A study of the signs which distinguish these different shades will teach us the analysis of gesture.
Aside from simple interpellation, the series passes successively from gratitude, devotion, etc., to anger, menace and conflict, leaving the soul at the point where it is subdued and asks forgiveness.
The passional or fugitive type forms the constant subject of the study of this series.
The Series of Gestures Applied to the Sentiments Oftenest Expressed by the Orator.
First Gesture. Interpellation.
Interpellation embraces five steps:
The first consists in elevating the shoulder in token of affection. If the right shoulder, as in figure 2 with the right leg weak.
The second step consists in a rotary movement of the arm, its object being to present the epicondyle (elbow-joint) to the interlocutor. For this reason the epicondyle is called the eye of the arm.
The third stage consists in substituting the articulation of the wrist for the epicondyle. In making the forward movement of the body, the epicondyle must resume its natural place.
The fourth step consists in extending the hand toward the speaker in such a way as to present to him the extremities of the fingers.
The fifth step is formed by a rapid rotation of the hand.
Second Gesture. Thanks—Affectionate and Ceremonious.
This gesture consists of six steps:
1. Consists in lifting the hand and lowering the head.
2. Consists in raising the hand to the hip.
3. The head inclines to one side, and the elbow at the same time rises to aid the hand in reaching the lips.
4. In this, the head resumes its normal position, while the elbow is lowered to bring back the hand to the same position.
5. In this, the hand passes from the horizontal to the vertical position, rounding toward the arm.
6. In this, the arm is developed, and then the hand.
Third Gesture. Attraction.
In this gesture there are three steps:
1. The hand turns toward the interlocutor with an appealing aspect.
2. The hand opens like a fan with the little finger tending toward the chest.
3. The elbow is turned outward, and the hand passes toward the breast.
Fourth Gesture. Surprise and Assurance.
1. This consists in elevating the shoulders, opening the eyes and mouth and raising the eyebrow; the whole in token of surprise.
2. Raise the passive hand above the chin, making it turn around the wrist.
3. The hand still passive, is directed toward the person addressed, the elbow being pressed against the body.
4. The arm is gradually extended toward the person addressed, while the hand is given an opposite direction; that is, the palm of the hand is toward him.
Fifth Gesture. Devotion.
This gesture embraces seven movements:
1. This consists in raising the passive hand to the level of the other hand, but in an inverse direction.
2. This consists in turning back the hand toward one's self.
3. This consists in drawing the elbows to the body, and placing the hands on the chest.
4. This is produced by taking a step backward, and turning a third to one side; during the execution of this step, the elbows are raised, and the head is lowered.
5. This consists in drawing the elbows near the body, and placing the hands above the shoulders.
6. This consists in developing the arms.
7. This consists in developing the hands.
Sixth Gesture. Interrogative Surprise.
This surprise is expressed in two movements:
1. This is wholly facial.
2. This is made by advancing the hand and drawing the head backward.
Seventh Gesture. Reiterated Interrogation.
This gesture signifies: I do not understand, I cannot explain your conduct to me. It embraces five steps:
1. This consists in placing both hands beneath the chin, and violently elevating the shoulders.
2. This consists in bringing the hands to the level of the chest, as if in search of something there.
3. This consists in extending both hands toward the interlocutor, as if to show him that they contain nothing.
4. This consists in extending one hand in the opposite direction, and letting the head and body follow the hand.
5. This consists in turning the head vehemently toward the interlocutor, and suddenly lowering the shoulders.
Eighth Gesture. Anger.
This gesture is made in three movements:
1. This consists in raising the arm.
2. This consists in catching hold of the sleeve.
3. This consists in carrying the clenched hand to the breast, and drawing back the other arm.
Ninth Gesture. Menace.
This gesture consists of a preparatory movement, which is made by lowering the hand while the arm is outstretched toward the interlocutor, then the finger is extended, and the hand is outstretched in menace.
The eye follows the finger as it would follow a pistol; this occasions a reversal of the head proportional to that of the hand.
Tenth Gesture. An Order for Leaving.
This is executed:
1. By turning around on the free limb.
2. By carrying the body with it.
3. By executing a one-fifth sideward movement—the right leg very weak. All these movements are made by retaining the gesture of the preceding menace. Then only the menacing hand is turned inward at the height of the eye, at the moment when it is about to pass the line occupied by the head; the elbow is raised to allow the hand a downward movement, which ends in an indication of departure. In this indication the hand is absolutely reversed, that is, it is in pronation. Then only does the head, which has hitherto been lowered, rise through the opposition of the extended arm.
Eleventh Gesture. Reiteration.
1. The whole body tends toward the hand which is posed above the head. The right leg passes from weak to strong.
2. The head is turned backward toward the interlocutor.
3. It rises.
4. The arm extends.
5. The hand in supination gives intimation of the order.
Twelfth Gesture. Fright.
The right hand pendent. The left hand rises. Tremor.
The first movement is executed in one-third; the body gently passes into the fourth, and as the fifth is being accomplished, the arm is thrust forward as if to repel the new object of terror.
At this moment a metamorphose seems to take place, and the object which had occasioned the fright, seems to be transfigured and to become the subject of an affectionate impulse. The hands extend toward this object not to repel it, but to implore it to remain; it seems to become more and more ennobled, and to assume in the astonished eyes of the actor, a celestial form—it is an angel. Therefore the body recoils anew one-fourth; the hands fall back in token of acquiescence; then, while drawing near the body, they extend anew toward the angel (here a third in token of affection and veneration). Then a prayer is addressed to it, and again the arms extend toward it in entreaty. (Here the orator falls upon his knees.)
The series can be executed beginning with the right arm or the left, being careful to observe the initial and principal movement, with the arms at the side where the scene opened. This gives the same play of organs only in an inverse sense.
Should any student despair of becoming familiar with our method, we give him three pieces of advice, all easy of application:
1. Never speak without having first expressed what you would say by gesture. Gesture must always precede speech.
2. Avoid parallelism of gesture. The opposition of the agents is necessary to equilibrium, to harmony.
3. Retain the same gesture for the same sentiment. In saying the same thing the gesture should not be changed.
Should the student limit himself to the application of these three rules, he will not regret this study of the
Practice of the Art of Oratory.
The Symbolism of Colors Applied to the Art of Oratory.
We close this book with an appendix which will serve for ornament. Before delivering up a suite of rooms, we are wont to embellish them with rich decorations. Architects usually color their plans. We also wish to give color to our criterion, by explaining the symbolism of colors.
SPECIES. GENUS. 1 3 2
1-II 3-II 2-II II Ecc.-Conc. Norm.-Conc. Conc.-Conc. Concentric. Violet-blue. Green-blue. Indigo.
1-III 3-III 2-III Normal. Ecc.-Norm. Norm.-Norm. Cone.-Norm. III Red-yellow. Yellow. Green-yellow.
1-I 3-I 2-I Eccentric. Ecc.-Ecc. Norm.-Ecc. Conc.-Ecc. I Red. Yellow-red. Violet-red.
In the literary world, color gives forms of speech consecrated by frequent usage. Thus we very often say: a florid style, a brilliant orator. This figurative language signifies that in order to shine, the orator must be adorned with the lustre of flowers. And as one flower excels others and pleases us by the beauty of its colors, so the orator must excel, and please by the brilliant shades of his diction. It is as impossible to give renown to a monotonous and colorless orator as to a faded, discolored flower. Would you give to the phenomena of your organism this beautiful corolla of the flower of your garden, throw your glance upon nature.
Nature speaks to the eye through an enchanting variety of colors, and these colors in turn teach man how he may himself speak to the eyes. The whole man might recognize himself under the smiling emblem of colors. Imagine him in whatever state you will, a color will give you the secret of his aspirations. And so it has been easy for us to show you the orator imaged in this colored chart, and we shall have no trouble in justifying our choice of colors.
Since man, as to his soul, presents himself in three states: the sensitive, intellectual and moral; and in his organism in the eccentric, concentric and normal states; a priori, you may conclude that nature has three colors to symbolize the three states, and experience will not contradict you.
In fact, red, yellow and blue are the primitive colors. All others are derived from these three rudimentary colors.
Why have we painted the column that corresponds to the life red? Because red is the color of blood, and the life is in the blood. But life is the fountain of strength and power. Hence red is the proper symbol of strength and power in God, in man and in the demon.
Why blue in the column of the concentric state, the mind? Because blue, from its transparency, is most soothing to our eyes.
Why yellow in the column of the soul? Because yellow has the color of flame; it is the true symbol of a soul set on fire by love. Yellow is, then, the emblem of pure love and of impure flames.
Why not use white in our chart? Because white is incandescence in the highest degree. We say of iron that it is at a red or a white heat. But in this world it is rare to see a heart at a white heat. Earthly thermometers do not mark this degree of heat.
