voice—Organic Apparatus of the Voice.

This apparatus is composed of the larynx, the mouth and the lungs. Each of these agents derives its value from mutual action with the others. The larynx of itself is nothing, and can be considered only through its participation in the simultaneous action of the mouth and lungs.

Sound, then, is formed by a triple agent—projective, vibrative and reflective.

The lungs are the soliciting agent, the larynx is the vibrative agent, the mouth is the reflective agent. These must act in unison, or there is no result. The larynx might be called the mouth of the instrument, the inside of the mouth the pavilion, the lungs the artist. In a violin, the larynx would be the string, the lungs the bow, the mouth the instrument itself.

The triple action of these agents produces phonation. They engender sounds and inflections. Sound is the revelation of the sensitive life to the minutest degree; inflections are the revelation of the same life in a higher degree, and this is why they are the foundation and the charm of music.

Such is the wonderful organism of the human voice, such the powerful instrument Providence has placed at the disposal of the orator. But what avails the possession of an instrument if one does not know how to use it, or how to tune it? The orator, ignorant of the laws of sound and inflection, resembles the debutant who places the trumpet to his lips for the first time. We know the ear-torturing tones he evolves.

The ear is the most delicate, the most exacting of all our senses. The eye is far more tolerant. The eye resigns itself to behold a bad gesture, but the ear does not forgive a false note or a false inflection. It is through the voice we please an audience. If we have the ear of an auditor, we easily win his mind and heart. The voice is a mysterious hand which touches, envelops and caresses the heart.

Of the Voice in Relation to Compass.

All voices do not have the same compass, or the same range. By range we mean the number of tones the voice can produce below and above a given note on the staff, say A, second space of the treble clef.

There are four distinct kinds of voices: Soprano, alto, tenor and bass. There are also intermediate voices, possessing the peculiar quality of the kind to which it belongs, for example: Mezzo-soprano, with the quality of the soprano and only differing from the soprano in range, the range of this voice being lower than the soprano and a little higher than the alto. Then comes the alto or contralto.

In the male voice we have the tenor robusto, a little lower than the pure tenor and more powerful; next the baritone, a voice between the tenor and bass, but possessing very much the quality of the bass.

The tones in the range of every voice can be divided into three parts—the lower, medium and higher. Thus we would say of a performer, he or she used the lower or higher tones, or whatever the case may be. This applies to every kind of voice.

The soprano voice ranges generally from the middle C, first added line below on the treble clef, upwards to A, first added line above the staff. Contralto voices range generally from G, below middle C in the treble clef, up to F, the upper line of the clef.

The tenor voice ranges from C, second space of the F clef, to D, second space in the treble clef.

The bass voice ranges from lower F, first space below of the F or bass clef, to D, second space above of this clef.[2]

The first perception of the human voice imperatively demands, 1. That the voice be tried and its compass measured in order to ascertain to what species it belongs. Its name must be known with absolute certainty. It would be shameful in a musician not to know the name of the instrument he uses. 2. That the ear be trained in order to distinguish the pitch upon which one speaks.

We should be able to name a sound and to sound a name. The Orientals could sing eight degrees of tone between C and D. There may be a whole scale, a whole air between these two tones. It would be unpardonable not to know how to distinguish or at least to sound a semitone.

There is a fact proved by experience, which must not be forgotten. The high voice, with elevated brows, serves to express intensity of passion, as well as small, trivial and also pleasant things.

The deep voice, with the eyes open, expresses worthy things.

The deep voice, with the eyes closed, expresses odious things.

The Voice in Relation to Vowels.

As already stated, the vocal apparatus is composed of the lungs, the larynx and the mouth; but its accessories are the teeth, the lips, the palate and the uvula. The tip and root of the tongue, the arch of the palate and the nasal cavities have also their share in perfecting the acoustic apparatus.

In classifying the different varieties of voice, we have considered them only in their rudimentary state. Ability to name and distinguish the several tones of voice is the starting point. We have an image more or less perfect, leaving the mould; we have a canvas containing the design, but not the embroidery—the mere outline of an instrument, a body without a soul. The voice being the language of the sensitive life, the passional state must pass entirely into the voice.

We must know then how to give it an expression, a color answering to the sentiment it conveys. But this expressive form of the voice depends upon the sound of its vowels.

There is a mother vowel, a generative tone. It is a (Italian a). In articulating a the mouth opens wide, giving a sound similar to a in arm.

The primitive a takes three forms. The unaccented, Italian a represents the normal state; a with the acute accent (') represents the eccentric state; a with the grave accent (') represents the concentric state.

These three a's derived from primitive a become each in turn the progenitor of a family with triple sounds, as may be seen in the following genealogical tree:

A A A A —————————————- e o e

e au eu

i ou u

Eccentric. Normal. Concentric.

This is the only simple sound, but four other sounds are derived from it. The three a's articulated by closing the uvula, give the nasal an. Each family also gives its special nasal sound: in for the eccentric voice, on for the normal state, un for the concentric. All other sounds are derived from combinations of these. The mouth cannot possibly produce more than three families of sounds, and in each family it is a united with the others that forms the trinity.

The variety of sounds in these three families of vowels arises from the difference of the opening of the mouth and lips in articulating them. These different modes of articulation may be rendered more intelligible by the subjoined diagrams:

a is pronounced with the mouth very wide open, the uvula raised and the tongue much lowered.

——————————- O O ——————————-

e, e, i and in are articulated with the lips open and the back part of the mouth gradually closed.

/ / /

a, au, ou and on are articulated with the back of the mouth open and the lips gradually closed.

/ / /

e, eu, u and un are articulated with the back of the mouth and the lips uniformly closed.

——————————- ——————————-

The voice takes different names, according to the different sounds in each family of vowels: the chest-voice, the medium voice and the head-voice.

