Gambar halaman

the whole, previous to the publication of Mr. Locke's Essay, is, to us, perfectly unintelligible. It is natural to ask-has Mr. Sheridan discovered any new faculties in the human mind? Is a right regulation of the seat of the passions, of more importance than a right regulation of the passions themselves? Are there any peculiar faculties belonging to the seat of the passions, and the seat of the fancy? Have the writings of Butler, Hutcheson, Smith, Hume, &c. left us as much in the dark, with regard to the pallions and imagination, as mankind were with regard to the understanding, before the publication of Mr. Locke's Essay ?

« But it will be said, continues our Author, how, or from whom is this to be expected ? Are not these the very points about which the most eminent of our Writers have employed their labours, hitherto to little purpose? Have not these been the chief objects in the works of our most celebrated Divines, Moralists, and Metaphysicians, Critics, Writers of Elays, &c. and have we any reason to believe that this age will produce writings in those several ways superior to what hath hitherto appeared ? Such are the questions likely to be asked by those whose minds have been narrowed by an early false bias given to us in our fyftem of education, and afterwards continued through life? I mean that extravagant idea entertained of the power of writing, far beyond what in its na ure it can ever attain. But suppose it be asserted, that this is the very cause of the failure, in the attempts made by so many men of distinguished abilities to reforın mankind. Suppose it be alserted, that they have all used an instrument, which in its very construction was incapable of accomplishing the work they were about. In short, that some of our greatest men have been trying to do that with the pen, which can only be performed by the tongue; to produce effects by the dead letter, which can never be produced but by the living voice, with its accompaniments. This is no longer a mere affer

it is no longer problematical. It has been demonstrated to the entire facisfaction of some of the wiselt heads in these realms : and Readers of but moderate discernment, will find it fully proved in the fixth and seventh Lectures, on Tones and Gestures ; and in the two following Dissertions on Language.

“ But that the bulk of my Readers may not enter upon the discuslion of this point, with all their prejudices about them, they are desired to reflect, that language is the great inftrument by which all the faculties of the mind are brought for

ward, which


ward, moulded, polished, and exerted: and that we have in use two kinds of language; the spoken, and the written. The one, the gift of God; the other, the invention of man. Which of these two is most likely to be adapted to its end, that of giving the human mind its proper shape, and enabling it to display all its faculties in perfection?

“ If they want to judge by effects produced in our own times, how far the one language has the advantage over the other, let them only refect on a recent instance of a late minister, who by the mere force of cultivating the language bestowed by the Deity on human kind, as far as he could carry it by his own pains, raised himself to the sole direction of affairs in this country : and not only so, but the powers of his living voice shook distant thrones, and made the extremities of the earth to tremble. When it is well known that had the same sentiments been delivered in the language of men; had they been sent out into the world in a pamphlet ; they would probably have produced less effects upon the minds of a few readers, than tho'e of some hireling writers. And we have many Aagrant instances in our Methodist preachers, of the power which words acquire, even the words of fools and mad men, when forcibly uttered by the living voice. And if the language of nature be possessed of such power, in its present neglected and uncultivated state, how immense must be its force, were it carried to the same degree of perfection, that it was amongst the antient Greeks and Romans ?”

How immense indeed! it must certainly shake the foundations of the earth, and make the very pillars of Heaven to tremble.

Had the Greeks or Romans been blest with the light of revelation ; had they been possessed of such a religion, and such a conftitution as ours, together with some discoveries which time has produced ; they would, Mr. Sheridan says, have carried all the powers belonging to human nature to the utmost degree of perfection; and the state of society amongst thern would have approached as nearly to that blissful state, to which we are taught to look forwards, a fellowship with angels, as the boundaries of the two worlds would permit. And would not this necessarily be our case, were we poffelled of those articles, in which the Greeks and Romans confeffedly excelled us? We want only their Arts added to our Sciences. Now they had no arts whatsoever, we are told, in 6

which they excelled us, that did not take their rise, either immediately, or confequentially, from the pains bestowed upon the culture of the language of nature, the living speech.- What is there wanting then amongst us, but to apply ourselves with industry to the fame means, in order to attain the same ends.

" I know there are few, continues our Author, capable of tracing a speculation of this fort, thro' all its fteps, fo as to perceive the juftnefs of the deduction. But I am now little folicitous about what judgment fhall be past upon the theory, since the time is approaching of trying it experimentally. A few tensible effects produced from pra&ice, will carry more conviction to the bulk of mankind, than a thoufand speculative arguments. It is with true fatisfaction of heart I hail the approaching day, when all that I have advanced upon this subject, will be put to that test.”