It cannot be denied that red, yellow and blue are the three elementary colors, whose union gives birth to all the varieties that delight our eyes. We have proof of this in one of nature's most beautiful phenomena—the rainbow.
The rainbow is composed of seven colors. Here we distinguish the red, yellow and blue in all their purity; then from the fusion of these three primary colors, we have violet, orange, green and indigo.
This is the order in which the seven colors of the rainbow appear to us:
Violet (red}, orange (yellow), green (blue), indigo. Orange is composed of yellow and red. Yellow mixed with blue, produces green. Blue when saturated, becomes indigo. Upon closer investigation, we may easily find the nine shades which correspond perfectly to the nine operations of our faculties, and to the nine functions of angelic minds.
By complicating and blending the mixture of these colors, we shall have all the tints that make nature so delightful a paradise.
The seven notes of music sound in accord with the seven colors of the rainbow. There is a brotherhood between the seven notes and the seven colors.
The voice-apparatus, with that of speech and gesture, is for the orator a pallet like that upon which the painter prepares and blends those colors which, under the brush of a Raphael, would at once glow forth in a masterpiece.
Delsarte's criterion is true; still more, it is beautiful, especially so with its brilliant adornment of the colors of the rainbow.
We verify our judgment by an explanation of the colored chart.
As may be seen, this chart is an exact reproduction of the criterion explained at the beginning of this book, only we have adorned it with colors analogous to the different states of the soul that art is called upon to reproduce.
Beginning with the three transverse columns corresponding to the genus, we have painted the lower column red, the middle column yellow, and the upper one blue. These are the three colors that symbolize the life, soul and mind, as well as the genera.
Passing to the vertical columns which correspond to species, we have painted the first column red, the second yellow, and the third blue, passing from left to right. The blending of these colors produces the variety of shades we might have in this representation.
Blue added to blue gives indigo; blue with yellow gives a deep green; with red, violet. Yellow passed over to the middle column, gives bright green upon blue; pure yellow, when passed upon yellow, and orange upon red.
Thus pure red will be the expression of the sensitive state or the life. Orange will render soul from life, and violet will be the symbol of mind from life.
Applying this process of examination to the two other columns, we shall know by one symbolic color, what the soul wishes at the present hour, and these same colors will, besides, serve to regulate the attitude of our organs.
Honor and thanks to the genius which gives us this criterion, where is reflected the harmony of all worlds!
In this rational grammar of the art of oratory, I have given the rules of all the fine arts. All arts have the same principle, the same means and the same end. They are akin, they interpenetrate, they mutually aid and complete each other. They have a common scope and aim. Thus, music needs speech and gesture. Painting and sculpture derive their merit from the beauty of attitudes. There is no masterpiece outside the rules here laid down.
It is not enough to know the rules of the art of oratory. He who would become an orator, must make them his own. Even this is not enough for the free movement of the agents which reveal the mind, the soul and the life. The method must be so familiar as to seem a second nature. Woe to the orator if calculation and artifice be divined in his speech! How shun this quicksand? By labor and exercise. The instruments and the manner of using them are in your hands, student of oratory. Set about your work. Practice gymnastics, but let them be gymnastics in the service of the soul, in the service of noble thoughts and generous sentiments—divine gymnastics for the service of God.
Renew your nature. Lay aside the swaddling-bands of your imperfections, conform your lives to the highest ideals of uprightness and truth. Exercise your voice, your articulation and your gestures. If need be, like Demosthenes, place pebbles in your mouth; repair like that great orator to the sea-shore, brave the fury of the billows, accustom yourself to the tumult and roar of assemblies. Do not fear the fracture or dislocation of your limbs as you seek to render them supple, to fashion them after the model, the type you have before your eyes. Labor omnia vincit.
In any event, be persevering. Novitiate and apprenticeship in any profession, are difficult. In every state the bitterness of trial is to be expected. To arrive at initiation has its joys, to arrive at perfection is a joy supreme. Beneath the rind of this mechanism, this play of organs, dwells a vivifying spirit. Beneath these tangible forms of art, the Divine lies hidden, and will be revealed. And the soul that has once known the Divine, feels pain no longer, but is overwhelmed with joy.
Art is the richest gift of heaven to earth. The true artist does not grow old; he is never too old to feel the charm of divine beauty. The more a soul has been deceived, the more it has been chastened by suffering, the more susceptible it is to the benefits of art. This is why music soothes our sorrows and doubles our joys. Song is the treasure of the poor.
Return, then, with renewed enthusiasm to your work! The end is worth the pains. The human organism is a marvelous instrument which God has given for our use. It is a harmonious lyre, with nine chords, each rendering various sounds. These three chords for the voice, and three for both gesture and speech, have their thousand resonances at the service of the life, the soul and the mind. As these chords vibrate beneath your fingers, they will give voice to the emotions of the life, to the jubilations of the heart and the raptures of the mind. This delightful concert will lend enchantment to your passing years, throwing around them all the attractions of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
We may well salute the three Graces and the nine Muses as gracious emblems, but it is far better to discern in art, the reflected image of the triple celestial hierarchy with its nine angel choruses.
Honor, then, to the fine arts! Glory to eloquence! Praise to the good man who knows how to speak well! Blessed be the great orator! Like our tutelary angel, he will show us the path that conducts or leads back to God.
Arnaud on Delsarte.
The Delsarte System.
Angelique Arnaud, (Pupil of Delsarte).
Translated by Abby L. Alger.
The Bases of the Science.
Delsarte published no book upon art. The bases of the science which he created are contained in a synthetical table. Other tables develop each branch of it considered separately.
Starting from an undeniable law—that which regulates the constitution of man,—Delsarte applies it to aesthetics; he designates man as "the object of art," and groups in series the organic agents that co-operate in the manifestation of human thought, sentiment and passion; declaring the purpose of these manifestations, now become artistic, to be the amelioration of our being by throwing into relief and light the splendors of moral beauty and the horrors of vice.
Delsarte defines art in several ways. He has been reproached for his over-amplitude of definition, and his development of it in a sense too metaphysical for a science which he himself calls "positive." I give here only such definitions as seem to me most clear and important.
"Art is at once the knowledge, the possession and the free direction of the agents by virtue of which are revealed the life, soul and mind. It is the appropriation of the sign to the thing. It is the relation of the beauties scattered through nature to a superior type. It is not, therefore, the mere imitation of nature."
The word life, in the sense employed above, is the equivalent of sensation, of physical manifestations.
Man being the object of art, it is from the working of the various faculties of the human organism that Delsarte deduces the task of the artist; as from the knowledge of the essential modalities of the ego, he deduces his law of general aesthetics.
Delsarte teaches, therefore, that man is a triplicity of persons; that is, he contains in his indestructible unity, three principles or aspects, which he calls life, soul and mind; in other words, physical, moral and intellectual persons.
In this statement this master agrees with the philosophers who give a triplicity of essential principles as the base of ontology. Pierre Leroux names them as follows: sensation, sentiment, consciousness.
That which is personal to Delsarte is the derivation of the law of aesthetics from this conception of being.
The primal faculties once ascertained, he devotes himself to an analysis of the organism; he describes the harmony of each of these faculties with the apparatus which serves it as agent for manifesting itself, and demonstrates the fitness of each organ for the task assigned it. The master establishes that the inflections of the voice betray more especially the sensitive nature; that gesture is the interpreter of emotion; that articulation—a special element of speech—is in the direct service of intelligence and thought. He gave the name of vocal to the active apparatus of sensation; dynamic to that of sentiment; buccal to that of articulation.
From the union of the faculties and their agents arise three modes of expression: the language of affection, the language of ellipsis (or gesture) and the language of philosophy. They respond to the three states which Delsarte recognizes in man, and which the artist is to translate: the sensitive state, corresponding to the life; the moral state, to the soul; the intellectual state, to the mind.
But this division into three modalities or into three states is far from giving the number of the manifestations of being. Nature is not reduced to this indigence. From the fusion of these three states, in varying and incessant combination, and from the predominance of one of the primitive modalities, whether accidental or permanent, countless individualities are formed, each with its personal constitution, its shades of difference of education, habits, age, character, etc.
It seems at the first glance as if the mind must be confused by these varieties, whose possible number fades into infinity; but the teacher does not open this labyrinth to his disciples without providing them with a clue.
Independently of these modalities, of these states, which form the basis of the system, Delsarte traces triune subdivisions, which serve as a point of convergence; thus the intermediary rays of the compass or mariner's card are multiplied, and receive special names, without ceasing to belong to one of the four cardinal points.
Whatever, for instance, may be the tendency of the individual whom we desire to portray, or to represent by any art whatsoever, we can think of him in his normal state, as well as in a concentric or eccentric state: this is a first distinction.