These names imply no change in the sort of voice, but a change in the manner of emission. The head, medium or chest-voice, indicates only variety in the emission of vowels, and may be applied to the high as well as the deep and medium voice. Thus the deep voice may produce sounds in the head-voice, as well as in the medium and chest voices.

The head-voice is produced by lowering the larynx, and at the same time raising the uvula. In swallowing, the larynx rises by the elevation of the uvula, without which elevation there can be no head-tones.

Practical Conclusions.

1. It is highly important to know how to assume either of these voices at will. The chest-voice is the expression of the sensitive or vital life, and is the interpreter of all physical emotions. The medium voice expresses sentiment and the moral emotions. The head-voice interprets everything pertaining to scientific or mental phenomena. By observing the laugh in the vital, moral and intellectual states, we shall see that the voice takes the sound of the vowel corresponding to each state.

We understand the laugh of an individual; if upon the i (e long), he has made a sorry jest; if upon e (a in fate), he has nothing in his heart and most likely nothing in his head; if upon a (a short), the laugh is forced. O, a, (a long) and ou are the only normal expressions. Thus every one is measured, numbered, weighed. There is reason in everything, even when unknown to man. In physical pain or joy, the laugh or groan employs the vowels e, e, i.[3]

2. The chest-voice should be little used, as it is a bestial and very fatiguing voice.

3. The head-voice or the medium voice is preferable, it being more noble and more ample, and not fatiguing. In these voices there is far less danger of hoarseness. The head and medium voices proceed more from the mouth, while the chest-voice has its vibrating point in the larynx.

4. The articulation of the three syllables, la, mo and po, is a very useful exercise in habituating one to the medium voice. Besides reproducing the tone of this voice, these are the musical consonants par excellence. They give charm and development to the voice. We can repeat these tones without fatiguing the vocal chords, since they are produced by the articulative apparatus.

5. It is well to remark that the chest, medium and head voices are synonymous with the eccentric, normal or concentric voice.

6. It is only a hap-hazard sort of orator who does not know how to attain, at the outset, what is called the white voice, to be colored afterward at will. The voice should resemble the painter's pallet, where all the colors are arranged in an orderly manner, according to the affinities of each. A colorless tint may be attained in the same way as a pure tint. It may be well to remark here, although by anticipation, that the expressions of the hand and brow belong to the voice. The coloring of the larynx corresponds to the movements of the hand or brows.

Sound is painting, or it is nothing. It should be in affinity with the subject.

Chapter III.

The Voice in Relation to Intensity of Sound.

What is Understood by Intensity of Sound.

The voice has three dimensions—height, depth and breadth; in other terms, diapason, intensity and duration; or in yet other words, tonality, timbre and succession.

Intensity may be applied alike to the voice and to sound. The voice is strong or weak, according to the mechanism of the acoustic apparatus. The strength or weakness of sound depends upon the speaker, who from the same apparatus evolves tones more or less strong. It is the forte, piano and pianissimo in music. Thus a loud voice can render weak tones, and a weak voice loud tones. Hence the tones of both are capable of increase or diminution.

Means of Augmenting the Timbre of the Voice.

1. A stronger voice may be obtained by taking position not upon the heel or flat of the foot, but upon the ball near the toes—that attitude which further on we shall designate as the third. The chest is eccentric; that is, convex and dilated. In this position all the muscles are tense and resemble the chords of an instrument whose resonance is proportional to their tension.

2. There are three modes of developing the voice. A voice may be manufactured. A natural voice is almost always more or less changed by a thousand deleterious influences.

1. In volume, by lowering the larynx, elevating the soft-palate and hollowing the tongue.

2. In intensity.—A loud voice may be hollow. It must be rendered deep, forcible and brilliant by these three methods: profound inspiration, explosion and expulsion. The intensity of an effect may depend upon expulsion or an elastic movement. Tenuity is elasticity. It is the rarest and yet the most essential quality of diction.

3. In compass.—There are three ways of increasing the compass of the voice:

1. By the determination of its pitch; 2. By practicing the vocal scale; 3. By the fusion of the registers upon the key-note.

The first of these methods is most effective. The second consists in exercising upon those notes which are near the key-note. Upon this exercise depends in great measure the homogeneity of the voice. Taking la for the diapason, the voice which extends from the lowest notes to upper re is the chest-voice, since it suffers no acoustic modification. From mi to la the voice is modified; it is the medium voice, or the second register, which gives full and supple tones. The head or throat-voice, or the third register, extends from si to the highest and sharpest notes. Its tones are weak, and should be avoided as much as possible. There are then only four good notes—those from mi to la, upon which the voice should be exercised. By uniting the registers, an artificial, homogeneous voice may be created, whose tones are produced without compression and without difficulty. This being done, it is evident that every note of the voice must successively indicate the three registers—that is, it must be rendered in the chest, medium and head voices.

There is also a method of diminishing the voice. As the tone is in proportion to the volume of air in the lungs, it may be weakened by contracting the epiglottis or by suppressing the respiration.

Rules for Intensity of Sound.

1. The strength of the voice is in an inverse ratio to the respiration. The more we are moved, the less loudly we speak; the less the emotion, the stronger the voice. In emotion, the heart seems to mount to the larynx, and the voice is stifled. A soft tone should always be an affecting tone, and consist only of a breath. Force is always opposed to power. It is an error to suppose that the voice must be increased as the heart is laid bare. The lowest tones are the best understood. If we would make a low voice audible, let us speak as softly as we can.

Go to the sea-shore when the tempest rages. The roar of the waves as they break against the vessel's side, the muttering thunders, the furious wind-gusts render the strongest voice impotent. Go upon a battle-field when drums beat and trumpets sound. In the midst of this uproar, these discordant cries, this tumult of opposing armies, the leader's commands, though uttered in the loudest tones, can scarce be heard; but a low whistle will be distinctly audible. The voice is intense in serenity and calm, but in passion it is weak.

