Part 8 out of 9
clear that which is not evident.
Of course it is plain that if the sight and the intellect answered
perfectly to their object, they could do without this adjunct which
betrays their imperfection. The intellect would thenceforth have no more
need of reason than the eye of glasses.
This explains the fact, so important to consider, that the clearer the
mental vision is the less one reasons. The angels do not reason; they
see clearly what is troubled and confused by our mind. No one reasons in
heaven, there is no logician there, no--Intelligence is immortal, but
reason, which serves it here below, will fade away in eternity with the
senses which like it do but form the conditions of time.
Divine reason alone will endure because it has nothing accidental, and
it is substantially united to the eternal word. It is that reason toward
which all blest intelligences will finally gravitate. Hence, we see that
what already partakes of the celestial life repels reasoning as a cause
of imperfection or infirmity. It is thus, by its exclusion of reasons,
that the Gospel supremely proves its celestial origin. It is, indeed, a
thing well worth remark, especially worthy of our admiration, that there
is not to be found, in the four Gospels, a single piece of reasoning,
any more than there is an interjection to be found.
Let us add that faith does not reason: which does not mean, as so many
misbelievers feign, that faith is fulfilled by blindness or ignorance of
the objects of its veneration. Quite the contrary. Faith dispenses with
reason because of the perfection of its sight. It is, finally, because
it is superior to reason and sees things from a higher plane. This is
what so many short-sighted people cannot see; and, to return to our
analogy, it seems to them able to see nothing save through the glasses
of reason. It seems to them, I say, that any man who does not wear
glasses must see crooked. Keep your glasses, my good souls! They suit
short limits of sight. But we, who, thank God, have sound sight, are
only troubled and clouded by them.
It is thus that reason, which is given us to make clear what is not
evident, frequently obscures even the very evidence itself. We might
confirm this declaration by a thousand examples. To cite but one, let us
point out how plainly the spectacle of the universe of thought and the
idea of a Divine Creator prove that no glasses are required to
contemplate God in His works. Well! scientists have felt obliged to
direct theirs upon these simple notions, and have thus, _i.e._, by force
of reasoning, succeeded in confusing out of all recognition a question
sparkling with evidence, so much so that they will fall into such a
state of blindness that they can no longer see in this world any trace
of the Supreme Intelligence which is yet manifested with glory in the
least of His creatures. Consequently, they will bluntly deny the
existence of God; but as they still must needs admit a creative cause,
they have to that end invented _moving atoms_ and have made from these
strange corpuscles something so perfectly invisible that they can spare
themselves the trouble of providing public curiosity with a living proof
of their theory.
The scientist is born perverted, as was said of the Frenchman who
created the vaudeville; and men, too strong-minded and above all too
full of reason to give any credence to the mysteries taught by the
church, have displayed a blind faith in respect to _moving atoms_. They
think thus to set themselves free from what they call the prejudices of
their fathers. They find no difficulty in attributing to invisible
corpuscles both the plan and the execution of the beings who people the
This is the fine conception attributed to what is called a higher
reason--a conception before which bow legions of strong minds. To such a
degree of degradation can reason drag man down.
It is, therefore, dangerous to consult the reason in any case where
evidence is likely to be called into play. But, before proceeding
farther in the course of our demonstrations, a question presents itself.
It may be asked what we think of another kind of reason--_pure reason_;
for it appears that in the opinion of certain philosophers pure reason
does exist. I do not know where they authenticated and studied this
species of reason. For myself I confess in all humility that not only
have I never seen a pure reason, but it has never even been possible for
me to raise my mind to the point of comprehending the signification of
pure reason. I greatly fear that some nonsense lurks within the phrase,
such transcendental nonsense as belongs to ideological philosophers
alone. I know not why, but these gentlemen's pure reason always gives me
the sensation of a strong blast of _moving atoms_. In fact, it is not
clear; but why require clarity of philosophers and ideologists?
But let us leave these senseless words and pursue the course of our
What we have said of reason is quite sufficient to prevent its
confusion with the faculty whose discursive form it is. But this is not
enough. We must, by still more delicate distinctions, make any confusion
between these two terms impossible.
Reason, although essentially allied to intelligence, is not, like it,
primordial in man. Thus God created man intelligent, and consequently
susceptible of reason; but we do not see the word reason brought into
play in Genesis, because it merely expresses a derivation from the mind
or intellect. Reason, therefore, is secondary and posterior in the
genetic order. But here to the support of this assertion we have a
striking and undeniable proof; namely, that the infant is born
intelligent but not reasonable. Intellect proceeds directly from _that
true light which shines in every man on his entrance into the world_,
while reason is merely the fruit of experience. A proof of the
superiority of intelligence to reason is seen in the fact that it
partakes of the immutable, and is not like the latter, liable to
Thus the child is seen to be as intelligent as an adult man can be. Let
us rather say that it is in the child especially that intelligence
displays its brightest rays. Yet he is not furnished with reason. And
why not? Because he has no experience. Reason, therefore, is an acquired
power, whose light is borrowed from experience or tradition.
Reason is proportional to the experience acquired. Practical reason or
rationality is the ration or portion of experience allotted to each
Reason is to the mental vision exactly what the eye is to optical
vision, and just as the eye borrows its visual action from external
light, so reason borrows its power of clear and correct vision from
traditional experience. The similarity is absolute.
Suppress light, and vision ceases to be possible. Suppress revelation
from intellectual objects, and reason is thenceforth blind.
Between reason and intelligence, although there be inclusion and
co-essentiality in these terms, there is a great difference in the mode
of cognizance; for, as St. Augustine says, intelligence is shown by
simple perception, and reason by the discursive process. Thus, while
intelligence acts simply, as in knowing an intelligible truth by the
light of its own intuition, reason goes toward its end progressively,
from one thing known to another not yet known.
The latter, as St. Thomas says, implies an imperfection. The former, on
the contrary, beseems a perfect being. It is, therefore, evident, adds
the same profound thinker, that reasoning bears the same relation to
knowledge that motion does to repose, or as acquisition to possession.
The one is of an imperfect nature, and the other of a perfect nature.
Boëthius compares the intellect to eternity; reason, to time.
Yet human reason, according to the principle which illuminates it,
offers three degrees of elevation which we will distinguish, for
readier comprehension, by three special terms, namely: first, tradition
or the experience of another; second, personal experience; third, the
reason of things.
Trained by tradition, reason is called _common sense_. Trained by
personal experience to the knowledge of principles, reason is called
_science_. Trained by the contemplation of principles to the perfection
of the intellect, reason is called _wisdom_.
What we call practical reason is based upon the authority of tradition
and the lessons of other people's experience in regard to the customary
and moral matters of life.
Speculative or discursive reason judges by the criterion of its own
experience; thereby inferring consequences more or less in conformity
with traditional teachings, and arriving by the logical order of its
deductions and in virtue of the principles which it accepts and which it
applies to its discoveries, at what we call science.