Happy, thrice happy Britain ! what a glorious day begins to dawn upon thee! All thy fons are to have their underftandings enlightened, their tastes refined, their hurtful palfions fupprefied, and all the nobler principles of their nature invigorated, and carried into due exertion. The giant Corruption, with his hundred hands, is to be banished from this realm of freedom, the fetters of that tyrant CUSTOM to be broken, and the bonds of prejudice to be snapped afunder: thy Senators, happy country! thy Ministers of religion too, are all to become ORATORS; the ambiguity and obscurity of thy laws is to give way to clearners and precision ; thy language is to be refined, and established on so solid a foundation, that time shall no more prevail against it, than it has againit the languages of Greece and Rome ; thy Miltons and thy Shakespears shall not perish, but with Homer and Virgil, in the general diffolution of the world ; in a word, thou art to be raised to such heights of knowledge, virtue, and happiness, as no other country ever reached, and thy condition is to approach as nearly to that blissful state, to which we are taught to look forwards, as the boundaries of the two worlds will permit.

What honours are due to that godlike man, from whom Luch important blessings are to flow upon us ! How little, and infignificant, do all the Legislators and Orators, nay, we had almoit said, the Prophets and Apoi les of former days, appear, when coinpared with him! But our language, in its present neglected and uncultivated frate, is not worthy to be employed in celebrating his praises ; we must therefore content ourselves with silent admiration,

We now proceed to the Lectures themselves, which are really ingenious, instructive and entertaining.-In the first Lecture, Mr. Sheridan sets out with observing, that a general inability to read, or speak, with propriety and grace in public, runs thro' the natives of the British dominions; that it shews itself in our Senates and Churches, on the bench and at the bar.

There cannot be a better clue, we are told, to guide us to the source of this general deficiency, than a due attention to the following observation, viz. that there are few perfonis, who, in private company, do not deliver their sentiments with propriety and force in their manner, whenever they speak in earnest.--Here, therefore, is a sure standard fixed for propriety and force in public speaking, which is, only to make use of the same manner in the one, as in the other, And this, men certainly would do, if left to themselves; and if early pains were not taken, to substitute an artificial method, in the room of that which is natural.

“ Here then, continues our Author, is to be found the true source of the bad manner of reading and speaking in public, that so generally prevails ; which is, that we are taught to read in a different way, with different tones and cadences, from those which we use in speaking ; and this artificial manner is used instead of the natural one, in all recitals and repetitions at school, as well as in reading. « Till therefore a


shall be found out to counteract for the present, and destroy hereafter, the bad custom which has given rise to this unnatural manner of reading and speaking, we shall in vain hope, for the many excellent effects, which might be produced by good clocution, in a country, where there is such an absolute necessity for it, to the support of our constitution, both in church and state.

“ I shall therefore confider, in the first place, how the power of this custom may be counteracted, for the immediate relief of such as are labouring under the effects of its bad influence ; and afterwards thew how it may be wholly subverted; fo that the rising, and future generations may no longer be tainted by it. As the first of these is the point in which my hearers are more immediately concerned, I fhall chiefly in the prefent course dwell upon that.”


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The purposes which may be answered by reading, Mr. Sheridan observes, are chiefly three ; viz. the acquisition of knowledge ; the affisting the memory to treasure up this knowledge ; and the communicating it to others. The first two may be done by silent reading; the last, requires reading aloud. "This leads him to examine how far the art of writing, (under which head he includes printing) is in its present itate fitted to answer the several purposes, and how far, and in what respects it is deficient.

To prove that our written language is by no means calculated to answer the third purpose, of reading aloud to others, he shews, that it contains no visible marks, of articles, which are the most important of all others, to a just delivery. A just delivery, he tells us, consists in a distinct articulation of words, pronounced in proper tones, suitably varied to the fense, and the emotions of the mind ; with due observation of accent ; of emphasis, in its several gradations ; of rests or pauses of the voice, in proper places and well measured degrees of time ; and the whole accompanied with expressive looks, and significant gesture. Now of all these ingredients, not one of which can be spared from a good delivery, there are but two, he observes, that are at all regarded in the art of writing, and those are, articulate sounds or words, which are marked by letters ; and stops, or pauses of the voice, which are marked by little figures or tittles.

But with respect to the other articles of tones, accent, emphafis and gesture, there are no visible marks to serve as guides in these. And as these latter must be allowed to be the sources, of every thing which is pleasurable, or forcible in delivery; and to contain in them, all the powers of strongly impressing the mind, captivating the fancy, rousing the passions, and delighting the car ; it must also be allowed, we are told, that the most essential articles to a good delivery, have been wholly left out of the graphic art.

" That the great difficulty, says our Author, of reading with propriety, and in suitably varied; tones and cadences, arises from the want of sufficient signs and marks, in the art of writing, to point them out ; and were there but a sufficient number of those marks, reading justly at sight, might be rendered almost as easy and as certain, as singing at fight, is a matter which might unquestionably be proved, were it to be attended by any advantage. But as that would be merely a speculative point, inasmuch as there is little likelihood that


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »