The better to conceive the position of two speakers in a scene, a plate is given representing their respective attitudes; and it must be carefully noted, that when they are not speaking; the arms must hang in their natural place by the sides; unless what is spoken by one is of such importance, as to excite agitation and surprize in the other. But if we should be sparing of gesture at all times, we should be more particularly so when we are not speaking.
From what has been laid down, it will evidently appear, how much more difficult and complicate is the action of a scene than that of a single speech; and, in teaching both to children, how necessary it is to adopt as simple and easy a method as possible. The easiest method of conveying instruction in this point, will be sufficiently difficult; and therefore, the avoiding of aukwardness and impropriety should be more the object of instruction, than the conveying of beauties.
There are indeed some masters who are against teaching boys any action at all, and are for leading them in this point entirely to nature. It is happy, however, that they do not leave that action to nature, which is acquired by dancing; the deportment of their pupils would soon convince them they were imposed on by the sound of words. Improved and beautiful nature is the object of the painter’s pencil, the poet’s pen, and the rhetorician’s action, and not that sordid and common nature, which is perfectly rude and uncultivated. Nature directs us to art, and art selects and polishes the beauties of nature. It is not sufficient for an orator, says Quintilian, that he is a man: he must be an improved and cultivated man: he must be a man favoured by nature and fashioned by art.
But the necessity of adopting some method of teaching action, is too evident to need proof. Boys will infallibly contract some action; to require them to stand stock-still while they are speaking an impassioned speech, is not only exacting a very difficult task from them, but is, in a great measure, checking their natural exertions. If they are left to themselves, they will in all probability fall into very wild and ungraceful action, which, when once formed into habit, can scarcely ever be corrected: giving them therefore a general out-line of good action, must be of the utmost consequence to their progress and improvement in pronunciation.