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REALISM AND CONVERSATION. M R . GRANT ALLEN, in a recent article in one of the
IVT London dailies, said that the realists do not get the truc ring of conversation, although they make a microscopic study of it.” It is not possible, he continued, to print in cold type ordinary conversation without everything being tame.
His special reason for this, as I remember it, was that there are so many words used in common conversation that, if they are printed in cold type, we do not feel the movement of conversation, as we read them, but are confused by a multitude of accidents.
There is, however, another reason. The chief characteristics of conversation are changes of pitch and a great variety of inflections and subordinations. Now, while all the words can be put in print, the elements of Vocal Expression are eliminated. The saliency given by the voice to some words and the subordination to others cannot be expressed by print ; so the ordinary rcader does not feel the naturalness, Auency, Alexibility, and variety of conversation.
It is necessary, therefore, for the novel-writer to choose these salient elements of conversation, and to eliminate many of the accidentals, in order to suggest the sequence of the mind in conversation, to indicate how the mind leaps from one idea to another. Conversational naturalness does not consist in words ; it is the association of ideas, the manifestation of great centres of attention. Even the variations, the discursiveness, the leaping from one thing to another, which is common in conversation, can only be suggested in writing. “ Art is choice," says a late French writer. This principle must be applied to all records of conversation ; otherwise, details will destroy emphasis. Even the Parthenon had to be made wrong in order to appear right. If it had been built mechanically regular, its beauty, expression, and art would have been lost.
One great means of developing the power of Dickens is said to have been his experience in acting. The novelist can be
assisted by a right study of Vocal Expression. He must find the elemental actions in conversation. Art must deal with essential truths, must manifest fundamentals. An artist must know the fundamental elements of naturalness ; he must be able to feel them, and to realize them imaginatively, so as to reproduce them in form. The translation of one art into another is very important and very difficult. No two arts can say the same thing in the same way. The printed page is straight and mechanically accurate. The voice in speaking is very flexible and free. The most ignorant man in speaking will use the most salient inflections and changes of pitch; it is all a matter of instinct. The writer must be able by means of literary art to suggest this. He cannot literally reproduce it without covering the page with mechanical straight lines, which will hide all the spirit and true ring of naturalness in conversation.
The struggle for style is the struggle of each personality to inanifest its own ideas and peculiarities in the best possible way. It is not only the study of other writers or other artists, it is also and primarily a study of self. It is not merely man's endeavor to say something in its truest and best way, but it is also a struggle to suggest the relations, the feeling, the thought, and the point of view of the man himself. Of course this part of the struggle is unconscious. No one realizes, in the study for style, his exact aim; but this makes it none the less important. Each soul must rise to such a development that all his languages, natural and artificial, vocal and verbal, become transparent, reveal his thought and feeling, and suggest the attitude of the man himself.
Gold is a precious metal, but it is too soft to make a good coin ; it must be mixed with a harder metal, so as to stand the wear and tear of use. So emotion is a noble thing, but it must be as a phase of thought, or expression is weak. Thought and emotion must be
BY-PATHS OF EXPRESSION.
(From students' notes of illustrations used in class.) COME one says that all great dramatic art must hide the perw sonality of the artist. This poor little writer does not see the difference between individuality and personality. Man must hide his individuality to reveal his personality. Dramatic art is great in proportion as the man throws aside the shackles of his individuality and reveals another character by the race that is in himself, which is there in proportion to the greatness of his personality; he interprets or reflects another character, but his own is its background. Let a man try to express even indifference; if he merely expresses indifference and shows no soul behind it, his effort is a failure. No one can express indifference indifferently nor tameness tamely. There must be an earnest soul behind, which shines through the indifference and tameness. All art is interpretative; that is to say, the soul of the man rises out of himself, and shows an object of nature in union with himself. All art is a thing and a thought.
The best carpenter receives the best pay. This is the law in commercial phases of human activity ; but it is not so in literary and artistic work. No collected edition of Shakespeare's plays was demanded in his life. Milton received five pounds for “ Paradise Lost.” The man who wishes to go into art or literature should not do so to make money. If he wishes to make money, he should go into those occupations where money-making is the legitimate end. He who goes into the highest literary work must be content to be poor ; he must care only for what is true and right and good. The satisfaction in such employments as these is not in money received : it is in the grand consciousness of doing good, — in high thinking, and in broad, noble sympathy with the ideals of the race.
SUPERFICIAL decoration is the most effective method of degrading the sublime.
Professor Norton once said: “Giotto studied nature as faithfully as Michael Angelo, but he did not have the art of others to study; hence the difference. Great art has always been founded upon previous art.” This is true, but it is only one side. Had not Giotto turned men to the direct study of nature, how could the shackles of Byzantine art have been broken? Where would have been the art of Raphael and Leonardo? Besides, Giulio Romano had the art of Raphael, which he faithfully studied and copied; but not studying nature, his art became superficial and degraded. In fact, the great artist must study both nature and art. Study merely of art leads men to conventionality and to the death of art.
Must the young student study great art or nature ? Both. He must stand again and again before some great work of art; he must linger before the great paintings which the best of his race have admired for ages. Long must the student seek, and patiently must he wait, in the study of any work of art, till the race, the humanity in him, awakens to a realization of its greatness. Then he must pause beside the brook, before the simple daisy, and wander beneath the pines, till the sympathetic chord in his heart is touched. Such study emancipates the soul from narrowness, and saves the student from conventionality, artificiality, and affectation,
Portia, when asked at the beginning of the trial if she understood the case, said, “I am throughly informed of the whole cause.” Professor Monroe used to say to students, “ You must be
throughly informed' with your subject.” The great secret of delivery is the co-operative action of the whole man, — the diffusion of the emotion through the whole soul and body.
Every change of thought and emotion tends to cause a change of body or change of voice. If a man is walking along rapidly and a sudden thought strikes him, he stops ; if he is standing still when a sudden thought strikes him, he generally walks. That a change of idea and emotion shall cause some change in voice and body, is As in travelling there are certain cross-roads where we need special attention as to the path we take, so in expression there are a few elements of execution which are of primary importance to keep the whole man — thought, emotion, voice, and body - in the right path of artistic power. Obsta principiis! Be careful of beginnings! applies with force to all the work of developing expression.
No man ever grows larger than his ideal. The ideal will gradually expand and improve, but it is always a little ahead of actual attainment. No matter what a man's work is, if his ideal conception of it is low, that low ideal will eventually degrade even his knowledge, and pervert even his technical skill.
NOTES AND COMMENTS.
[For the views expressed in all signed articles in this periodical the writers themselves are responsible. The Editor is responsible for the unsigned articles alone.] THE National Association of Elocutionists held their meeting in
1 Boston in June, The Elocutionists of Boston gave them a splendid reception at the Hotel Brunswick, and secured for them Huntington Hall, where the Lowell Lectures are given.
Such associations have to struggle against difficulties ; but the results so far have proven that there are many Elocutionists in the country who are animated by the sentiment once expressed by Wordsworth: “ Every man owes something to his profession.” No profession needs more co-operation than this. There is an earnest desire on the part of the Association to recognize every system and phase of elocutionary training, and every section of the country. The great predominance of New York and Chicago teachers among the officers is due to the fact that the first and the second meetings were held in these cities, so that naturally more teachers from these sections attended.
The profession needs more advanced methods, a more adequate recognition of the science and the art of our age. The National