Each of these states is itself subject to shades of difference, to modifications. The normal state of a diplomat and that of an artist could not be the same. The one, by the very effect of his profession, will incline to concentration; the other will tend to expansion, if not to eccentration. Hence a simple normal state which is the most common; a normal-concentric state, a normal-eccentric state: here we have a second distinction.
Delsarte, in order to avoid confusion between the word state applied to primordial modalities—which he defines as sensitive, moral and intellectual states,—often uses the word element in place of that of state in speaking of concentration, eccentration and normality, which, in this case, he also calls calm; but, in teaching, he was always accustomed to use these more exact terms: normal state, concentric state, eccentric state.
These differences may occur in regard to each of the other terms. Thus we may have the simple concentric state, the concentro-concentric state, etc.
It is upon this mutual interpenetration of the various states in the triple unity, that the master founds the idea which dominates and pervades his whole system; the three isolated and independent terms do not, to his thinking, constitute the integrality of the human ego. To constitute, according to Delsarte's theory, three, the vital number, it must, by its very essence, and by inherent force, raise itself to its multiple nine. This is what the master calls the ninefold accord.
Medicine—a science which also derives its justification from the human organism—from certain points of view affords us analogies to this mixture of primordial components; for example, nervous and sanguine temperaments which are blended in the sanguo-nervous, etc.
If we refer to our own faculties, does it not strike us indeed, that neither life—nor sensation—nor sentiment, nor intellect can manifest itself without the aid of its congeners or co-associates?
Is intelligence evident elsewhere than in a sensitive being (life)? And even when considering the most abstract things, does it not bear witness of its taste, its power of choice (sentiment)? Can sentiment be absolutely disengaged from impression (life)? And if it is not always under the sway of the idea, is it not certain that it gives rise to it, by provoking observation and reflection (intellect)?
Finally, can an adult—save in the case of absolute idiocy—exist by sensitive life alone outside of all sentiment and all thought (soul, intellect)?
It is by the harmony of the modalities among themselves, and the contribution of each to the unity, that every individual type is formed. Delsarte thought that he could fix their numerical scale; but he was not permitted to carry his scientific studies thus far; still, it is not indispensable to art, which demands above all things very marked types, that verification should be carried to its farthest limits. It will not be difficult, guided by the knowledge which Delsarte has left us, to classify artistic personages as physical, intellectual and moral or sentimental types; and, in the same category, to differentiate those belonging to the concentric state from those falling more particularly into the eccentric or normal states: the Don Juans, Othellos, Counts Ory, etc. Delsarte, in practice, excelled in characterizing these shades of difference.
These prolegomena would not perhaps alone suffice to give this teacher a claim to the title of creator of a science. Although they give the theory of the system, they are far from containing all its developments. But Delsarte did not stop here.
In appropriate language—wherein new words are not lacking for the new science—he takes apart each of the agents of the organism, enumerated above; he examines them in their details, and assigns them their part in the sensitive, moral, or intellectual transmission with which they are charged. Thus gesture—the interpreter of sentiment—is produced by means of the head, torso and limbs; and in the functions of the head are comprised the physiognomic movements, also classified and described, with their proper significance, such as anger, hate, contemplation, etc.,—and the same with the other agents.
Each part observed gives rise to a special chart, where we see, for instance, what should be the position of the eye in exaltation, aversion, intense application of the mind, astonishment, etc. The same labor is given to the arms, the hands and the attitudes of the body, with the mark, borrowed from nature, of the slightest movement, partial or total, corresponding to the sensation, the sentiment, the thought that the artist wishes to express.
I hope that these works may yet be recovered entire, for the master was lavish of them, and that they may be given to the public.
An exact science at first sight appears contradictory to art. Will it not diminish its limits, * * * trammel its transports? Will it not prove hostile to its liberty at every point? * * * Will it not check the flights of its graceful fancy, its adorable caprice?
No, indeed! as I said in regard to the ideal, the theories of Delsarte, far from hampering the free expansion of art, do but enlarge its horizons, and prepare a broader field for its harmonies. They leave freedom to the opinions most difficult of seizure, the most unforeseen creations; because, responding to every faculty of being, this science, while it corrects imagination, respects its legitimate power.
Finally, what is this science which analyzes every spring and every part brought to play in the manifestation of life? A compass to guide us to the desired goal; a measure of proportion to fix each variety in the immensity of types; a touchstone by which to judge of each man's vocation.
But do not let us forget that if this science holds back, restrains and preserves us from parasites, * * * if it prepares proper soil, and assists feebly dowered natures to acquire real value, it cannot supply the place of those marvelous talents, that personality, which showed us, in Delsarte himself, the heights to which a dramatic singer may attain. What surprises and subjugates us in these privileged persons is the secret of nature; it is not to be written down, not to be demonstrated; this unknown quantity, this mystery, reveals itself at its own time by flashes, and with different degrees of intensity during the career of the same artist. Some have thought to explain the prodigy by that superior instinct known as intuition; but the discovery of the word does not open the arcanum.
I have said enough, I hope, in regard to the science created by Delsarte, to put upon the track such minds as are apt for the subject, and endowed with sufficient penetration to assimilate it; but it must not be disguised that even should the whole work be collected together, the science must still await its examination, its verification and its complements; for a science at its birth is like a program given out for the study of present and future generations. Delsarte was still working on his to the last years of his life. Every day he gained fresh insight; he added branches and accessories. Yet the criticisms of details which will come later—even when they are justified,—will not rob the inventor of the glory of his scientific discovery. Let genius invent, scholars pursue its discoveries! * * * If genius works alone, scientists work hand in hand,
I have shown Delsarte as a composer, as pre-eminently an artist, who, as a certain critic says, "was never surpassed;" I have insisted upon the two titles which form his special glory: that of revealer of the laws of aesthetics, and that of creator of a science to support his discoveries; a science whose application relates particularly to the dramatic and lyric arts, although at its base, and especially when considered as law, it embraces all the liberal arts.
It remains for me to speak of his method, properly so called; of his precepts, his maxims, his opinions and his judgments; of that, in a word, which constitutes the personal manner of each master, and his mode of instruction; for if the law is single in its essential and constitutive ideas, it radiates into diversity in its individual manifestations; it has infinite possibilities.
Delsarte considered art as the surest, purest and most constant good in life. He required much time to complete the education of a pupil, because he knew how long it had taken him to master the methods of translating, through that noble interpreter, art, the best and most sublime possibilities of the human soul; and because he knew as well all that is inherent in our nature of vice and imperfection. He held that the truth, be it good or bad, is always instructive.
In regard to truth he says: "A man may possess remarkable qualities, may have grace, expression, charm and elegance, but they are all as nothing if he does not interpret the truth." He desired the artist to study beauty in every form, to seek and discover its secrets. He tells us that he himself studied the poses of the statues of antiquity for fifteen years.
It was in consequence of this period of study, assuredly, that the master condemned the parallel movement of the limbs in gesture, and recommended attitudes which he called inverse; if, for instance, the actor leans on his left leg, the corresponding gesture must necessarily be entrusted to the right arm.
The master taught that the gesture—the true interpreter of the sentiment—should precede the word. He added: "The word is but an echo, the thought made external and visible, the ambassador of intelligence. Every energetic passion, every deep sentiment, is accordingly announced by a sign of the head, the hand or the eye, before the word expresses it." Thus, the actor and the orator, if they do not conform to this precept, have failed to attain to art.
Delsarte proves his assertion by giving examples, somewhat overdrawn, in a sense the inverse of this theory. Nothing was more amusing than to see him execute one of these dilatory gestures; for instance, this phrase, uttered by the lackey of some comedy, delivering a message: "Sir, here is a letter which I was told to deliver to you at once." The hand extending the note unseasonably, produced so ridiculous an effect that the heartiest laughter never failed to follow.
The preceding steps lead us to ellipsis, which plays an important part in the method of Delsarte.
All the thoughts and sentiments contained in literature, in one comprehensive word, are entrusted to the mimic art of the actor, whose essential agent is gesture. The conjunction and interjection are alike elliptical; thus in the phrase: "Ah! * * how unhappy I am! * *" "Ah!" should imply a painful situation before the explanatory phrase begins. In his course of applied aesthetics, Delsarte gives us the striking effects of the elliptic conjunction.
On Shades and Inflections.
The shade, that exquisite portion of art, which is rather felt than expressed, is the characteristic sign of the perfection of talent; it forms a part of the personality of the artist. You may have heard a play twenty times with indifference, or a melody as often, only to be bored by it; some fine day a great actor relieves the drama of its chill, its apparent nullity; the commonplace melody takes to itself wings beneath the magic of a well-trained, expressive and sympathetic voice. Delsarte possessed this artistic talent to a supreme degree, and it was one of the remarkable parts of his instruction; he had established typical phrases, where the mere shade of inflection gave an appropriate meaning to every variety of impression and sentiment which can possibly be expressed by any one set of words. One of these phrases was this: "That is a pretty dog!"