Transcendental reason pursues, in the effects which it examines, the
investigation of their cause, and rises thence to the very reason of
things. Wherefore it silences reasoning, enters into a silent and
persistent course of observation, consults the facts, examines, studies
and questions the principles whence it sees them to be deduced; and,
without yielding to the obscurity in which these principles are
enveloped, pierces that obscurity by the penetrative force of
unremitting attention. Inspired by the standard of faith, it knows that
the spirit of God exists at the root of these mysteries. It clings
thereto, unites itself thereto by contemplation, and finally draws from
this union its _strength_, its _light_ and its _joy_.
Such is the course of wisdom, and such are the inestimable advantages of
faith to reason. It is in fact by faith that reason is aggrandized and
elevated to the height of the intellect whence it draws its certitude.
Reason believes because it desires to understand, and because it knows
that faith is the next principle to knowledge.
Thus the grandeur of reason is proportioned to its humility;
proportioned, I would say, to the efforts which it multiplies to forget
itself when the truth addresses it. But such is not the method of
procedure of "strong minds." They have a horror of the mysteries toward
which they are still urged by correct instincts. The fact is, let us say
it boldly, they fear lest they find God there.
In these misguided spirits there is so much presumption, self-conceit,
self-love, that they are, in the nullity of their lofty pride, a worship
unto themselves, an idolatry of their own reason. They have deified
it,--that poor, frail reason; and this, while mutilating it, while
proclaiming it independent and free from all law, from all principle,
from everything definite.
To what excess of imbecility, then, have we not seen these freethinkers
fall, these apostles of independent reason, who on principle boast that
they have no faith and no law! Thence comes the scorn which afflicts
these unbelievers for all who believe and hope here below; thence, their
systematic ignorance of fundamental questions; thence, the incurable
blindness in which they bask; thence, finally, the inconsistencies and
contradictions which make them a spectacle humiliating to the human
But agnostic man labors in vain. He cannot escape the mysteries which
surround him on every hand, like a gulf in which reason is inevitably
lost so soon as it ceases to seek the light.
Man stumbles at every turn against the efforts of a stronger reason than
his own,--the Supreme Reason before which, nilly nilly, his must bow and
confess the insanity of its judgments.
Logic is not, to reason, a sure guide; and even where it feels its
foothold most strong, it sometimes trips, to the disgrace of the good
opinion it had of its own infallibility.
Let us show by a simple example to what rebuffs our reason is exposed
when counting on the support of its logic, face to face with the reason
Undoubtedly it is logical and perfectly in conformity with reason, to
say that _one_ and _one_ make _two_. No doubt seems possible on that
point. Well, this elementary truth, the most undeniable in the eyes of
all men which can be produced, does not, despite the assurances which
seem to uphold it, constitute an impregnable axiom; for there are cases
when _one_ and _one_ do not make _two_! Certainly such a proposition
seems scarcely reasonable, for its admission would entail the reversal
of what are called the sound notions of logic! But what will the
logician say if I affirm that in a certain case, _one_ and _one_ make
but _one-half_? Would he even take the trouble to refute me? No, he
would laugh in my face; he would not listen to me; he would tax me with
absurdity and insanity, preferring thus to lose a chance of instruction
rather than confess the impotence of his logic.
There is the evil, and it is generally in this way that ignorance is
perpetuated. But let us return to the fact which we desire to prove,
contrary to logic and the pretensions of ordinary reason.
Now, it is logical and perfectly in conformity with reason to say that
two musical instruments make more noise than one; and that thus two
double basses, for example, tuned in unison and placed side by side,
produce one sound of a double intensity. This seems an elementary
matter. It is as clear, you say, as that one and one make two. Well, no,
it is not so clear as you suppose. It is, on the contrary, a mistake;
for attentive experiment proves that the result is diametrically
opposite to the logical conclusion.
This is a fact which no argument can destroy. Two double basses, placed
in the above-named conditions--conditions of vicinity and tonal
identity--far from adding up their individual result, are thus reduced
each to a quarter of its own sonority, which in the sum total, instead
of producing a double sound, produces a sound reduced to half of that
given individually by each instrument taken alone. This is how a power
plus an analogous power equals together with it but half a power; and
thus we are forced to admit that one and one do not necessarily make
I have carried the experiment still farther; in the instrument which
gained me a first-class medal at the exhibition of 1854, I was enabled
to put thirty-six strings of the same piano into unison at once. Well!
All these strings, struck simultaneously, did not attain to the
intensity of sound produced by one of them struck singly. All these
sounds, far from gaining strength by union, reciprocally neutralized one
another. This is not logical, I admit; but we must submit to it.
Logic must be silent and reason bow before the brutal force of a fact to
which there is no objection to be raised.
Since we are on the subject of the phenomena of sonority, let us draw
another illustration from it, quite as overwhelming in its illogicalness
as the former.
When two similar phenomena differ from one another on any side, the
discord brought about by this difference is more apparent and more
striking by reason of the closer conjunction of these phenomena. By way
of compensation the dissimilarity is less appreciable in proportion as
these phenomena are farther apart from each other.
This is rigorously logical and perfectly conformable to reason; yet
there are cases where we must affirm the contrary. Thus the same sound
produced, I will suppose, by two flutes not in accord with one another,
forms those disagreeable pulsations in the air which discordant sounds
inevitably produce. There seems to be no doubt that by gradually
bringing these discordant instruments together, the falseness of their
relation must be more and more striking, more and more intolerable.
Wrong! For then, and above all if the mouths of these instruments be
concentrically directed, a mutual translocation is produced between the
two discordant sounds, which restores the accuracy of their agreement.
Thus the lower sound is raised, while the higher one is lowered, in such
a way that the two sounds are mingled on meeting and form a perfect
unison. Now, here are contrasts, which, contrary to all rational data,
so far from being exaggerated by contact, diminish gradually, until they
are utterly annihilated. Thus, then, given two instruments of the same
nature, if the harmony which they effect be true, they enter by reason
of their conjunction into a negative state which neutralizes their
sonority; while the contrary occurs in the case of false unison. Here
the instruments become identical with one another, the sonority is
increased and the tonal deviation is corrected to the most perfect
Obstinate rationalists, what is your logic worth here? Has it armed you
against the surprises held in store for you by a multitude of facts
inaccordant with your reasonings? Oh, proud and haughty reason, bow your
head! Confess the inanity of your ways. Bow yet, once again, and
contemplate the mystery whence luminous instruction shall beam for you!
At bottom these mysteries may surprise and baffle a reason deprived of
principle; but they are never contrary to it, because they proceed from
reason itself, from that Supreme Reason which created us in its own
image; and, by that very fact, is always in accord with individual
reason in so far as this will consent to sacrifice its own prejudices to
it, or listen to its infallible lessons.