Let those who would bring forward subtle arguments against this law, remember that logic is often in default when applied to artistic facts.

A concert is given in a contracted space, with an orchestra and a double-bass. The double-bass is very weak. Logic would suggest two double-basses in order to produce a stronger tone. Quite the contrary. Two double-basses give only a semitone, which half a double-bass renders of itself. So much for logic in this case.

The greatest joy is in sorrow, for here there is the greatest love. Other joys are only on the surface. We suffer and we weep because we love. Of what avail are tears? The essential thing is to love. Tears are the accessories; they will come in time, they need not be sought. Nothing so wearies and disgusts us, as the lachrymose tone. A man who amounts to anything is never a whimperer.

Take two instruments in discord and remote from each other. Logic forbids their approach lest their tones become more disagreeable. The reverse is true. In bringing them together, the lowest becomes higher and the highest lower, and there is an accord.

Let us suppose a hall with tapestries, a church draped in black. Logic says, "sing more loudly." But this must be guarded against lest the voice become lost in the draperies. The voice should scarce reach these too heavy or too sonorous partitions, but leaving the lips softly, it should pulsate through the audience, and go no farther.

An audience is asleep. Logic demands more warmth, more fire. Not at all. Keep silent and the sleepers will awaken.

2. Sound, notwithstanding its many shades, should be homogeneous; that is, as full at the end as at the beginning. The mucous membrane, the lungs and the expiratory muscles have sole charge of its transmission. The vocal tube must not vary any more for the loud tone than for the low tone. The opening must be the same. The low tone must have the power of the loud tone, since it is to be equally understood. The acoustic organs should have nothing to do with the transmission of sound. They must be inert so that the tone may be homogeneous. The speaker or singer should know how to diminish the tone without the contraction of the back part of the mouth.

To be homogeneous the voice must be ample. To render it ample, take high rather than low notes. The dipthong eu (like u in muff), and the vowels u and o give amplitude to sound. On the contrary, the tone is meagre in articulating the vowels e, i and a. To render the voice ample, we open the throat and roll forth the sound. The more the sound is circumvoluted, the more ample it is. To render the voice resonant, we draw the tongue from the teeth and give it a hollow form; then we lower the larynx, and in this way imitate the French horn.

3. The voice should always be sympathetic, kindly, calm, and noble, even when the most repulsive things are expressed. A tearful voice is a grave defect, and must be avoided. The same may be said of the tremulous voice of the aged, who emphasize and prolong their syllables. Tears are out of place in great situations; we should weep only at home. To weep is a sure way of making people laugh.

Chapter IV.

The Voice in Relation to Measure.

Of Slowness and Rapidity in Oratorical Delivery.

The third and last relation in which we shall study voice, is its breadth, that is, the measure or rhythm of its tones.

The object of measure in oratorical diction is to regulate the interval of sounds. But the length of the interval between one sound and another is subject to the laws of slowness and rapidity, respiration, silence and inflection.

Let us first consider slowness and rapidity, and the rules which govern them.

1. A hasty delivery is by no means a proof of animation, warmth, fire, passion or emotion in the orator; hence in delivery, as in tone, haste is in an inverse ratio to emotion. We do not glide lightly over a beloved subject; a prolongation of tones is the complaisance of love. Precipitation awakens suspicions of heartlessness; it also injures the effect of the discourse. A teacher with too much facility or volubility puts his pupils to sleep, because he leaves them nothing to do, and they do not understand his meaning. But let the teacher choose his words carefully, and every pupil will want to suggest some idea; all will work. In applauding an orator we usually applaud ourselves. He says what we were just ready to say; we seem to have suggested the idea. It is superfluous to remark that slowness without gesture, and especially without facial expression, would be intolerable. A tone must always be reproduced with an expression of the face.

2. The voice must not be jerky. Here we must keep jealous watch over ourselves. The entire interest of diction arises from a fusion of tones. The tones of the voice are sentient beings, who love, hold converse, follow each other and blend in a harmonious union.

3. It is never necessary to dwell upon the sound we have just left; this would be to fall into that jerky tone we wish to avoid.

Of Respiration and Silence.

We place respiration and silence under the same head because of their affinity, for respiration may often be accounted silence.

Of silence.—Silence is the father of speech, and must justify it. Every word which does not proceed from silence and find its vindication in silence, is a spurious word without claim or title to our regard. Origin is the stamp, in virtue of which we recognize the intrinsic value of things. Let us, then, seek in silence the sufficient reason of speech, and remember that the more enlightened the mind is, the more concise is the speech that proceeds from it. Let us assume, then, that this conciseness keeps pace with the elevation of the mind, and that when the mind arrives at the perception of the true light, finding no words that can portray the glories open to its view, it keeps silent and admires. It is through silence that the mind rises to perfection, for silence is the speech of God.

Apart from this consideration, silence recommends itself as a powerful agent in oratorical effects. By silence the orator arouses the attention of his audience, and often deeply moves their hearts. When Peter Chrysologue, in his famous homily upon the gospel miracle of the healing of the issue of blood, overcome by emotion, paused suddenly and remained silent, all present immediately burst into sobs.

Furthermore, silence gives the orator time and liberty to judge of his position. An orator should never speak without having thought, reflected and arranged his ideas. Before speaking he should decide upon his stand-point, and see clearly what he proposes to do. Even a fable may be related from many points of view; from that of expression as well as gesture, from that of inflection as well as articulate speech. All must be brought back to a scene in real life, to one stand-point, and the orator must create for himself, in some sort, the role of spectator.

Silence gives gesture time to concentrate, and do good execution.