A very talented young girl succeeded in giving to these words a great number of different modulations, expressing endearment, coaxing, admiration, ironical praise, pity and affection. Delsarte, with his far-reaching comprehension, conceived of more than 600 ways of differentiating these examples; but he stopped midway in the execution of them, and certainly no one else will ever pursue this outline to its farthest limits.
The second phrase was: "I did not tell you that I would not!"
This time the words were given as a study for adults; they lent themselves to other sentiments; they revealed, as the case might be, indifference, reproach, encouragement, the hesitation of a troubled soul, etc.
It was by means of these manifold shades that the artist-professor established characteristic differences in parts wherein so many actors had seen but the identical fact of a similar passion or a similar vice. To his mind, all misers were not the same miser, nor all seducers the same seducer. In singing particularly, with what art Delsarte used the inflection!
On Vocal Music.
In regard to lyric art especially, Delsarte had his peculiar and personal theories. Singing was not to him merely a means of displaying the singer's voice or person; it was a superior language, charged with the rendition, in its individual charm, of all the greatest creations of literature and poetry; all the sweet, tender, or cruel sentiments possible to humanity.
This exceptional singer attained his effects partly by means of certain modifications of the rhythm, which caused inattentive critics to say: "Delsarte does not observe the measure." What they themselves failed to note, was that the first beat was always given firmly; and that it was in the divisions of one measure, and by subtle compensations, that he made the difference. Far from having cause for complaint, the composer gained thereby, a more clear expression of his thought, a more persuasive expansion of his sentiment, and the respiration appeared more easy. It was something similar—with a greater value—to that personal punctuation with which skilful readers often divide the text which they translate.
It was particularly in recitative, the style, moreover, least subject to precise laws, that Delsarte used this license; and it was in this style that he especially excelled.
And is it not in what remains unwritten that the singer's true greatness is revealed? What dilettante has not felt the power of a more incisive attack of the note; of that prolongation of the note, held imperceptibly, which, having captured it, holds the attention of the listener?
But, to hear these things, it is not necessary, as the saying is, "to bestride technique." In so far as the training of the voice is concerned, Delsarte gave himself a scientific basis. He was the first to think that it would be well to know the mechanism of the organ, that it might be used to the best advantage, both by avoiding injurious methods of exercising it, and by aiding the development of the tone by appropriate work.
In his rooms were to be seen imitations of the larynx—in pasteboard—of various sizes. His pupils, it seems to me, could profit but little by these far from pleasing sights. At the utmost it increased their confidence in the man who desired an intimate acquaintance with everything relating to the art which he taught. It is to teachers particularly that the introduction of this auxiliary into the study of the vocal mechanism may have been of some value. I have lately learned that several singing teachers use these artificial larynxes. Can priority be claimed for Delsarte? I can only affirm that he refers to them in a treatise signed by himself, and dated in the year 1831.
I shall not enter into the details of this contingent side of the method; the statement of the facts is enough to lead all those who are interested, to devote thought and study to the matter. I prefer to dwell upon the things which Delsarte carried with him into the grave, having written them only on the memories of certain adepts destined to disappear soon after him.
Delsarte established his theory of diaphragmatic breathing in accordance with his anatomical knowledge. It consists in restoring the breath, without effort, from the commencing lift of the diaphragm to the production of the tone. He opposed it to the costal breathing, which brings the lungs suddenly into action by movements of the chest and shoulders, and causes extreme fatigue. "The chest," he says, "should be a passive agent; the larynx and mouth, aiding the diaphragm, alone have a right to act in breathing; the action of the larynx consists of a depression, that of the mouth should produce the canalization (concavity) of the tongue and the elevation of the veil of the palate."
To this first idea is attached what the master taught in regard to the distinction between vital breath and artificial breath. It is certain that one may sing with the natural respiration; but it is rapidly exhausted if not augmented by additional inhalation; for it results in dryness and breathlessness, which cause suffering alike to singer and listener. The artificial breath, on the contrary, preserves the ease and freshness of the voice.
On the Position of the Tone.
The placing of the tone was one of Delsarte's great anxieties. According to his theory, the attack should be produced by explosion. He rejected that stress which induces the squeezing out of the tone after it is produced. The way to avoid it is to prepare rapidly and in anticipation of the emission of the note.
These ideas demand oral elucidation; but it is enough to declare them, for teachers and singers to recognize their meaning.
On the Preparation of the Initial Consonant.
The preceding lines refer to vocalization; but Delsarte applied the same process to pronunciation. He directed that the initial consonant should be prepared in the same way as the attack on the tone; it was thus produced distinctly and powerfully, that is, in less appreciable extent of time. Such is the concentration of the archer preparing to launch an arrow; of the runner about to leap a ditch. The master, in no case permitted that annoying compass of the voice before a consonant, so frequently employed by ordinary singers. The Italians justly translate this disagreeable performance by the word strascinato (dragged out or prolonged).
Delsarte has been severely blamed for the way in which he trained the voice. I have nothing to say in regard to those who imputed to him physical and barbarous methods of developing it; but it may be true that he endangered it by certain exercises or by failure to cultivate the mechanism. I do not feel myself competent to pronounce upon this technical point, but I can give an exact account of what was done in his school.
Delsarte directed that the tones should be swelled on a single note, E flat (of the medium); he claimed that by strengthening this intermediary note the ascending and descending scales were sympathetically strengthened. He thus avoided, as he said, breaking the high treble notes by exercises which would render the cords too severely tense, convinced morever, that at a given moment a burst of enthusiasm and will-power would take the place of assiduous practice.
He also taught that this special exercise of the medium would prevent the separation of the registers, that phylloxera of the vocal organ, which wrecks so many singers, and causes them so many sorrows. This was the way to gain that mixed voice, the ideal held up to the scholars as being the most impressive and the most exquisite; that which at the same time ravished the ear and charmed the heart.
This master considered the chest-voice as more particularly physical; and the head-voice, it must be confessed, is too much like the voice of a bird, to awaken sentiment and sympathy.
Delsarte himself possessed this mixed voice; in him, it seemed to start from the heart, and brought tears to eyes which had never known them. The power of that tone—allied to the perfection of shading, diction and lyric declamation—caused every listening soul to vibrate with latent emotion which might never have been waked to life save by that appeal.
I return to the practice of swelled tones upon the note E flat. This note certainly acquired broad and powerful tones about which there was nothing forced, and which were most agreeable. This development was communicated to the neighboring notes. But did not these advantages take from the compass of the scale? If so, were they a counterbalance to the injury? I repeat that I dare not affirm anything in this respect.
Delsarte, assuredly, did not give as much space to vocalization as other teachers, especially those of the Italian school.
It is also undeniable, that dramatic singing—the style which he preferred—is dangerous to the vocal organism; particularly when one practices the shriek or scream, which produces a fine effect when skilfully employed, but is most pernicious in excess.
Delsarte was too conscientious an artist not to sacrifice his voice, at certain moments, to his pathetic effects; but he was very careful to warn his scholars against the abuse of this method; he directed them to use it but very rarely, and with the greatest precaution.
I should also say, in his favor, that light voices were very differently trained from heavy ones. Madame Carvalho, who began her studies in his school, did not alter the flexible but feeble organ she brought there. Mlle. Chaudesaigues and Mlle. Jacob, under Delsarte's tuition, attained to marvels of flexibility, without losing any of their natural gifts.
Delsarte brought about a revolution in French music in everything relating to appoggiatura, or rather, he restored its primitive meaning. The way in which he interpreted it has created a school.
He taught that the root of the word—appoggiatura—being appuyer (to sustain), the chief importance should be given in the phrase, to appoggiatura, by extent and expression; the more so that this note is generally placed on a dissonance; and, according to this master's system, it is on the dissonance—and not at random and very frequently, as is the habit of many singers—that the powerful effect of the vibration of sound should be produced.
Contrary to this opinion, the appoggiatura was for a long time used in France as a short and rapid passing note; it thus gave the music a vivacious character, wholly discordant with the style of serious compositions; the music of Gluck was particularly unsuited to it.
Roulade and Martellato.
In every school of singing the roulade is effected by means of the staccato and legato. Delsarte had a marked prejudice in favor of the martellato, which partakes of both. He compared it, in his picturesque way of expressing his ideas, to pearls united by an invisible thread.
The master's pronunciation was irreproachable; not the slightest trace of a provincial accent; never the least error of intonation, the smallest mistake in regard to a long or short syllable. What is perhaps rarer than may be thought, he possessed, in its absolute purity, the prosody of his native language, alike in lyric declamation and in the cantabile. His penetrating tones added another charm to the many merits which he had acquired by study.