But man's reason most frequently heeds itself alone. Thence, once again,
arise its infirmities. Thus, what will happen, if, because the truths
which I utter here are obscure and do not at the first glance appear to
conform to the requirements of logic, you hastily reject them with all
the loftiness of your scornful reason, which would blush to admit what
it did not understand! Poor reason! which in and of itself understands
so little, and admits so many follies as soon as a scholar affirms them.
The consequence will be that you will be strengthened in the error which
flatters your ignorance. Behold that proud reason which would never
bend before a mystery revealed, behold it, I say, bowed beneath the
weight of prejudices, which there will be more than one scholar, more
than one logician, ready to endorse.
Thus reason will refuse as unworthy itself, all belief in the actions of
God or of unseen spirits, the angels, heaven, but will not dare to doubt
the existence of _moving atoms_, invisible corpuscles. This is the
mental poverty into which the enemies of religious faith unwittingly
fall. They pervert that instrument of reason whose true use is to
supplement and fortify imperfect intelligence, and misuse it to
discredit and overthrow the original intuitions of intelligence.
It is within himself that man should find the reason of all he studies.
In the angels he should find the secret of his being: they are his
prototypes. Lastly, it is in the Divine archetype that we are to look
for the universal reason.
* * * * *
Taste and smell say: It is _Good_.
Sight and touch say: It is _Beautiful_.
Hearing and speech say: It is _True_.
* * * * *
Every agreeable or disagreeable sight makes the body reäct backward. The
degree of reaction should be in proportion to the degree of interest
caused by the sight of the object presented to our sight.
* * * * *
The _soul_ is a triple virtue, which, by means of the powers that it
governs, forms, develops and modifies the sum total of the constituent
forces of the body.
The _body_ is that combination of co-penetrating forces whose inherent
powers govern all acts under the triple impulse of the constituent
forces of the being.
The _immanences_ are powers which, under the impulse of the constituent
virtues of the being, govern and modify the co-penetrating forces of the
The _powers_ govern the forces under the impulse of the virtues.
The _virtues_ are the impulses under the sway of which the powers govern
and direct the forces.
* * * * *
Light is the symbol of order, of peace, of virtue.
* * * * *
Science and art form two means of assimilation: The one by means of
absorption, the other by means of emanation. The one, more generous than
the other, gives and communicates; the other unceasingly receives and
appeals. Science receives, art gives. By science man assimilates the
world; by art he assimilates himself to the world. Assimilation is to
science what incarnation is to art.
If science perpetuates things in us, art perpetuates us in things and
causes us to survive therein.
If by science man makes himself preëminent in subjugating the things of
this world, by art he renders them supernatural by impressing upon them
the living characters of his being and of his soul.
Art is an act by which life lives again in that which in itself has no
Art should move the secret springs of life, convince the mind and
persuade the heart.
* * * * *
Beauty purifies the sense,
Truth illuminates the mind,
Virtue sanctifies the soul.
* * * * *
The more lofty the intellect, the more simple the speech. (So in art.)
* * * * *
Accent is the modulation of the soul.
* * * * *
The artist who does not love, is by that fact rendered sterile.
* * * * *
Art is a regenerating or delighting power.
* * * * *
Routine is the most formidable thing I know.
* * * * *
If you would move others, put your heart in the place of your larynx;
let your voice become a mysterious hand to caress the hearer.
* * * * *
Nothing is more deplorable than a gesture without a motive.
Perhaps the best gesture is that which is least apparent.
* * * * *
There is always voice enough to an attentive listener.
* * * * *
Persuade yourself that there are blind men and deaf men in your
audience whom you must _move_, _interest_ and _persuade!_ Your
inflection must become pantomime to the blind, and your pantomime,
inflection to the deaf.
* * * * *
The mouth plays a part in everything evil which we would express, by a
grimace which consists of protruding the lips and lowering the corners.
If the grimace translates a concentric sentiment, it should be made by
compressing the lips.
* * * * *
Conscious menace--that of a master to his subordinate--is expressed by a
movement of the head carried from above downward.
Impotent menace requires the head to be moved from below upward.
* * * * *
Any interrogation made with crossed arms must partake of the character
of a threat.
* * * * *
When two limbs follow the same direction, they cannot be simultaneous
without an injury to the law of opposition. Therefore, direct movements
should be successive, and opposite movements should be simultaneous.
* * * * *
There are three great articular centres: the _shoulder, elbow_ and
_wrist_. Passional expression passes from the shoulder, where it is in
the emotional state, to the elbow, where it is presented in the
affectional state; then to the wrist and the thumb, where it is
presented in the susceptive and volitional state.
* * * * *
Three centres in the arm: the _shoulder_ for pathetic actions; the
_elbow_, which approaches the body by reason of humility, and
reciprocally (that is, inversely) for pride; lastly, the _hand_ for
fine, spiritual and delicate actions.
* * * * *
The initial forms of movements should be--in virtue of the zones whence
they proceed--the only explicit, and consequently the only truly
* * * * *
Bad actors exert themselves in vain to be moved and to afford a
spectacle to themselves. On the other hand, true artists never let their
gestures reveal more than a tenth part of the secret emotion that they
apparently feel and would hide from the audience to spare their
sensibility. Thus they succeed in stirring all spectators.
* * * * *
No, art is not an imitation of nature: art is better than nature. It is
* * * * *
There are two kinds of loud voices: the vocally loud, which is the
vulgar voice; and the dynamically loud, which is the powerful voice. A
voice, however powerful it may be, should be inferior to the power
which animates it.
* * * * *
Every object of agreeable or disagreeable aspect which surprises us,
makes the body recoil. The degree of reaction should be proportionate to
the degree of emotion caused by the sight of the object.
* * * * *
Without abnegation, no truth for the artist. We should not preoccupy the
audience with our own personality. There is no true, simple or
expressive singing without self-denial. We must often leave people in
ignorance of our own good qualities.
* * * * *
To use expression at random on our own authority, expression _at all
hazards_, is absurd.
* * * * *
The mouth is a vital thermometer, the nose a moral thermometer.
* * * * *
Dynamic wealth depends upon the number of articulations brought into
play; the fewer articulations an actor uses, the more closely he
approaches the puppet.
* * * * *
A portion of a whole cannot be seriously appreciated by any one ignorant
of the constitution of that whole.
* * * * *
An abstract having been made of the modes of execution which the artist
should learn before handling a subject, two things are first of all
1. To know what he is to seek in that subject itself;
2. To know how to find what he seeks.
* * * * *
Is not the essential principle of art the union of truth, beauty and
good? Are its action and aim anything but a tendency toward the
realization of these three terms?
* * * * *
We have a right to ask a work of art by what methods it claims to move
us, by which side of our character it intends to interest and convince
* * * * *
Speech is external, and visible thought is the ambassadress of the
* * * * *
How should the invisible be visible when the visible is so little so!