One single rule applies to silence: Wherever there is ellipsis, there is silence. Hence the interjection and conjunction, which are essentially elliptic, must always be followed by a silence.

Respiration.—For the act of respiration, three movements are necessary: inspiration, suspension and expiration.

Its importance.—Respiration is a faithful rendering of emotion. For example: He who reigns in the skies. Here is a proposition which the composed orator will state in a breath. But should he wish to prove his emotion, he inspires after every word. He—who—reigns—in—the—skies. Multiplied inspirations can be tolerated on the strength of emotion, but they should be made as effective as possible.

Inspiration is allowable:—

1. After all words preceded or followed by an ellipse; 2. After words used in apostrophe, as Monsieur, Madame; 3. After conjunctions and interjections when there is silence; 4. After all transpositions; for example: To live, one must work. Here the preposition to takes the value of its natural antecedent, work; that is to say, six degrees, since by inversion it precedes it, and the gesture of the sentence bears wholly on the preposition; 5. Before and after incidental phrases; 6. Wherever we wish to indicate an emotion.

To facilitate respiration, stand on tip-toe and expand the chest.

Inspiration is a sign of grief; expiration is a sign of tenderness. Sorrow is inspiratory; happiness, expiratory.

The inspiratory act expresses sorrow, dissimulation.

The expiratory act expresses love, expansion, sympathy.

The suspensory act expresses reticence and disquietude. A child who has just been corrected deservedly, and who recognizes his fault, expires. Another corrected unjustly, and who feels more grief than love, inspires.

Inspiration is usually regulated by the signs of punctuation, which have been invented solely to give more exactness to the variety of sounds.


Their importance.—Sound, we have said, is the language of man in the sensitive state. We call inflections the modifications which affect the voice in rendering the emotions of the senses. The tones of the voice must vary with the sensations, each of which should have its note. Of what use to man would be a phonetic apparatus always rendering the same sound? Delivery is a sort of music whose excellence consists in a variety of tones which rise or fall according to the things they have to express. Beautiful but uniform voices resemble fine bells whose tone is sweet and clear, full and agreeable, but which are, after all, bells, signifying nothing, devoid of harmony and consequently without variety. To employ always the same action and the same tone of voice, is like giving the same remedy for all diseases. "Ennui was born one day from monotony," says the fable.

Man has received from God the privilege of revealing the inmost affections of his being through the thousand inflections of his voice. Man's least impressions are conveyed by signs which reveal harmony, and which are not the products of chance. A sovereign wisdom governs these signs.

With the infant in its cradle the signs of sensibility are broken cries. Their acuteness, their ascending form, indicate the weakness, and physical sorrow of man. When the child recognizes the tender cares of its mother, its voice becomes less shrill and broken; its tones have a less acute range, and are more poised and even. The larynx, which is very impressionable and the thermometer of the sensitive life, becomes modified, and produces sounds and inflections in perfect unison with the sentiments they convey.

All this, which man expresses in an imitative fashion, is numbered, weighed and measured, and forms an admirable harmony. This language through the larynx is universal, and common to all sensitive beings. It is universal with animals as with man. Animals give the identical sounds in similar positions.

The infant, delighted at being mounted on a table, and calling his mother to admire him, rises to the fourth note of the scale. If his delight becomes more lively, to the sixth; if the mother is less pleased than he would have her, he ascends to the third minor to express his displeasure. Quietude is expressed by the fourth note.

Every situation has its interval, its corresponding inflection, its corresponding note: this is a mathematical language.

Why this magnificent concert God has arranged in our midst if it has no auditors? If God had made us only intelligent beings, he would have given us speech alone and without inflections. Let us further illustrate the role of inflection.

A father receives a picture from his daughter. He expresses his gratitude by a falling inflection: "Ah well! the dear child." The picture comes from a stranger whom he does not know as a painter; he will say, "Well now! why does he send me this?" raising his voice.

If he does not know from whom the picture comes, his voice will neither rise nor fall; he will say, "Well! well! well!"

Let us suppose that his daughter is the painter. She has executed a masterpiece. Astonished at the charm of this work and at the same time grateful, his voice will have both inflections.

If surprise predominates over love the rising inflection will predominate. If love and surprise are equal, he will simply say, "Well now!"

Kan in Chinese signifies at the same time the roof of a house, a cellar, well, chamber, bed—the inflection alone determines the meaning. Roof is expressed by the falling, cellar by the rising inflection. The Chinese note accurately the depth and acuteness of sound, its intervals and its intensity.

We can say: "It is pretty, this little dog!" in 675 different ways. Some one would do it harm. We say: "This little dog is pretty, do not harm it!" "It is pretty because it is so little." If it is a mischievous or vicious dog, we use pretty in an ironical sense. "This dog has bitten my hand. It is a pretty dog indeed!" etc.

Rules of Inflection.

1. Inflections are formed by an upward or downward slide of the voice, or the voice remains in monotone. Inflections are, then, eccentric, concentric and normal.

2. The voice rises in exaltation, astonishment, and conflict.

3. The voice falls in affirmation, affection and dejection.

4. It neither rises nor falls in hesitation.

5. Interrogation is expressed by the rising inflection when we do not know what we ask; by the falling, when we do not quite know what we ask. For instance, a person asks tidings of his friend's health, aware or unaware that he is no better.

6. Musical tones should be given to things that are pleasing. Courtiers give musical inflections to the words they address to royalty.

7. Every manifestation of life is a song; every sound is a song. But inflections must not be multiplied, lest delivery degenerate into a perpetual sing-song. The effect lies entirely in reproducing the same inflection. A drop of water falling constantly, hollows a rock. A mediocre man will employ twenty or thirty tones. Mediocrity is not the too little, but the too much. The art of making a profound impression is to condense; the highest art would be to condense a whole scene into one inflection. Mediocre speakers are always seeking to enrich their inflections; they touch at every range, and lose themselves in a multitude of intangible effects.