Pronunciation, therefore, was skilfully and carefully taught in Delsarte's school. The professor's first care was to correct any tendency to lisp, which he did by temporarily substituting the syllables te, de, over and over again, for the faulty R. This substitution brought the organ back to the requisite position for the vibration of the R.
This process is now in common use; but I cannot say whether it was employed before Delsarte's day. He obtained very happy results from it.
E mute before a Consonant.
Delsarte did not allow that absolute suppression of the E mute before a consonant, which seems to prevail at present, and which produces so bad an effect in delivery. As the evil, at the time of which I speak, was yet comparatively unknown, he did not make it a case of conscience; but if he never lent himself to this ellipsis, he, "the lyric Talma," "the exquisite singer," as he has frequently been called, should we not regard his abstinence as a condemnation from which there is no appeal? I do not believe, moreover, that either Nourrit or Dupre authorized by their example a habit so contrary to the rules of French versification, so disagreeable to the well-trained ear and so opposed to good taste. Such young singers as have yielded to it, have only to listen to themselves for one moment to abandon it forever.
It is certain that E mute can in no instance be assimilated to the accented E; but to suppress it entirely, is to break the symmetry of the verse, to put the measure out of time. It is unmistakable that the weakness of the vowel, or mute syllable, concerns the sound, not the duration. Let it die away gently; but for Heaven's sake, do not murder it! Voltaire wrote: "You reproach us with our E mute, as a sad, dull sound that dies on our lips, but in this very E mute lies the great harmony of our prose and verse." Littre recognizes two forms of the E mute: the E mute, faintly articulated as in "ame;" and the E mute sounded as in me, ce, le; but he does not allude to an E which is entirely null.
Once more, then, that there may be no misunderstanding, let me say that the word mute added to the E, has but a relative sense, in view of the two vowels of the same name and marked with an acute or a grave accent.
One fact throws light on the question: did any author ever make a character above the rank of a peasant or a lackey, say:
/ "J'aime' ben Lisett' J'crois qu'ell' m'en veut!" P/
Take an example from Voltaire (tragedy of the Death of Caesar): "Voila vos successeurs, Horace, Decius." Evidently, if the E mute had not been counted, the second hemistich of the Alexandrine verse would have had but five syllables instead of six.
Would any one like to know how the heresiarchs of the E mute would manage?
In this instance they would repeat the A of the penultimate, aspirating it and pronouncing thus: "Voila vos successeurs, Hora ... as', Decius."
In this way they would have the requisite number of syllables; but they would be wholly at odds with the dictionary of the good actors of the Theatre Francais.
This falsification is especially common in singing, though it is no less revolting in that field of art. How often at concerts—the force of tradition saves us at the theatre—do we hear even artists of great reputation pronounce:
"Quel jour prosp'..er' plus de myste..er," instead of: "Quel jour prospere plus de mystere." And, in one of the choruses of the opera "La Reine de Chypre":
"Jamais, jamais en Fran ... anc' Jamais l'Anglais ne regnera!"
"Jamais, jamais en France, Jamais l'Anglais ne regnera!"
This anomaly is most offensive in the final syllable of a verse, because there the measure is more impaired than ever, and in this way that alternation of male and female rhymes is suppressed, which produces so flowing and graceful a cadence in French verse.
E mute before a Vowel.
The encounter of E mute in a final syllable, with the initial vowel of the word which follows it, makes the defect more apparent and accordingly easier to fight against.
Delsarte's process was as follows: When a silent syllable is immediately followed by a word beginning with another vowel, the E mute (by a prolongation of the sound of the penultimate) is suppressed with the next letter. Thus in the aria of Joseph (opera by Mehu):
"Loin de vous a langui ma jeune.. sexilee;" and in Count Ory: "Salut, o venera ... blermite."
In these cases, by an unfortunate spirit of compensation, the abettors of the innovation, suppressing the grammatical elision, sing thus:
"Loin de vous a langui ma jeune ... ess'exilee." "Salut, o venrera ... abl'erm ... it!"
Littre's Dictionary gives us the same pronunciation as Delsarte; and his written demonstration is even more positive. We find favorables auspices, arbres abattus, written in this way: "fa-vo-ra-ble-z-auspices, arbre-z-abattus."
It is, however, very difficult to express these differences exactly, in type: what Littre expresses radically by typographic characters, is blended with most natural delicacy by the voice of a singer.
Thus, according to Delsarte, the E mute of a final syllable should be suppressed before a vowel, on condition of a prolongation of the sound, in harmony with the penultimate syllable.
According to Delsarte again, according to Voltaire, according to Littre, the E mute is weakened, more or less, but never completely suppressed, before a consonant.
Finally Legouve, whose voice is preponderant in these matters, whose books are in the hands of the whole world, has never entered into this lettricidal conspiracy.
I hope to be pardoned this long digression, thinking it my duty to protest against such a ludicrous method of treating French prosody; I do so both in the name of aesthetics and as a part of my task as biographer of Delsarte.
Was Delsarte a Philosopher?
If we consider philosophy in the light of all the questions upon which it touches, the subjects which it embraces, we must answer "No;" but if we concentrate the word within the limits of aesthetics, we may reply in the affirmative. Did not Delsarte point out the origin of art, its object and its aim?
Not that this master never exceeded the limits of his science and his method. He had sketched out a "Treatise on Reason," and had begun to classify the faculties of being, entering into the subject more profoundly than the categories of Kant; but all this only exists in mere outline, in a technology whose terms have not been weighed and connected together by a solid chain of reasoning: logic has not uttered its final word therein.
A separate volume would be required to give an idea of these gigantic sketches, which must remain in their rudimentary state.
If Delsarte had finished his work, it would seem that he must have leaned toward the scholastic method, now so much out of favor; but certainly he would put his own personality into this, as into everything that he undertook to investigate; for he was held back on the steeps of mysticism by the science which he had created, and which could only afford a shelter to the supernatural as an extension of those psychical faculties which have been called intuition, imagination, etc.
Then the influence of Raymond Brucker, who died shortly after Delsarte, being lessened, and conscientious and patient study having fed the flame in that vast brain, we might have obtained affirmations of a new order. And Delsarte might have met with thinkers like Leibnitz, Descartes and Jean Reynaud, on that height where religion is purged of superstition and fanaticism, philosophy set free from atheism and materialism!
If Delsarte had a fault, it was that he regarded all modern philosophy as sensuous naturalism; and if reason sometimes seemed to him suspicious, it was because he often confounded it with sophistry, which reasons indeed, but is far from being reason.
Let us regret that Delsarte never finished his complete philosophy; but let us be grateful to him for having raised his art and all arts to the level of philosophy, by giving them truth as a basis and morality as a final aim; which fairly justifies, it seems to me, the title of artist-philosopher, which I have sometimes applied to him.
I should not neglect, in this connection, to set down the explanation, given by Delsarte, of what he meant by the word trinity, as used in his scientific system. The reader cannot fail to see the elements of a system of philosophy in this succinct statement, this outline to be filled up:
"The principle of the system lies in the statement that there is in the world a universal formula which may be applied to all sciences, to all things possible: —this formula is the trinity.
"What is requisite for the formation of a trinity?
"Three expressions are requisite, each presupposing and implying the other two. Each of three terms must imply the other two. There must also be an absolute co-necessity between them; thus, the three principles of our being—life, mind and soul—form a trinity.
"Because life and mind are one and the same soul; soul and mind are one and the same life; life and soul are one and the same mind."
Course of Applied AEsthetics.
Meeting of the Circle of Learned Societies.
Independently of its method, which was especially applicable to dramatic and lyric arts, Delsarte's doctrine, as we have seen, drew from the primordial sources, which are the law of things, the principles of all poetry, all art and all science. The intense light which he brought thence was too dazzling for young scholars, whose minds were rarely prepared by previous education. It, nevertheless, overflowed into the daily lessons, and gave them that peculiar and somewhat singular aspect, which acted even upon those whose intelligence could not cope with it. Such is the mysterious magic of things which penetrate before they convince.
But these lofty problems demanded an audience in harmony with their elevation. Delsarte soon attracted such. Under the title "Course of Applied AEsthetics," he collected in various places, notably at the "Circle of Learned Societies," profane and sacred orators, and learned men of all sorts. There he could develop points of view as new as they seemed to be strikingly true. It was on leaving one of these meetings, that a distinguished painter thus expressed his enthusiasm: "I have learned so much to-day, and it is all so simple and so true, that I am amazed that I never thought of it before."
The Course of Applied AEsthetics was addressed to painters, sculptors, orators, as well as to musicians, both performers and composers; and was finally extended to literary men. This audience of scholars was no less astonished and enchanted than others had been.
Theory of the Degrees.
The theory of degrees was largely developed at these meetings, and I have purposely delayed it till this chapter. To understand this theory—one of the most striking points in Delsarte's method, and original with him,—one should have some idea of the grammar which he composed for the use of his pupils.