* * * * *
One cannot be too careful of his articulation. The initial consonant
should be articulated distinctly; the spirit of the word is contained in
* * * * *
Two things to be observed in the consonant: its explosion and its
preparation. The _t, d, p,_ etc., keep us waiting; the _ch, v, j,_
prepare themselves, as: "_vvvenez_." The vocals _ne, me, re_ are
* * * * *
_Rhythm_ is that which asserts; it is the form of movement.
_Melody_ is that which distinguishes.
_Harmony_ is that which conjoins.
* * * * *
Let your attitude, gesture and face foretell what you would make felt.
* * * * *
Be wary of the tremolo which many singers mistake for vibration.
* * * * *
If you cannot conquer your defect, make it beloved.
* * * * *
A movement should never be mixed with a facial twist.
* * * * *
Things that are said quietly should sing themselves in the utterance.
Lecture and Lessons Given by Mme. Géraldy (Delsarte's Daughter) in
[Illustration: Mme. Marie Delsarte-Géraldy.]
_Delivered by Mme. Géraldy at the Berkeley Lyceum, New York, February 6,
When I made up my mind to come to this country it was not with the
object of exhibiting _myself_, but to speak to you of my father. In your
country my father is much talked of. In my country, unfortunately, he is
forgotten. My father did not write anything--that is a terrible thing!
He expected to do so some day, but he always put it off. At last he
decided to do so during the war--our unfortunate war! He did not have
many lessons to give at that time, for nobody thought of taking any.
This gave him leisure to write. His work was to have borne the title,
"My Revelatory Episodes." He had only written five chapters when he
died. It was to bring to you these five chapters that I came to America.
But as soon as I began to speak of them I was stopped. "Why do you tell
us this?" they said; "we know all this already." I then discovered that
the books written on my father by the Abbé Delaumosne and by Mme.
Angélique Arnaud had been translated and published in this country. Mme.
Arnaud's book is the better of the two, but it is not practical--not at
I have gathered together what I remember in the form of lectures, which
I offer to you. I have been asked for examples; I shall give you
examples. I will begin, however, by giving you a little biographical
sketch of my father, and by telling you how he happened to make his
discovery. He was the son of a country doctor, a man poor but original.
My father was still a very little boy when his father sent him and his
younger brother to Paris. There they were apprenticed to a jeweler and
made bands of gold. Soon the little brother died, and my father was the
only one to follow him to the cemetery. On his way back, after the
burial, he fell fainting on the plain. When he regained consciousness he
heard music in the distance, and, not knowing whence it came, thought it
was the music of the angels. Since then he dreamed of nothing but music;
he wanted to hear all he could; he longed to study it. One day he heard
two little urchins singing in the street. He asked them: "Do you know
music?" The urchins replied: "Yes!" "Will you teach it to me?" "Yes,
certainly," and they sang a scale for him. "Is that all there is of
music?" "Why, yes."
Not long after, he made the acquaintance of an old musician, who became
interested in him, gave him a few lessons, and entered him at the
Conservatoire. There he attended the elocution classes, and a role was
given to him to learn in which he had to say: "How do you do, Papa
Dugrand!" He had no success with this sentence. Each of his four
professors told him a different way of saying it, and he wondered: "How
is this? Are there, then, no principles to go by?" One day a cousin of
his arrived unexpectedly from the country. "How do you do, my dear
cousin!" And immediately after this warm greeting he ran away from his
cousin, crying, excitedly, "I have it! I have it!" and did not stop
until he got to his room and in front of a looking-glass. What he had
was the right attitude and way to say, "How do you do, Papa Dugrand!"
and this way was diametrically opposed to the instruction his professors
had given him on the subject.
My father spent forty-five years in observing. He was the king of
observers. What remains to us is but one-quarter of all his
observations. My father's method is comprehensive; it can be applied to
the arts, to the sciences. His pupils were orators, painters, sculptors,
comedians, lawyers, doctors, society amateurs.
My father had read in the first chapter of Genesis that God made man in
His image. God is Trinity. Trinity is the criterion of my father.
Raymond Brucker was an old friend of my father's. "What is this method
of your friend Delsarte?" was a question often put to him. "Delsarte's
method," he would reply, "is an orthopedic machine to straighten
My father considered man as the principle of all arts. He used three
terms to express man: Life, mind and soul. He would compare man to a
carriage occupied by a traveler. In front sits a coachman, who drives
the horse. The carriage is the body of man; the horse that makes it move
is life; the coachman who drives the horse is the mind; the occupant of
the carriage, who gives orders to the coachman, is the soul. Man feels,
thinks and loves.
My father made use of three terms to express three states: Concentric,
normal and excentric. These he would combine with each other. I will
show you, for example, the three concentric attitudes of the hand: The
concentro-concentric, expressing struggle; the concentro-normal, meaning
power; the concentro-excentric, showing convulsion. [_Illustrates._] In
the same way we have the combinations of the eyes and eyebrows, and,
again, those of the head. The head is concentro-concentric when the eyes
look in the same direction as that toward which the head inclines; this
expresses veneration. Notice how different the words, "I love him!"
sound when said first with the head inclined from and then inclined
toward the object.
An interesting series of movements for the arms that my father used to
give is the following: "It is impossible;" "It is not so;" "It is
improbable;" "Maybe;" "It is so;" "It is evident;" "There is no doubt
whatever about it." [_Illustrates._] This series is equally applicable
to affirmation and to negation. For example, you can begin by, "It is
impossible that it is not true!" and continue with that meaning.
I have been requested to give the attitudes of the feet. I do not like
to give them because they are not feminine, and I abhor all that is not
feminine. However, as I have been asked for them, and as I wish to prove
that my father had also given his attention to their study, here they
are: (1) The attitude of little children and of old men, expressing
weakness; (2) that of absolute repose; (3) vehemence; (4) prostration;
(5) transitory attitude, preparatory to (6) reverential walk; (7)
vertigo, intoxication, which is an ignoble vertigo, or familiarity; (8)
the alternative between the positions of offensive and defensive; (9)
defiance. [_Applause_.] Oh! I beg of you! [_Deprecatingly_.] It is
horribly ugly in me; but in a man it is all right.
I shall now speak of the interesting role that the shoulder plays in the
expression of emotions. My father called the shoulder "the thermometer
of passion." Indeed, the shoulders rise with every strong emotion. If I
say, "Oh! how angry I am!" without raising the shoulders, it sounds if
not false at least weak; but listen, when I raise my shoulders: "Oh! how
angry I am!" Again, if I say, "How I love you!" the words are cold; but,
with shoulders raised, listen, "How I love you!" Thus we see actors
every day who portray different passions, but whose shoulders remain
"cold;" they do not move us.