8. In real art it is not always necessary to fall back upon logic. The reason needs illumination from nature, as the eye, in order to see, needs light. Reason may be in contradiction to nature. For instance, a half-famished hunter, in sight of a good dinner, would say: "I am hungry" emphasizing hungry, while reason would say that am must be emphasized. A hungry pauper would say: "I am hungry," dwelling upon am and gliding over hungry. If he were not hungry, or wished to deceive, he would dwell upon hungry.

Special Inflections.

Among the special inflections we may reckon:—

1. Exclamations.—Abrupt, loud, impassioned sounds, and improvisations.

2. Cries.—These are prolonged exclamations called forth by a lively sentiment of some duration, as acute suffering, joy or terror. They are formed by the sound a. In violent pain arising from a physical cause, the cries assume three different tones: one grave, another acute, the last being the lowest, and we pass from one to the other in a chromatic order.

There are appealing cries which ask aid in peril. These cries are formed by the sounds e and o. They are slower than the preceding, but more acute and of greater intensity.

3. Groans.—Here the voice is plaintive, pitiful, and formed by two successive tones, the one sharp, the final one deep. Its monotony, the constant recurrence of the same inflection, give it a remarkable expression.

4. Lamentation is produced by a voice loud, plaintive, despairing and obstinate, indicating a heart which can neither contain nor restrain itself.

5. The sob is an uninterrupted succession of sounds produced by slight, continuous inspirations, in some sort convulsive, and ending in a long, violent inspiration.

6. The sigh is a weak low tone produced by a quick expiration followed by a slow and deep inspiration.

7. The laugh is composed of a succession of loud, quick, monotonous sounds formed by an uninterrupted series of slight expirations, rapid and somewhat convulsive, of a tone more or less acute and prolonged, and produced by a deep inspiration.

8. Singing is the voice modulated or composed of a series of appreciable tones.

Part Second.


Chapter I.

Of Gesture in General.

Human word is composed of three languages. Man says what he feels by inflections of the voice, what he loves by gesture, what he thinks by articulate speech. The child begins with feeling; then he loves, and later, he reasons. While the child only feels, cries suffice him; when he loves, he needs gestures; when he reasons, he must have articulate language. The inflections of the voice are for sensations, gesture is for sentiments; the buccal apparatus is for the expression of ideas. Gesture, then, is the bond of union between inflection and thought. Since gesture, in genealogical order, holds the second rank in human languages, we shall reserve for it that place in the series of our oratorical studies.

We are entering upon a subject full of importance and interest. We purpose to render familiar the heart language, the expression of love.

We learn dead languages and living languages: Greek, Latin, German, English. Is it well to know conventional idioms, and to ignore the language of nature? The body needs education as well as the mind. This is no trivial work. Let it be judged by the steps of the ideal ladder we must scale before reaching the perfection of gesture. Observe the ways of laboring men. Their movements are awkward, the joints do not play. This is the first step.

At a more advanced stage, the shoulders play without the head. The individual turns around with a great impulse from the shoulders, with the leg raised, but the hand and the rest of the body remain inert. Then come the elbows, but without the hand. Later come the wrist-joint and the torso. With this movement of the wrist, the face becomes mobilized, for there is great affinity between these two agents. The face and hand form a most interesting unity. Finally, from the wrist, the articulation passes to the fingers, and here is imitative perfection. If we would speak our language eloquently, we must not be beguiled into any patois of gesture.

Gesture must be studied in order to render it faultlessly elegant, but in such a thorough way as not to seem studied. It has still higher claims to our regard in view of the services it has rendered to humanity. Thanks to this language of the heart, thousands of deaf-mutes are enabled to endure their affliction, and to share our social pleasures. Blessed be the Abbe de l'Epee, who, by uniting the science of gesture to the conventional signs of dactyology, has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak! This beneficent invention has made gesture in a twofold manner, the language of the heart.

Gesture is an important as well as interesting study. How beautiful it is to see the thousand pieces of the myological apparatus set in motion and propelled by this grand motor feeling! There surely is a joy in knowing how to appreciate an image of Christ on the cross, in understanding the attitudes of Faith, Hope and Charity. We can note a mother's affection by the way she holds her child in her arms. We can judge of the sincerity of the friend who grasps our hand. If he holds the thumb inward and pendant, it is a fatal sign; we no longer trust him. To pray with the thumbs inward and swaying to and fro, indicates a lack of sacred fervor. It is a corpse who prays. If you pray with the arms extended and the fingers bent, there is reason to fear that you adore Plutus. If you embrace me without elevating the shoulders, you are a Judas.

What can you do in a museum, if you have not acquired, if you do not wish to acquire the science of gesture? How can you rightly appreciate the beauty of the statue of Antinous? How can you note a fault in Raphael's picture of Moses making water gush from the rock? How see that he has forgotten to have the Israelites raise their shoulders, as they stand rapt in admiration of the miracle? One versed in the science of gesture, as he passes before the Saint Michael Fountain, must confess that the statue of the archangel with its parallel lines, is little better than the dragon at his feet.

In view of the importance and interest of the language of gesture, we shall study it thoroughly in the second book of our course.

Chapter II.

Definition and Division of Gesture.

Gesture is the direct agent of the heart, the interpreter of speech. It is elliptical discourse. Each part of this definition may be easily justified.

1. Gesture is the Direct Agent of the Heart.—Look at an infant. For some time he manifests his joy or sorrow through cries; but these are not gesture. When he comes to know the cause of his joy or sorrow, sentiment awakens, his heart opens to love or hatred, and he expresses his new emotion not by cries alone, nor yet by speech; he smiles upon his mother, and his first gesture is a smile. Beings endowed only with the sensitive life, have no smile; animals do not laugh.