I will not say that this treatise was complete in the sense usually attached to the word grammar. There is no mention of orthography or of lexicology; but all that is the very essence of language, that from which no language, no idiom can escape—the constituent parts of speech—are examined and investigated from a philosophic and psychologic point of view. Just as the author examined the constituent modalities of our being in the light of aesthetics, he seized the affinities between the laws of speech, as far as regards the voice—logos—and the moral manifestations of art.
This production of Delsarte has undergone the fate of almost all his works—it has not been printed. Indeed, I greatly fear that, all his notes on the subject can never be collected; nevertheless that which has been gathered together presents a certain development. I will not enter into the purely metaphysical part, limiting myself, as I have done from the beginning of this study, to making known the conceptions of Delsarte only in so far as they refer to the special field of aesthetics.
In this category, we find the following definitions which serve to classify the quantitative values or degrees: that is the extent assigned to each articulation or vocal emission to enable it to express the thoughts, sentiments and sensations of our being in their truth and proportionate intensity:
1. Substantive is the name given to a group of appearances, to a totality of attributes.
2. Adjective expresses ideas, simple, abstract, general and medicative; it is an abstraction in the substantive.
3. Verb is the word that affirms the existence and the co-existence between the being existing and its manner of existing: that is to say it connects the subject with the attribute. The verb is not a sign of action, but of affirmation, and existence.
4. The participle alone is a sign of action.
5, 6, 7. The article, pronoun and preposition fit into the common definitions.
8. The adverb is the adjective of the adjective and of the participle (in so far as it is an attribute of the verb); it modifies them both, and is not modifiable by either of them; it is a sign of proportion, an intellectual compass.
9. The conjunction has the same function as the preposition: it unites one object to another object; but it differs from it, inasmuch as the preposition has but a single word for its antecedent, and a single word for its objective case, while the conjunction has an entire phrase for antecedent, and the same for complement. It characterizes the point of view under the sway of which the relations should be regarded: restrictive, as but; hypothetical or conditional, as if? conclusive, as then, etc., etc. The conjunction presents a general view to our thought, it is the reunion of scattered facts; it is essentially elliptical.
10. The interjection responds to those circumstances where the soul, moved and shaken by a crowd of emotions at once, feels that by uttering a phrase it would be far from expressing what it experiences. It then exhales a sound, and confides to gesture the transmission of its emotion.
The interjection is essentially elliptical, because, expressing nothing in itself, it expresses at the time all that the gesture desires it to express, for ellipsis is a hidden sense, the revelation of which belongs exclusively to gesture.
It must first be noted that these degrees are numbered from one to nine, and that, of all the grammatical values defined, the conjunction, interjection and adverb are classed highest.
Delsarte made the following experiment one day in the "Circle of Learned Societies," during a lecture:
"Which word," he asked his audience, "requires most emphasis in the lines—
"The wave draws near, it breaks, and vomits up before our eyes, Amid the surging foam, a monster huge of size?"
The absence of any rule applicable to the subject caused the most complete anarchy among the listeners. One thought that the word to be emphasized must be monster—as indicating an object of terror; another gave the preference to the adjective huge. Still another thought that vomits demanded the most expressive accent, from the ugliness of that which it expresses.
Delsarte repeated the lines:
"The wave draws near, it breaks, and ... vomits up before our eyes."
It was on the word and that he concentrated all the force of his accent; but giving it, by gesture, voice and facial expression, all the significance lacking to that particle, colorless in itself, as he pronounced the word, the fixity of his gaze, his trembling hands, his body shrinking back into itself, while his feet seemed riveted to the earth, all presaged something terrible and frightful. He saw what he was about to relate, he made you see it; the conjunction, aided by the actor's pantomime, opened infinite perspectives to the imagination; his words had only to specify the fact, and to justify the emotion which had accumulated in the interval.
But this particle, which here allows of eight degrees, is much diminished when it fills the office of a simple copulative. The extent of the word or the syllable is always subordinate to the sense of the phrase; in the latter case it does not require more than the figure 2.
The Recitation of Fables.
Some years before his death Delsarte substituted for his concerts, lectures in which he explained his scientific doctrines and his philosophy of art. He also supplied the place of song by the recitation of certain fables selected from La Fontaine. He was not less perfect in this style than in the interpretation of the great roles of tragedy and grand lyric poems; but it must be acknowledged, that under this new guise, his talent could not display itself in all its amplitude; save for the facial expression which gave the lessons of the apologue a variety of outline of which La Fontaine himself perhaps never dreamed ... and in spite of the fine and scholarly accent which he could give to all those clever beasts, he was, on many points, deprived of his power and his prestige: how endow a lion with the proud poses of Achilles; and lend the foolish grasshopper the satanic charm of Armida?
Instead of noble or terrific attitudes, his gesture was confined to a few movements of forearm or hand; of his fingers, when the intentions were more subtle, more refined ... Still it was always most pleasant to hear him. It was Delsarte restrained, but not diminished. If you did not recover in his speaking voice that sort of enchantment with which his slightly-veiled tone pierced the soul, his accent remained so pure, so intelligent, that you were none the less ravished.
When, in the fable of The Two Pigeons, he said:
"Absence is the greatest of ills, ... Not so for you, cruel one!"
He discovered shades, hitherto unknown, with which to paint reproach mingled with grief. And when he said:
"The ant ... is not a lender!..."
A more affirmative and striking sense of the character attributed to our thrifty friend, was detached from this delay, filled up by a negative movement of the narrator's head.
If Delsarte had limited himself in his lectures, to teaching men by means of the menagerie, which was a sly burlesque of the courtiers of Louis XIV., perhaps he might have made idolatrous partisans there as elsewhere; but it seems as if in the exposition of his theory, he posed rather as a censor than a teacher; he delighted in baffling the mind by paradoxes. By annexes superimposed and ill-blended with his system, he sometimes compromised those scientific truths whose splendor bursts forth when they are freed from heterogeneous accessories. We cannot otherwise explain the resistance of certain minds, distinguished otherwise, to the recognition in him of the artist who excited the enthusiasm of all the most competent critics and brilliant amateurs.
The Law of AEsthetics.
However striking and superior the system of Francois Delsarte has been shown to be, however admirable and attractive the manifestation of art in his person,—herein lie not his first rights to the grateful sympathy which we owe to his memory. His works and discoveries in aesthetics are a benefit of general interest, while they disclose to us the fruitful resources of his genius.
In the first place, what is a law? We have here to deal, not with the legislation decreed by man for the regulation of social and political relations, but with those laws deduced from a natural order, as the principle of life itself, which govern the relations of beings and of things. In religion these laws are its dogmas and mysteries; philosophically speaking, the laws of things are the essentials of their nature, their specific relations.
Voltaire has written: "Law is the instinct by which we feel justice." In Littre's Dictionary we find stated that "laws are conditions imposed by circumstances." Another has said: "The constant, uneludable succession in which phenomena occur, takes the name of law."
I would here state, that in no one of the last three citations does the word "law" seem to me to be precisely defined. From the different explanations of the natural laws which I have been able to compare, I conclude that laws are forces containing in themselves the reasons, to us unknown, of a power and permanence which are unchangeable. Plato named them ideas. We must now conclude that the nature of a law, in the present acceptation of the term, can be but imperfectly interpreted by exact formulae. Laws are still much involved in the secrets of creation. Here must we seek their origin or origins.
But courage still! Although these formulae but imperfectly define law, the facts suffice to establish them. They (facts) show the certain action and, as stated heretofore, the uneludable nature of these formulae.
But the discovery of Delsarte is the application to aesthetics of a natural law, proven and established by science. This law is that which governs the system of man's organism. Its present application is justified by a series of scientifically cooerdinated facts. Delsarte rests upon the principle that man is the object of art. Thus the artist should aim to manifest human nature in its three modalities, in its three phases which the master named life, soul and mind. In other words, the beings physical, moral and mental.
These three expressions figure in the work of Pierre Leroux (De l'Humanite) in the following equivalent terms: sensation, sentiment, knowledge. But Leroux applied to ethics this law of human organism, whereas Delsarte derived from it the law of aesthetics. When two minds of this stamp are thus led, each in his own way, to the same source of analogous principles differently applied, is it not a proof that they have stated truth? And in this case it is more than presumable that the two men of whom I speak had never worked together. Delsarte was a philosopher in spite of himself. With Pierre Leroux art was only an element contingent upon a system which he elaborated.
Was Delsarte led to his classification of man's nature by the doctrine of the three persons in the Trinity combined in unity? Was he, by his observations upon the human triplicity, led on to consider their infinite development in the divine personalities? I know not, nor is it of importance in considering the system.
Leroux affirmed a relation between the unity of man and the universality of his pantheism; both relying at the outset upon an idea at once religious and philosophical. But the research of Leroux was philosophically inclined, while that of Delsarte was of a character more especially religious.