There is a very pretty observation to make about the elbow. My father
called it the "thermometer of pride and humility," and used to call our
attention to the different ways the soldiers carry their elbows. You
know we have a great many soldiers in France and we have a good, chance
to observe them. A corporal--that is, nothing at all--carries his elbows
like this [_elbows turned outward_]. A sergeant, whose rank is a little
higher than that of a corporal, carries them this way [_elbows slightly
drawn in_]. By the time he becomes lieutenant he is used to authority,
and does not have to show it off so much [_elbows drawn in still more_].
As for a general, one whose rank is the highest in the army, he walks
with his arms hanging naturally at his sides.
Now let me tell you about the thumb. My father being the son and the
nephew of doctors, was interested enough in the science to enter, at one
time, the school of medicine. Here, while dissecting, he noticed that
the thumb of a dead man falls inward toward the palm. This led him to
study the attitude of the thumb in life. He would pass days in the
garden of the Tuileries watching the nurses and the mammas carrying
their babes, noting how their thumbs spread out to clasp the precious
burden, and how the mothers' hands spread wider open than those of hired
servants; so he called the thumb "the thermometer of life."
My father always used to say to his pupils: "Be warm outwardly, cold
inwardly." He wanted them to pass suddenly from one great emotion to
another. All great actors do so. He would point to a portrait of
Garrick, representing the great actor with one-half of his face
laughing, the other half weeping. He himself, in his lessons, after
having given expression to some pathetic sentiment, would become
immediately his own kind self again. He insisted on self-possession.
Often when I was a little girl, and would slip into the room during his
lessons, for I loved to listen to them, and would find him portraying
some terrible passion, he would stop suddenly, seeing the expression of
horror on my face, and would burst out laughing and catch me in his
arms, saying: "Poor little one, are you frightened?"
"The artist," said my father, "must move, interest and convince."
Gesture is the agent of the heart. Gesture must always precede speech.
"Make me feel in advance," he used to say; "if it is something
frightful, let me read it on your face before you tell me of it." To
illustrate the practice of gesture before speech, I will now recite the
fable of "The Cock, the Cat and the Mouse." [Here followed the
recitation of the fable.]
My father once held his whole audience under a spell, showing them,
through the medium of a little girl of eight, a hundred different ways
of saying, "That dog is pretty." I will show you one or two ways If I
really think the dog is pretty, I will say it in this tone, "That dog is
pretty." If the dog's coat is soiled, I will say in a different tone,
"That dog is pretty." And if the dog has rubbed against my dress, there
will be a vexed tone, "That dog is pretty!"
My father used to divide orators into "artists in words and artists in
gesture." Those who are simply artists in words are those who do not
move you. Lamartine said of my father, "He is art itself." Théophile
Gautier said of him that he "took possession" of his public.
In 1848 the National Guard was appointed to guard the public monuments.
My father, who was a member of the Guard, had his station near an
archbishopric. A poor fellow was arrested one day who looked suspicious;
he was searched and a chaplet was found on him. The cry arose
immediately that he should be drowned. The poor man was being hustled
off when my father stopped them, saying that he claimed his part of the
punishment, and he drew from his own pocket a chaplet and showed it to
them. Oh! my father was kind. He was goodness itself. He was often asked
to give lectures at the court, but he would answer: "I do not sell my
talent, I give it." He was especially fond of his poor pupils, those who
did not pay him; he would often invite them to dine with him.
And now let me show you a series of lines which my father called the
inflective medallion. Imagine a circle [_describing a circle in the air
with her hand_]. Within this circle a vertical line, a horizontal line,
and two oblique lines, all intersecting each other. At both ends of the
vertical and horizontal lines are small curved lines, the whole forming
the medallion. This medallion contains all necessary gestures. If the
vertical line is made from on high downward ↓ [Illustration], it means
affirmation; if made from below upward ↑ [Illustration], it means hope.
The horizontal line means negation. One oblique line means simple
rejection ↙ [Illustration]; the other ↗ [Illustration] means rejection
with scorn, as in a line from Lafontaine's fable, "The Lion's Court:"
"The monarch, vexed, sent him to Pluto." The little curve at the top of
the vertical line ⌣ [Illustration] expresses ease, repose; it has the
form of a hammock. The opposite curve ⌢ [Illustration] means secrecy and
mystery. This curve ([Illustration] means amplitude. The other one, when
made in this direction ⤶ [Illustration] expresses admiration for
physical beauty, and in the other direction ⤴ [Illustration], admiration
for moral beauty. The entire circle ○ [Illustration] expresses
glorification. These gestures can be made with the whole arm, with the
forearm only, or simply with the waving hand; the degree of expression
Lastly, I will speak about the law of opposition. The arm and the head
should move in inverse directions [_illustrating_]; also the arm and the
hand. The statue of the Gladiator is a beautiful example of this law of
opposition. He is what we French call "well based;" you cannot overthrow
him. In contrast to him, my father used to cite Punchinello, the
children's toy, an object of ridicule. Punchinello, when the string is
pulled, raises his right arm and his right leg at the same time.
Notice the different ways in which people scold. The schoolmaster moves
his head from above downward; the boy threatens back, tossing his head
And now, ladies, I hope that what I have said will move you to take a
deeper interest in my father's work, and enable you to understand his
methods better than heretofore. I shall then feel, when I return to my
country, that I have not crossed the Atlantic in vain.
The Course of Lessons Given in America By Mme. Géraldy
Mme. Géraldy prefaced her course of lessons with the following remarks:
God is Trinity. Man, created in the image of God, bears the seal of the
Trinity. In these lessons we shall analyze our whole person. We shall
dwell upon three terms: Concentric, normal, excentric. We find them
1, excentric; 2, concentric; 3, normal.
| | | |
| | | 2 2 |
| | | |
| | | c. c. |
| | | |
| | | |
| | 3 3 | |
| | | |
| | n. n. | |
| | | |
| | | |
| 1 1 | | |
| | | |
| cx. cx. | | |
| | | |
We will begin with the eye--it is the most difficult.
The Eye and the Eyebrow.
The Eye. Normal Open, without expression.
Excentric Wide open.
The Eyebrow. Normal Without expression.
Combinations of the Eye and Eyebrow.
Eye. Eyebrow. Expression.
Concentric Concentric In tenseness of thought.
Concentric Normal Heaviness, or somnolency.
Concentric Excentric Disdain.
Normal Concentric Moroseness.
Normal Normal Without expression.
Normal Excentric Indifference.
Excentric Concentric Firmness.
Excentric Normal Stupor.
Excentric Excentric Astonishment.
The expressions of stupor and of astonishment
are greatly increased when preceded by a quivering
of the eyelid (blinking). This should be very rapid
and very energetic. Delsarte always insisted on this
Anxiety calls for a double movement of the eyebrows:
First, contract them; secondly, raise them.
Vitality is expressed by raising the outer part of
the eyebrows. This accomplishment is very rare;
but, then, it is not necessary.
Contraction of the lower eyelid expresses sensitiveness.
Concentric Bent forward.
The Head. Normal Upright.