This marvelous correspondence of the organs with the sentiment arises from the close union of soul and body. The brain ministers to the operations of the soul. Every sentiment must have its echo in the brain, in order to be unerringly transmitted by the organic apparatus.

Ex visu cognoscitur vir. ("The man is known by his face.") The role of dissimulation is a very difficult one to sustain.

2. Gesture is the Interpreter of Speech.—Gesture has been given to man to reveal what speech is powerless to express. For example: I love. This phrase says nothing of the nature of the being loved, nothing of the fashion in which one loves. Gesture, by a simple movement, reveals all this, and says it far better than speech, which would know how to render it only by many successive words and phrases. A gesture, then, like a ray of light, can reflect all that passes in the soul.

Hence, if we desire that a thing shall be always remembered, we must not say it in words; we must let it be divined, revealed by gesture. Wherever an ellipse is supposable in a discourse, gesture must intervene to explain this ellipse.

3. Gesture is an Elliptical Language.—We call ellipse a hidden meaning whose revelation belongs to gesture. A gesture must correspond to every ellipse. For example: "This medley of glory and gain vexes me." If we attribute something ignominious or abject to the word medley, there is an ellipse in the phrase, because the ignominy is implied rather than expressed. Gesture is then necessary here to express the value of the implied adjective, ignominious.

Suppress this ellipse, and the gesture must also be suppressed, for gesture is not the accompaniment of speech. It must express the idea better and in another way, else it will be only a pleonasm, an after conception of bad taste, a hindrance rather than an aid to intelligible expression.

Division of Gesture.

Every act, gesture and movement has its rule, its execution and its raison d'etre. The imitative is also divided into three parts: the static, the dynamic and the semeiotic. The static is the base, the dynamic is the centre, and the semeiotic the summit. The static is the equiponderation of the powers or agents; it corresponds to life.

The dynamic is the form of movements. The dynamic is melodic, harmonic and rhythmic. Gesture is melodic by its forms or its inflections. To understand gesture one must study melody. There is great affinity between the inflections of the voice and gesture. All the inflections of the voice are common to gesture. The inflections of gesture are oblique for the life, direct for the soul and circular for the mind. These three terms, oblique, direct and circular, correspond to the eccentric, normal and concentric states. The movements of flection are direct, those of rotation, circular, those of abduction, oblique.

Gesture is harmonic through the multiplicity of the agents which act in the same manner. This harmony is founded upon the convergence or opposition of the movements. Thus the perfect accord is the consonance of the three agents,—head, torso and limbs. Dissonance arises from the divergence of one of these agents.

Finally, gesture is rhythmic because its movements are subordinated to a given measure. The dynamic corresponds to the soul.

The semeiotic gives the reason of movements, and has for its object the careful examination of inflections, attitudes and types.

Under our first head, we treat of the static and of gesture in general; under our second, of the dynamic, and of gesture in particular; and finally, under our third head, of the semeiotic, with an exposition of the laws of gesture.

Chapter III.

Origin and Oratorical Value of Gesture.


The infant in the cradle has neither speech nor gesture:—he cries. As he gains sensibility his tones grow richer, become inflections, are multiplied and attain the number of three million special and distinct inflections. The young infant manifests neither intelligence nor affection; but he reveals his life by sounds. When he discerns the source of his joys or sufferings, he loves, and gesticulates to repulse or to invite. The gestures, which are few at first, become quite numerous. It is God's art he follows; he is an artist without knowing it.

Oratorical Value of Gesture.

The true aim of art is to move, to interest and to persuade. Emotion, interest and persuasion are the first terms of art. Emotion is expressed by the voice, by sounds; interest, by language; persuasion is the office of gesture.

To inflection belongs emotion through the beautiful; to logic, interest through the truth; to plastic art, persuasion through the good.

Gesture is more than speech. It is not what we say that persuades, but the manner of saying it. The mind can be interested by speech, it must be persuaded by gesture. If the face bears no sign of persuasion, we do not persuade.

Why at first sight does a person awaken our sympathy or antipathy? We do not understand why, but it is by reason of his gestures.

Speech is inferior to gesture, because it corresponds to the phenomena of mind; gesture is the agent of the heart, it is the persuasive agent.

Articulate language is weak because it is successive. It must be enunciated phrase by phrase; by words, syllables, letters, consonants and vowels—and these do not end it. That which demands a volume is uttered by a single gesture. A hundred pages do not say what a simple movement may express, because this simple movement expresses our whole being. Gesture is the direct agent of the soul, while language is analytic and successive. The leading quality of mind is number; it is to speculate, to reckon, while gesture grasps everything by intuition,—sentiment as well as contemplation. There is something marvelous in this language, because it has relations with another sphere; it is the world of grace.

An audience must not be supposed to resemble an individual. A man of the greatest intelligence finding himself in an audience, is no longer himself. An audience is never intelligent; it is a multiple being, composed of sense and sentiment. The greater the numbers, the less intelligence has to do. To seek to act upon an individual by gesture would be absurd. The reverse is true with an audience; it is persuaded not by reasoning, but by gesture.

There is here a current none can control. We applaud disagreeable things in spite of ourselves—things we should condemn, were they said to us in private. The audience is not composed of intellectual people, but of people with senses and hearts. As sentiment is the highest thing in art, it should be applied to gesture.

If the gestures are good, the most wretched speaking is tolerated. So much the better if the speaking is good, but gesture is the all-important thing. Gesture is superior to each of the other languages, because it embraces the constituent parts of our being. Gesture includes everything within us. Sound is the gesture of the vocal apparatus. The consonants and vowels are the gesture of the buccal apparatus, and gesture, properly so called, is the product of the myological apparatus.