Is it necessary to urge that you accept this obviously primitive classification of the human faculties? Who, that shall have considered a moment to convince himself, can doubt this truth,—that our sensations, our sentiments, our understanding, are the principal elements of our life, and that all that we are able to know of ourselves is made known to us by them directly, or by the result of their combinations? This consideration will soon lead us to the rational development of the theory of Delsarte. For the present, it suffices to receive these principles as they have been presented to us, and to admit that art could not go far astray while following a clue leading from a law invincible, and guiding to a science as positive as that of the astronomer, derived from the law of attraction, or that of the chemist, depending upon the law of affinities. Here need be no confusion. The science is positive. The mystery of the natural law implies a hypothesis,—even were the proposition negative.
Delsarte insisted upon the influence of a religious sentiment in art, as a part of the constitutive animating faculties of the human being. In the light of this proposition his enemies maintain that he teaches this heresy: that success in aesthetics depends upon a definite faith—even upon the observance of the Catholic religion! This distinction between religion and creed, between sentiment and assertion, I have followed carefully since the beginning of my study. Delsarte was able to so address his pupils at the beginning of a lecture, as to arouse the apathetic, and electrify the passionate; but his teaching was far from dogmatic. I do not say that at times, in his aspirations and dreams, which he regarded perhaps as intuitions, this religious philosophy did not make some incursions into the region of mysticism. I have seen at his home charts named from the circumincession, and classifying celestial spirits; but these trans-mundane personifications found no place in his practical lectures. They are not found in the great synthetical chart which I possess, and which recapitulates the system as the master arranged it in the strength of his youth and genius, free from all mystical element.
When, in 1859, I submitted to Delsarte my treatise containing a succinct statement of his method, he said to me: "You have not followed me so far as the angels."
I replied: "I have related and recognized as truth all that I have heard you teach upon the laws of art as deduced from the relations of the human faculties, because I have observed and verified it among people and upon myself. But I speak not of things which you have never shown me, and whose existence you have never demonstrated. The angels are of this number."
Yet he received with no less approval my profane work. And it is the judgment which he placed upon that essay which authorizes my resuming the subject, augmented by further developments and evidence.
I should not state with so great confidence this great truth—the application of a natural law to a succession of discoveries constituting a science, an incontestable innovation—were I not able to refer to competent opinions supporting my statement. A few of these opinions I would here quote from some of the journals I have examined, many of which thoroughly appreciated Delsarte throughout the long period of his teaching.
It was said by Adolphe Gueroult (Presse, May 15, 1858): "To discover and produce wonderful effects, is preeminently the characteristic of great artists, but never, so far as I can learn, has it occurred to any one, before Delsarte, to attach these strokes of genius to positive laws." And further: "The eloquent secrets of pantomime, the imperceptible movements which, in great actors, so forcibly impress us, coming under the observation of this discoverer, were by him analyzed and synthetized in accordance with laws whose clearness and simplicity render them doubly admirable."
I give also some statements from the Journal des Debats (May 10, 1859). Though in the following the word "law" does not appear, it bears interestingly upon the relations of the ideas and expressions under consideration. The quotation is:—
"The audience was charmed and instructed. It applauded the new definitions. It divined the essence of each art, and comprehended that the various manifestations of art are classified according to the classifications of the human faculties. It knows why each passion produces each accent: 'because the accent is the modulation of the soul,' and why a given emotion produces a given expression of the face, gesture and attitude of the body."
When we allow that "the classifications of the manifestations of art are made according to those of the human faculties," do we not also allow that they are derived from one law?
Thus the fiat lux ("let there be light") is pronounced. Art departs from chaos, escapes from anarchy; it acts no longer only for the so-called artist, but also for the actor and singer, whom we are now to consider. Art has to do with the pose of the body, a graceful carriage, distinct pronunciation and an unconscious command of dramatic effects. For a tenor to phrase agreeably, vocalize skilfully, giving us resonant chest-tones, no longer suffices to gain for him the title of great singer.
The followers of art should be able, before and above all, to portray humanity in its essential truth, and according to the original tendency of each type. Mannerism and affectation should forever be proscribed—unless they are imitated as an exercise—but all the excellence that chance has produced up to the present time should be incorporated in the new science.
Moreover, by referring to a law the occasional successes which come to one, it becomes possible to reproduce them at will.
The essential point is to get back to the truth, to express the passions and emotions as nature manifests them, and not to repeat mechanically a series of conventional proceedings which are violations of the natural law. "Effects should be the echoes of a situation clearly comprehended and completely felt,"—such was the import of this teaching.
One of the great benefits arising from the discoveries of Delsarte is the reconciliation of freedom and restraint. If it bind the artist by determinate rules, it is in order to free him from routine, to recall him to the general law of being and of his own individuality. It is in order that he may study himself, in the place of submitting to arbitrary prescriptions. In such study every marked personality will find itself in its native element.
As for those who have no vocation, and in whom the "ego" distinguishes itself so little from the multitude that it remains lost in it, it is best that they should withdraw, since they are not called. They have in view only vanity or speculation, and must always be intruders in the sacred temple of art.
"My glass is not large, but I drink from my glass," said Alfred de Musset. Very well! let each one drink from his glass, but observe! it is not necessary that in the true artist all should be individual and peculiar. It is necessary only that there should exist a degree of individuality, something novel, a distinguishing tone and an artistic physiognomy peculiarly his own. Servile imitations, plagiarism, stupid adaptations, put to death all art and all poetry. In literature particularly is such decline most easy.
Hoping that, from what has been said, you have been led more fully to appreciate the advantage of seeing all of the branches of intellectual culture led out of the ruts of routine, away from plagiarism and from disorder and anarchy, one word upon the most distasteful and effectual blight to which art is subject—the loss of naturalness, viz., affectation. Can anything be more irritating than an affected actor or singer, caterers to perverted tastes?
In sculpture what is more displeasing than a distorted figure, which aimed at grace and is become a caricature? Affectation is in the arts the equivalant of sophistry in logic, of the false in morals, of hypocrisy in religion. It is not extravagant to assume that affectation, being a falsity, an active lie, is a torture to the spirit which perceives it, and a wrong to the honest souls who endure it. It should be, therefore, for twofold cause, banished without pity from the realm of aesthetics. Why should the natural, which is the expression of truth, have so great an attraction if affectation—its enemy and incumbrance—aroused not our impatience or disdain?
How is it that in children of all classes we find grace, ravishing and inimitable? It is because in them the accord is perfect between the look, the smile, the gesture and the impression within, of which they are the interpreters—the adequate signs, as Delsarte would say—the perfidious flexibility of words never interposing to alter the harmony.
True grace in adults is not that which is studied, nor that which is artistically copied from a badly-chosen type. Grace is born of itself, the natural fruit of the culture of the mind, of elevated thoughts and noble sentiments. It is a combination of excellences which come unconsciously to some privileged beings. To imitate beautiful effects in nature, to surprise their expressions, after having observed and established the relation of cause to effect,—this is the end to which the discovery of Delsarte would lead us.
As it is difficult for each to find ready at his command the elements for such research, how can we overestimate the great value of establishing schools in which the instruction of students of the great art shall be guided in accordance with the established laws of aesthetics? The time of greatest necessity is the immediate present, since the voice of the people cries loudly through the press, "Art is decaying and will surely die!"
"Barriers are also supports," said Madame de Stael; and what more sure support in the decadence which threatens us, than a positive science deduced from irrefragable law! I say irrefragable with conviction. Though human laws be subject to change, the laws of nature are shown to be immutable, at least so far as the observations of learned men of all ages have been able to establish them.
To such assertions one objection arises: Why, admitting that the human organism furnishes exact and complete means of manifesting art in all the departments of aesthetics, should not others before Delsarte have discovered that correlation? I have conscientiously considered and sought light in this direction, and the result of my research furnishes me only a negation. Although I do not here attempt a complete study of the philosophy of art, nor a general history of the arts, I have sought to discover all that could warrant one in presuming the discovery of a law of aesthetics in antiquity, particularly among the Greeks.
I find that in the writings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle—who are the best authorities—art was a dependence upon philosophy; that is to say, one with it, having no law outside of it. (Whereas, in the work of Delsarte, aesthetics occupies the first place, and philosophy becomes accessory.)
I will here enter into some details of the ancient teachings.
Socrates gave to his teachings a practical character founded upon the knowledge of man. He took for his point of departure man himself, and established (according to this idea) a morality with the motto of the temple of Delphi,—"Know thyself." This doctrine related more especially to ethics than to aesthetics—as later did that of Pierre Leroux—and it was far from being able to direct artists in their work.
Plato often discoursed upon the True, the Beautiful, the Good. He strove to disengage them from the concrete that he might derive some general formulae. To do this he employed the method of "elimination," a form of dialectics which I recommend to no one, notwithstanding its great value and the services it may render, after all, to those minds endowed with patience. What does he conclude in regard to art?