Excentric Bent backward.
Combinations of Head-movements.
Concentro-concentric Bent forward and inclined to one side (toward
the person): Veneration.
Concentro-normal Bent forward: Examination.
Concentro-excentric Bent forward and inclined to the other side
(from the person): Suspicion.
Normo-concentric Inclined toward the person: Tenderness.
Normo-normal Upright: Without expression.
Normo-excentric Inclined from the person: Sensuality.
Excentro-concentric Bent backward and inclined to one side (toward
the person): Abandon.
Excentro-normal Bent backward, straight: Exaltation, vehemence.
Excentro-excentric Bent backward and inclined to the other side
(from the person): Pride.
It is the position of the eye that determines the expression of the
head, for it is the direction of the eye that tells us on which side the
object of veneration, suspicion, etc., is supposed to be. The shoulders
should be observed here. They are the thermometer of passion; the
stronger the emotion, the higher they should be raised.
The Hand. Normal.............. Open.
Excentric .......... Wide open.
Combinations of Hand-Movements.
Concentro-concentric Fist closed tight, thumb pressing against the
Concentro-normal Hand closed, thumb resting lightly against the
side of the index finger: Power, authority.
Concentro-excentric Hand open, fingers contracted: Convulsion.
Normo-concentric Limp, fingers turned slightly inward:
Normo-normal Limp: Abandon.
Normo-excentric Open, fingers straight: Expansion.
Excentro-concentric Wide open, fingers stretched apart and
Excentro-normal Fingers stretched apart and straight: Exaltation.
Excentro-excentric Fingers stretched wide apart and backward:
Let the arms swing backward from their natural position, with the palm
of the hands turned toward the front; head raised. Say: "It is
There is no doubt whatever about it.
Arms at the side in their natural position, palms toward the front; head
straight, Say: "It is not so."
Arms slightly forward; head very slightly bent. Say: "It is
Forearms slightly raised. Say: "Maybe."
Forearms still higher. Say: "It is probable."
Forearms at right angles with upper arms, palms always upward; head
bent. Say: "It is so."
Forearms higher. Say: "It is certain."
Forearms still higher (upper arms follow); head bent forward. Say: "It
Forearms still higher (by this time the upper arms are horizontal); head
bent way forward. Say: "There is no doubt whatever!"
As will be noticed, the head moves in the opposite direction from the
arms. The face must express what the words say. The movements of the
arms alone, without the expression of the face, do not mean anything.
Inflections of the Hand.--Combinations of the Arm and Hand.
1. _Acceptance_. Put the arm out naturally, palm upward.
2. _Caress_. Raise the shoulder; bend the head, keep the elbow close to
the side; raise the hand as high as the face and, with palm outward,
bring it slowly down again as if stroking an object, at the same time
raising the head.
3. _Negation_. Draw a horizontal line in the air, the movement finishing
in an outward direction.
4. _Self-control_. Arm hanging at the side, hand in the concentro-normal
condition, denoting authority, power over one's self.
5. _Authority_. Extend the arm and raise it in front a little higher
than the level of the shoulder; then raise the hand, which should be in
the concentro-normal state, from the wrist and let it fall again with
6. _Menace_. The arm is kept in the same position, the fist clenched
7. _Execration_. Arm extended from the previous position sideward; hand
excentro-concentric, palm toward the back; head turned in opposite
8. _Horror_. Arm outstretched in front; hand excentric, palm outward;
head thrown back.
9. _Desire_. Arm in same position; hand assumes the normal condition
and turns its palm upward; head still thrown back.
These movements should blend one into the other, and should be executed
without any affectation. The law of opposition should be observed here;
for example: In the ascending movement of the arm the hand falls from
the wrist; when the arm descends, the hand points upward.
1. _Weakness_. Feet close together, weight of body on both. This
attitude is that of childhood and old age.
2. _Perfect calm and repose._ Rest weight on one foot (settling at the
hip), bend the knee of the other leg and advance the foot.
3. _Vehemence_. Move the body forward so that the weight rests on the
foot that is in front; the heel of the foot that is behind is thus
4. _Prostration_. Throw one foot far behind the other, with the knee
bent and the weight of the body upon it. This attitude, when properly
taken, leads to the kneeling position.
5. _Transitive position._ In walking, stop midway between two steps and
you have the 5th attitude or transitive position. It is the one that
leads to all kinds of walks, and especially to the reverential or
_6. Reverential walk_. Let the foot which is behind take a step forward
in this manner: With the toe describe on the ground a semi-circle that
bends inward toward you; this will cause the heel to pass over the
instep of the other foot. The other foot now takes a straight step
forward, and you pause in a respectful attitude before the personage of
importance whom you wish to salute. Several steps may be taken in
succession before the final pause. The ceremonious step is always taken
with the foot you begin with (the one toward the person you salute); the
other foot always takes natural steps. This walk is only meant for men,
and only on grand occasions.
7. _Intoxication, vertigo_. The feet are planted on the ground and
apart. This attitude expresses familiarity.
8. _The alternative_. One foot in a straight line behind the other, the
weight of the body on both. This attitude is offensive and defensive.
9. _Defiance_. The weight of the body on the foot that is behind, the
other foot diagonally forward; head thrown back.
Delsarte never classed the basic attitudes under the heads of
concentric, normal or excentric, any more than he so classed gestures.
He simply gave them in the above sequence.
The Medallion of Inflection.
"_The Key to all Gestures_"
[Illustration] ↓ Affirmation.
[Illustration] ⇄ Negation.
[Illustration] ↑ Hope.
[Illustration] ↙ Rejection of things that harm us.
[Illustration] ↗ Rejection of things that we despise.
[Illustration] ⌣ Ease, comfort (resembles a hammock).
[Illustration] ⌢ Silence, secrecy.
[Illustration] () Plenitude, amplitude.
[Illustration] )( Delicacy, grace.
[Illustration] ⤶ Physical beauty.
[Illustration] ⤴ Beauty of intellect.
[Illustration] ↓ "You may believe
[Illustration] → that no lord
[Illustration] had as much glory or happiness."
Mme. Géraldy's Lessons On Lafontaine's Fables.
The Wolf and the Lamb.
Might makes right; we shall prove this presently.
A Lamb was quenching his thirst in a stream of pure water. A Wolf, in
quest of adventures, happened by, drawn to the spot by hunger.
"What makes thee so bold as to pollute the water I drink?" said he,
angrily. "Thy impudence deserves to be punished."
"Sire," answered the Lamb, "soften your wrath, and consider that I am
drinking the water more than twenty feet below your Majesty, and can,
therefore, in no way pollute your Majesty's drink."
"You do pollute it!" replied the savage animal, "and I know that last
year you slandered me."
"How could I when I was not born?" replied the Lamb. "I am still a
"If it was not you, then it was your brother."
"I have none."