It is not ideas that move the masses; it is gestures.

We easily reach the heart and soul through the senses. Music acts especially on the senses. It purifies them, it gives intelligence to the hand, it disposes the heart to prayer. The three languages may each move, interest and persuade.

Language is a sort of music which moves us through vocal expression; it is besides normal through the gesture of articulation. No language is exclusive. All interpenetrate and communicate their action. The action of music is general.

The mind and the life are active only for the satisfaction of the heart; then, since the heart controls all our actions, gesture must control all other languages.

Gesture is magnetic, speech is not so. Through gesture we subdue the most ferocious animals.

The ancients were not ignorant of this all-powerful empire of gesture over an audience. Therefore, sometimes to paralyze, sometimes to augment this magic power, orators were obliged to cover their faces with a mask, when about to speak in public. The judges of the Areopagus well knew the power of gesture, and to avoid its seductions, they adopted the resource of hearing pleas only in the darkness.

The sign of the cross made at the opening of a sermon often has great effect upon good Catholics. Let a priest with his eyes concentric and introspective make deliberately the sign of the cross while solemnly uttering these words: "In-the-name-of-the-Father;" then let his glance sweep the audience. What do they think of him? This is no longer an ordinary man; he seems clothed with the majesty of God, whose orders he has just received, and in whose name he brings them. This idea gives him strength and assurance, and his audience respect and docility.

Chapter IV.

The Laws of Gesture.

The static treats of the laws of gesture which are six in number, viz.: Priority, retroaction, the opposition of agents, unity, stability and rhythm.

The Priority of Gesture to Speech.

Gesture must always precede speech. In fact, speech is reflected expression. It must come after gesture, which is parallel with the impression received. Nature incites a movement, speech names this movement. Speech is only the title, the label of what gesture has anticipated. Speech comes only to confirm what the audience already comprehend. Speech is given for naming things. Gesture asks the question, "What?" and speech answers. Gesture after the answer would be absurd. Let the word come after the gesture and there will be no pleonasm.

Priority of gesture may be thus explained: First a movement responds to the sensation; then a gesture, which depicts the emotion, responds to the imagination which colors the sensation. Then comes the judgment which approves. Finally, we consider the audience, and this view of the audience suggests the appropriate expression for that which has already been expressed by gesture.

The basis of this art is to make the auditors divine what we would have them feel.

Every speaker may choose his own stand-point, but the essential law is to anticipate, to justify speech by gesture. Speech is the verifier of the fact expressed. The thing may be expressed before announcing its name. Sometimes we let the auditors divine rather than anticipate, gazing at them in order to rivet their attention. Eloquence is composed of many things which are not named, but must be named by slight gestures. In this eloquence consists. Thus a smack of the tongue, a blow upon the hand, an utterance of the vowel u as if one would remove a stain from his coat. The writer cannot do all this. The mere rendition of the written discourse is nothing for the orator; his talent consists in taking advantage of a great number of little nameless sounds.

A written discourse must contain forced epithets and adjectives to illustrate the subject. In a spoken discourse a great number of adjectives are worse than useless. Gesture and inflection of the voice supply their place. The sense is not in the words; it is in inflection and gesture.


We have formulated this general law: The eccentric, normal and concentric expression must correspond to the sensitive, moral and intellectual state of man. When gesture is concerned, the law is thus modified: In the sensitive state, the gesture, which is naturally eccentric, may become concentric, as the orator is passive or active.

He is passive when subject to any action whatever, when he depicts an emotion.

He is agent when he communicates to the audience the expression of his own will or power; in a word, at all times when he controls his audience.

When the orator assumes the passive role, that is, when he reflects, he gazes upon his audience; he makes a backward (or concentric) movement; when he assumes the active role, he makes a forward (or eccentric) movement. When one speaks to others, he advances; when one speaks to himself, he recoils a step, his thought centres upon himself.

In the passive state, one loves. But when he loves, he does not move forward. A being who feels, draws back, and contemplates the object toward which the hand extends. Contemplation makes the body retroact.

Hence in the passive state, the orator must step backward. In the opposite state he moves forward. Let us apply this law: A spendthrift officer meets his landlord, whom he has not yet paid, and greets him with an—"Ah, good day, sir!" What will be his movement? It must be retroactive. In the joy of seeing a friend again, as also in fright, we start back from the object loved or hated. Such is the law of nature, and it cannot be ignored.

Whence comes this law? To behold a loved object fully, we must step back, remove to some little distance from it. Look at a painter admiring his work. It is retroaction at sight of a beloved person, which has led to the discovery of the phenomena of life, to this triple state of man which is found in like manner, everywhere: Concentric, eccentric, and normal.

The concentric is the passive state, for when one experiences a deep emotion, he must retroact. Hence a demonstration of affection is not made with a forward movement. If so, there is no love. Expiration is the sign of him who gives his heart. Hence there is joy and love. In inspiration there is retroaction, and, in some sort, distrust. The hand extends toward the beloved object; if the hand tend toward itself, a love of self is indicated. Love is expressed by a retroactive, never by a forward movement. In portraying this sentiment the hand must not be carried to the heart. This is nonsense; it is an oratorical crime. The hand must tend toward the loved being to caress, to grasp, to reassure or to defend. The hand is carried to the heart only in case of suffering there.

Take this passage from Racine's Phedre:

Dieu—que ne puis-je a l'ombre des forets, Suivre de l'oeil un char fuyant dans la carriere—

("God—may I not, through the dim forest shades, With my glance follow a fleet chariot's course.")

Here the actor does not follow affectionately, but with the eye, and then by recoiling and concentrating his thought upon himself.