The Socratic and dogmatic dialogues—the Phaedo, the Gorgias, the Symposium, Protagoras, Ion, Phaedrus—abound in allegories, aphorisms, and in aspirations toward an ideal, more or less clearly defined, which end, however, not by any means in a discussion of art, but in such affirmations as that which closes the first Hippias:—"Beautiful things are difficult."
In the Symposium we have a philosophical discussion interposed between two orgies. Socrates there maintains his title of sage, but it is surely not wisdom which presides at the feast. What light upon my subject? Do we here find any conclusive decision regarding art? No! We have instead such statements as this: "It is possible for the same man to be both a tragic and a comic poet." Then are made some reflections upon time in music. We can as yet discover nothing like a law of aesthetics.
In this company, where are assembled the most cultivated of the Athenian citizens, they discuss love and jealousy of a kind that the moral instinct of modern society can with difficulty comprehend. But these dissertations are of no aid in the solution which I seek.
And yet the spirit of Socrates at times attained to great heights. He puts into the mouth of a woman of Mantinea the theory which saps the old doctrine and presents monotheism. It is but one step thence to Christianity, and it was Apollonius of Tyana, disciple of Pythagoras, who established a connection between the idealism of the later Greek philosophy and the spirituality of the new religion taught by Jesus of Nazareth.
Socrates, after a discussion upon those intermediate deities, whom he called daimons, and among whom he places love, assigns to love an origin and strange attributes which, to a certain extent, explain the remarkable workings of this passion at that time. He at once exalts and seeks to make comprehended the new god—"Beauty eternal, uncreated and imperishable, a beauty having nothing sensuous, nothing corporeal,—which exists absolutely and eternally." This is all.
Perhaps this ideal of love, as that of philosophy, may have been expressed in the foundation of the religious ideal of Delsarte, but this encounter in the ethereal regions of theology and psychology—where the human consciousness perceives nothing tangible, and whence it derives only vague aspirations—implies no knowledge, of anything like a law, a science or a method, such as our artist-innovator of the nineteenth century conceived and taught.
Aristotle, disciple of the founder of the Academy of Athens, divided the sciences into three classes—logic, philosophy and morals. Within this classification art is closely bound, but this philosopher made no scientific demonstration of it. His workings are not those of application and execution. More than his predecessors, it is true, he considered the human organism and, in this, his conception bears a certain analogy to the system of Delsarte. Aristotle, as well as Plato, advised the study of nature, and seeking there the elements of the Beautiful; but they had specially in view literature and eloquence. Further than this, their precepts are counsels and have reference to no definite law. They have not shown the links of connection between the human faculties and the mechanism which manifests them; they have not taught man the manner of using his organs to express artistically his sensations, emotions and thoughts.
The Greeks had every advantage of models and philosophical schools, in which art was taught. But they had no school of aesthetics. Artists of genius taught the schools more than they learned of them; and these artists, so far as I can learn, have left no trace of theoretical works, but, as before written, genius precedes and exemplifies law. While Plato and Aristotle placed a beacon light upon the road leading to a law, they never touched the goal. Delsarte proceeded otherwise. He starts with a principle clearly defined and everything harmonizes with it.
Have the historians and critics of the Greek philosophy discovered that which I vainly sought in its initiators,—a law of aesthetics? This is a question to be answered.
Winkelmann, in his "History of Art," says: "The fine arts, in their rise and decadence, may be likened unto great rivers which, at the point of fullest greatness, break up into innumerable tiny streams and are lost in the sands." Still following this imagery, he compares "Egyptian art to a fine tree whose growth is stopped by a sting; Etruscan art to a torrent; Greek art to a limpid stream."
Now, the law of life of trees, streams or torrents, is not identical with that which governs the unity of a human life.
Like Aristotle, Winkelmann states clearly the principle that man is the measure of all things, but he does not follow up the consequences; he reaches no scientific demonstration upon any point. Far from establishing the existence of a law of aesthetics among the Greeks, he simply remarks upon the extreme simplicity of their beginnings, and shows by what gropings they came from Hermes to the most perfect works of Phidias and Praxiteles.
Mengs states that "the first designs were of forms approaching human semblance;" and that the sciences and philosophy must of necessity have preceded the Beautiful in the arts. He thinks that the Greeks established the proportions of their figures by imitation of beautiful nature.
From these two commentators we have a history of the progression of the arts toward the Ideal. Mengs states that the Greeks and the Etruscans have given rules of proportion and style. But progression, proportion, style,—all of which proceeding from a fixed standard of beauty may guide artists—the perception even of the ideal which each one interprets in his own way—cannot be assimilated to that original law which carries in itself all the reasons of the concept, that which contains all conditions and means of a true execution,—individual even to the perfection of each type, general and varied as the infinite shades of nature.
In response to the allegation of Mengs, that "the sciences and philosophy must necessarily have preceded the Beautiful in the arts," I would call attention to the fact that celebrated artists—as Phidias and Zeuxis for example—had produced their works long before the dialogues between Socrates, Protagoras, Hippias and others, upon the True, the Good and the Beautiful. The great painter and the great sculptor could only have proceeded by the intuition of their genius, knowing nothing of a law of aesthetics.
In that which remains to us of antiquity, I find nothing which implies such an application of the human organism to the arts as that whose discovery, promulgation, exemplification and teaching we owe to Delsarte.
M. Eugene Veron, writer of our day, and author of remarkable works on art, far from recognizing among the Greeks a law of aesthetics, writes of Plato: "He considered ideas as species of divine beings, intermediate between the Supreme Deity and the world. Theirs is the power of creation and formation.... Matter unintelligent and self-formed is nothing, and realizes existence only through the operation of the idea which gives it its form. Aristotle begins by rejecting all this phantasmagory of eternal and creative ideas. He fills the abyss between matter and spirit. God, pure thought and being preeminent, brings all into existence by his power of attraction which gives to all activity and life."
We wander farther and farther from a law of aesthetics and its means of application as established by Delsarte.
Of all the writers who have thoroughly examined antique art, Victor Cousin would seem the one with whom Delsarte had most in common, if this eminent philosopher were not a contemporary of the master and had not attended his lectures, his artistic sessions and his concerts. In his manner of treating art, this is often shown bywords and forms and flashes of instinctive reminiscence which recall the great school. In his book, "The True, the Beautiful and the Good" (edition of 1858), the learned professor writes: "The true method gives us a law to start from man to arrive at things. All the arts, without exception, address the soul through the body."
He is on the way, but his position embraces neither the starting-point, which is the law, nor any practical means toward an end. For the rest, the nearer his propositions approach the law of Delsarte, the easier it becomes to establish the radical differences which separate them. Delsarte does not say that "the law is to start from man to arrive at things," but that "man uses his corporeal organs to manifest himself in his three constituent modalities,—physical, mental and moral."
It is very certain that works of art, like all concrete forms, can only be perceived by the senses. Who does not know this? But that which is most difficult to comprehend, is the just relation of cause to effect—as to the faculty and its manifestation,—and it is this which Delsarte discovered and made clear. The one stated the action of art when perceived; the other, the necessities of the artist in order that art respond to the law.
I shall have more than once to render justice to Victor Cousin. Inheritor of the Greek philosophers, he allows dialectics too great margin. He wanders in his premises and arrives at his conclusions—when he can. (Here, of course, I speak only of art.) In philosophy, Cousin, beginning with effects, from induction to induction, often arrives at causes and states some principles. Delsarte, perhaps, proceeded thus while seeking to combine his discoveries, but this accomplished, he placed in the first line, synthesis, whence all emanates, and this focus of light radiating in all directions, illumines even to its farthest limit, the vast field of aesthetics. Cousin, after all, claims neither for the Greeks nor for himself the discovery of a law.
Proudhon, who represented the Protagorean school among us, humoring his whim, produced a work on art. In this he declares that he has very little gift in aesthetics, and asserts himself a dialectician, and we cannot deny his power in logic while he regards things from a proper stand-point. Very well! Proudhon challenged the Academy "to indicate a method"—with even more reason might he have said law of aesthetics.
Shall we, at last, find among the true critics of French literature any synthetic basis which may guide us in all branches of art? What do I find in "The Poetic Art," by Boileau, the great authority of the Augustan age,—rhetoric, beautiful verses, full of excellent counsel? I find there wisely arbitrated rules, a sieve through which it would be well to pass the works of our own times, including the verdicts which distribute the glory.
But the means of putting into practice these valuable precepts—the criterion to establish their truth, the touchstone which may distinguish the pure gold—does not appear! In default of these means of certitude, each may, according to his instinct or his pride, insist that he has fulfilled the conditions prescribed by the author of the Lutrin, and judge his rivals by the sole authority of his prejudices.