"Then it was some member of your family, for you do not spare me--you,
your shepherds and your dogs. I have been told so. I must revenge
Thereupon the Wolf carried him into the depths of the forest, and ate
him without further trial.
Lesson Given By Mme. Géraldy.
In the narrative portions of a recitation, the eyes of the speaker
should meet the eyes of the audience. In this way he fixes their
attention and engages their sympathy.
Looking straight at the audience: "Might makes right [deplore the fact].
We shall prove this presently. A Lamb [by tone of voice and gesture show
what a weak, gentle creature a lamb is] was quenching his thirst in a
stream of pure water. A Wolf [a strong, cruel animal], in quest of
adventures, happened by, drawn to the spot by hunger." [Fold the arms;
gesture should always precede speech.] "'What makes thee so bold as to
pollute the water I drink?' said he, angrily. 'Thy impudence deserves to
"'Sire,' answered the Lamb [humbly], 'soften your wrath
and--[conjunctions should almost always be followed by a pause] consider
that I am drinking the water more than _twenty feet_ ["Mark me!"] below
your Majesty, and can, therefore, in no way pollute your Majesty's
"'You _do_ pollute it!' replied the savage animal, 'and--I know that,
last _year_, you _slandered_ me.' [With this line Delsarte always gave a
progressive gesture, which can best be described in this way:
Give the gesture of affirmation ↓ [Illustration] [see Lesson VII.],
stopping twice in the downward movement, on the words _that_ and _year_,
v slandered me.]
"'How could I when I was not born?' replied the Lamb [gentle voice]. 'I
am still a suckling babe.'
"'If it was not you, then it was your brother' [gruff voice].
"'I have none.'
"'Then it was some member of your family, for--you do not spare me, you,
your shepherds and your dogs. [There is no pause after the conjunction
_and_ here, as it simply joins together words in a list.] I have been
told so [impatiently; the wolf is tired of parleying so long]. I must
"'Thereupon [lower the voice to fix the attention] the Wolf carried him
into the depths of the forest and--ate him [deplore the fact] without
further trial'" [voice low].
The Cat, the Weasel and the Little Rabbit.
The palace of a young Rabbit was taken possession of, one fine morning,
by Dame Weasel; she is a sly one. The master being absent, it was an
easy thing for her to do. She carried her belongings there one day when
he had gone to do homage to Aurora, amid the thyme and the dew. After
having nibbled, and trotted, and made all his rounds, Bunny Rabbit
returned to his subterranean dwelling. Mrs. Weasel was looking out of
"Hospitable gods! what do I see!" exclaimed the animal, who had been
shut out from his ancestors' home. "Hello there, Madam Weasel, come out
without delay, or I shall notify all the rats in the country."
The lady with the pointed nose replied that land belonged to the first
occupant; that a lodging which he himself could enter only on his
stomach was a fine subject for war. "And even if it were a kingdom, I
should like to know why," said she, "it should belong forever to John,
son or nephew of Peter or William, more than to Paul, more than to me?"
Bunny Rabbit alleged the rights of use and custom. "It is these laws,"
said he, "that have made me lord and master of this dwelling; passing
from father to son, it was transmitted from Peter to Simon and then to
me, John. Is the right of the first occupant a wiser law?"
"Oh! well, instead of disputing any more," said she, "let us have the
matter settled by Raminagrobis Grippeminaud."
The latter was a cat who lived as a devout hermit; a cat whose ways and
words were smooth; a pious cat, warmly clothed and fat and comfortable;
an umpire, expert in all cases. Bunny Rabbit accepted him as judge, and
they both went before his furred Majesty.
Said Grippeminaud to them: "Come nearer, my children, come nearer; I am
deaf; it is the result of old age."
They both drew nearer, suspecting nothing. As soon as he saw the
contestants within reach, Grippeminaud, the sly fellow, throwing out his
paws on both sides at once, caused the two suitors to be of one mind by
eating them both up.
Lesson Given By Mme. Géraldy.
[Begin slowly, making frequent pauses] "The palace--of a young Rabbit [a
nice little animal]--was taken possession of, one fine morning, by Dame
Weasel [a personage with nose and manners sharp]; she is a sly one. The
master being absent, it was an easy thing for her to do. She carried her
belongings there [without asking by your leave!] one day when he had
gone to do homage to Aurora, amid the thyme and the dew. [I do not know
if you see the poetry here, but we French people consider this last line
one of the loveliest bits of Lafontaine.] After having nibbled, and
trotted, and made all his rounds, Bunny Rabbit returned to his
subterranean dwelling. Mrs. Weasel was looking out of the window. [Start
back in surprise, raise the arms and shoulders high, eyes wide open with
astonishment, excentro-excentric; see Lesson I.]
"'Hospitable gods! what do I see!' exclaimed the animal who had been
shut out from his ancestors' home. 'Hello there, Madam Weasel [with one
arm raised, beckon to her to come down], come out without delay, or--I
shall notify all the rats in the country.'"
"The lady with the pointed nose replied that land belonged to the first
occupant; that a lodging which he himself could enter only [scornfully;
eyes concentro-excentric, see Lesson I.] on his stomach was a fine
subject for war! 'And even if it were a kingdom [the weasel talks very
fast], I should like to know why,' said she, 'it should belong forever
to John, son or nephew of Peter or William [talk very fast, with a great
many gesticulations], more than to Paul, more than to me? '
"Bunny Rabbit alleged the rights of use and custom. 'It is these laws,'
said he [the rabbit talks slowly], 'that have made me lord and master of
this dwelling; passing from father to son [count on your fingers], it
was transmitted from Peter to Simon, and then--to me, John, Is the right
of the first occupant a wiser law?'"
"'Oh! well! instead of disputing any more,' said she [it is the weasel
who disputes; she talks in a high key and very fast] 'let us have the
matter settled by Raminagrobis Grippeminaud.'"
The latter was a cat who lived as a devout hermit; a cat whose ways and
words were smooth; a pious cat [assert the fact], warmly clothed and fat
and comfortable [said with the gesture expressive of plenitude made with
both arms [Illustration]; see Lesson VII.]; an umpire, expert in all
cases. Bunny Rabbit accepted him as judge, and--they both went before
his furred Majesty.
"Said Grippeminaud [the concentric state; take the attitude of one who
is wrapped up in himself, head bent, shoulders warped, hands holding
each other; hardly unclasp to make the sign of beckoning] to them: 'Come
nearer, my children, come nearer; [point to the ears] I am deaf; it is
the result of old age.'
"They both drew nearer, suspecting nothing. As soon as he saw the
contestants within reach, [prepare the claws] Grippeminaud, the sly
fellow [act the following] throwing out his paws on both sides at once,
caused the two suitors to be of one mind by eating them both up."
Delsarte's Daughter In America.
By Adèle M. Woodward.