In the role of Emilie:

"He may in falling crush thee 'neath his fall"

at sight of her crushed lover Emilie must recoil in terror, and not seem to add the weight of her body to that which crushes the victim.

Augustus, on the contrary, may say:

"I might in falling crush thee 'neath my fall,"

pausing upon a forward movement, because he is here the agent.

Let us note in passing that the passive attitude is the type of energetic natures. They have something in themselves which suffices them. This is a sort of repose; it is elasticity.

Opposition of Agents.

The opposition of the agents is the harmony of gesture. Harmony is born of contrasts. From opposition, equilibrium is born in turn. Equilibrium is the great law of gesture, and condemns parallelism; and these are the laws of equilibrium:

1. The forward inclination of the torso corresponds to the movement of the leg in the opposite direction.

2. When one arm is added to the weight of the already inclined torso, the other arm must rise to form a counterpoise.

3. In gazing into a well, the two arms must be drawn backward if the body is equally supported by the two legs; in like manner the two arms may be carried in front if the torso bends backward. This is allowable only in the first attitude of the base, or in a similar attitude.

The harmonic law of gesture is the static law par excellence.

It is of childlike simplicity. We employ it in walking; also when we carry a weight in one hand, the other rises. The law consists in placing the acting levers in opposition, and thus realizing equilibrium. All that is in equilibrium is harmonized. All ancient art is based upon this opposition of levers. Modern art, with but few exceptions, is quite the contrary.

Here is an example of the observance of this rule: If the head and arms are in action, the head must move in opposition to the arms and the hand. If both move in the same direction, there is a defect in equilibrium, and awkwardness results.

When the arm rises to the head, the head bends forward and meets it half-way. The reverse is true. Every movement in the hand has its responsive movement in the head. If the head advances, the hand withdraws. The movements must balance, so that the body may be in equilibrium and remain balanced.

Here is the difference between ancient and modern art. Let us suppose a statue of Corneille reading his works. To-day we should pose it with one leg and arm advanced. This is parallelism. Formerly the leg would have been opposed to this movement of the arm, because there should be here the expansion of the author toward his work, and this expansion results precisely from an opposition of levers.

We know the ancient gladiator; we do exactly the opposite from him in fencing.

Modern art makes the man walk with leg and arm parallel. Ancient art would have the leg opposed to the arm.

It is through opposition that the smile expresses moral sadness. This law of opposition must be observed in the same member. For example, the hand should be opposed to the arm. Thus we have magnificent spheroidal movements which are graceful and also have considerable force. Thus all the harmonies occur in one same whole, in one same truth. In a word, all truths interpenetrate, and when a thing is true from one point of view, it is so from all.

Number of Gestures.

Many reasons go to prove that gestures need not be multiplied:

A.—We are moved by only one sentiment at a time; hence it is useless to multiply gestures.

B.—But one gesture is needed for the expression of an entire thought; since it is not the word but the thought that the gesture must announce; if it expressed only the word, it would be trivial and mean, and also prejudicial to the effect of the phrase.

In these phrases: "What do you seek in the world, happiness? It is not there," that which first strikes us is the absence of happiness. Gesture must indicate it in advance, and this should be the dominating movement.

The intelligent man makes few gestures. To multiply gestures indicates a lack of intelligence. The face is the thermometer of intelligence. Let as much expression as possible be given to the face. A gesture made by the hand is wrong when not justified in advance by the face. Intelligence is manifested by the face. When the intelligent man speaks, he employs great movements only when they are justified by great exaltation of sentiment; and, furthermore, these sentiments should be stamped upon his face. Without expression of the face, all gestures resemble telegraphic movements.

C.—The repeated extension of the arms denotes but little intelligence, little suppleness in the wrist and fingers. The movement of a single finger indicates great finesse.

It is easy to distinguish the man of head, heart and actions. The first makes many gestures of the head; the second many of the shoulders; the last moves the arms often and inappropriately.

D.—Gesture is allowable only when an ellipse of the word or phrase admits of an additional value.

E.—Effects must not be multiplied; this is an essential precaution. Multiplied movements are detrimental when a graver movement is awaited.

F.—The orator is free to choose between the role of actor or that of mere spectator or narrator. Neither the one nor the other can be forced upon him. The actor's role arises not from intelligence but simply from instinct. The actor identifies himself with the personages he represents. He renders all their sentiments. This role is the most powerful, but, before making it the object of his choice, there must be severe study; he must not run the risk of frivolity.

We can dictate to the preacher and mark out his path. He must not be an actor, but a doctor. Hence his gestures must never represent the impressions of those of whom he speaks, but his own. Hence he should proportion the number of his gestures to the number of his sentiments.

G.—If the orator would speak to any purpose, he must bring back his discourse to some picture from nature, some scene from real life.

There must be unity in everything; but a role may be condensed in two or three traits; therefore a great number of gestures is not necessary.

Let it be carefully noted: the expression of the face should make the gesture of the arms forgotten. Here the talent of the orator shines forth. He must captivate his public in such a way that his arm gestures will be ignored. He must so fascinate his auditors that they cannot ask the reason of this fascination, nor remark that he gesticulates at all.

H.—Where there are two gestures in the same idea, one of them must come before the proposition, the other in its midst.

If there is but one gesture and it precedes the proposition, the term to which it is applied must be precisely indicated.

For example: Would he be sensible to friendship? Although friendship may in some degree be qualified as the indirect regimen, gesture should portray it in all its attributes.

Duration of Gesture.

The suspension or prolongation of a movement is one of the great sources of effect. It is in suspension that force and interest consist. A good thing is worth being kept in sight long enough to allow an enjoyment of the view.

The orator should rest upon the preceding gesture until a change is absolutely required.

A preoccupied man greets you with a smile, and after you have left, he smiles on, until something else occurs to divert his mind.

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