Mme. Géraldy being asked, during her recent visit to this country, what
she thought of the system of gymnastics called "Delsarte," said (to
translate literally the expressive French): "It makes me jump! And yet
you have my father's method," she continued, showing two of the
principal works on the subject published in this country. "All that
is correct (pointing to some of the charts); what more do you want?"
The trouble lies here: Americans wanted more. They added, they devised,
they evolved from the few gestures given by the French master a whole
system of movements which they called by his name, and which has become
very popular in young ladies' seminaries and young ladies' clubs. The
name of Delsarte has been so strongly associated with this system, that
to most people the word "Delsarte" without the word "gymnastics" would
not mean anything.
Mme. Géraldy came to our country to tell us what the name of Delsarte
means. Delsarte never taught gymnastics. His whole life was devoted to
the study of the laws that govern expression. His pupils were men of all
professions, ministerial and legal orators, actors, singers, etc. "The
first half of his lesson," said she, "was always devoted to theory, the
second to practice."
Mme. Géraldy is a tall, dark-haired, middle-aged woman, with an
interesting face and a charming French manner. She wears mourning for
her mother, who died in 1891.
"My mother," she said, "was a remarkable woman; she ought to be as well
known as my father is. I would rather my father were not known at all,"
she continued, "than to be known as he is in your country, that is, as a
professor of gymnastics."
She said she had heard of the American "Delsarte gymnastics" while in
Paris (Americans passing through the city had often come to her and
asked questions), but she had no idea, until she came here, that they
were pushed so far. She was quite amused at having dumb-bells given her
at one of her lectures in a town in Pennsylvania. "In a gymnasium, as
usual," she said, smiling. Anybody who had ever been through the
Delsarte gymnastics and afterward followed the course of lessons that
Mme. Géraldy gave to a class while in New York, would have been struck
by the beauty and simplicity of her father's method, and her clear and
direct exposition of it. Here was no affectation. "I abhor all that is
affected," she said. There were no intricate convolutions, no
flourishes, and, above all, no "decomposing exercises."
An interesting fact to note is that Mme. Géraldy began by teaching her
pupils the expressions of the eyes, and when she gave them attitudes or
gestures, she always called for the facial expression to accompany them.
A woman, well-known in her profession throughout the country, is said to
have made the remark that Mme. Géraldy was wrong in beginning with the
eyes; she should begin with the feet. Only after showing the
possibilities of expression by face, head, hands, arms and shoulders,
did Mme. Géraldy give the basic attitudes. She was very patient and
painstaking with her pupils, and showed herself interested in every one.
She would often pause, while showing some expressive gestures, and say,
smiling: "But you Americans do not express yourselves in gestures. You
do not 'move' as much as we do." And again, when insisting on the
expressiveness of the shoulders when raised ("the shoulders are the
thermometer of passion," said Delsarte) she would conclude: "But all
this is not American; you Americans do not shrug your shoulders."
In giving the gesture of caress, she quoted her father as saying that
the attitude of the hands in prayer is a certain form of caress. In our
desire to have the thing we pray for, we clasp our hands together and
press them to our bosom as if we already held it.
She was sometimes amused at the numerous questions that were asked her
during the lessons. "What searching minds you Americans have!" she would
remark, admiringly. "You must know the why and the wherefore of
everything. We French people are of much lighter mind and take things
more for granted."
During the lesson on basic attitudes, the following question was put:
"In the attitude of repose is the mind in a passive state, and in the
attitude expressive of vehemence is the mind in an active state?" The
simple answer was: "It is the mind that governs the feet and not the
feet that govern the mind."
Mme. Géraldy always insisted on the law of opposition in movements,
nature's and her father's great law. She gave, for example, an
interesting series of gestures, which might be called the ascending
scale from doubt to conviction, in which the head moves simultaneously
with the arms and in an inverse direction. The figure on page 547*
represents the angles made by the arms and shoulders and, at the same
time, those made by the head and shoulders to express the accompanying
Delsarte used to say: "When I am speaking, stop me in the moment of my
greatest exaltation, and I defy you to find me, from my head to my feet,
in a position contrary to my method."
"Voice-culture for the speaking-voice is not an art that is cultivated
in France," Mme. Géraldy said, "What can you do to change your voice? It
was given to you by nature; you cannot change your vocal cords."
Mme. Géraldy returned to France, bearing with her the hope that her
efforts have not been altogether unsuccessful in making the great work
of her father's life better known to Americans, better understood and
appreciated by them.
Trueness in Singing.
Notes of a Lecture by Delsarte, Taken by His Pupil A. Giraudet, of The
National Academy of Music, Paris.
By a most reasonable deduction derived from his admirable principles,
Delsarte reckoned three modes or degrees of correct singing:
1. Absolute trueness;
2. Temperate trueness;
3. Passional trueness.
Absolute trueness is that adopted by theorists, who divide the gamut
into five notes and two semi-notes; the note into nine commas, or shades
of tone; the chromatic semi-tone into five, and the diatonic semi-tone
Thus from C to C# they count five shades of tone; whereas from C to Db
they count but four. Likewise, from D to Db they count five shades of
tone, and from D to C# but four.
The difference of a comma between the D flat and the C sharp, seemingly
a very slight difference, is, nevertheless, most important in singing,
as we shall see later on. But performers, to simplify our musical
system, have divided this comma into two, making synonymous notes of D
flat and C sharp; that is to say, notes having the same sound. The note
is, therefore, practically divided into two semitones of four commas and
a half. This is what is known as moderation or temperate trueness.
Temperate trueness is defective from many points of view. This is the
universal opinion, but we are forced to accept this method by the
absolute impossibility of any improvement, especially with the key-board
instruments now in vogue; and it must be accepted until some new
invention shall revolutionize the piano by modulating its tones, a
transformation which would give that instrument not only the musical
design, but also the color and warmth which it now lacks.
Let us pass to passional trueness, leaving science to enter the domain
of art. "Passional trueness," said Delsarte, "consists in giving each
semitone three, four, five, six, or even seven commas, according to its
tendency." As we see, the precept is daring, and an inattentive scholar
would only have to forget the last words of the definition to make
people say that the great master of lyric art taught his pupils to sing
Every rule has its reason and its consequences. St. Augustine, who knew
the Beautiful, of which art is only the expression, and who could
explain it well, has given us a brief but admirable definition of music:
"Music is a succession of sounds each calling forth the other." Simple
yet profound words! The sounds call each other forth, desire and
mutually attract each other, and in every age this attraction has been
so clearly evident, that the seventh note in the scale, when it meets
the others each of which has its particular name relating to its
particular function, tonic, dominant, etc., is simply called the
sensitive note, from its tendency to pass into the atonic.
Passional trueness is based upon this tendency of the notes to pass into
those which succeed them, and upon this reciprocal attraction of sounds.
Thus, notes, which have a tendency toward the acute or shrill, may be
raised two commas or more above temperate trueness. Notes which have a
tendency toward the grave may be lowered in the same proportion.
(Example, taken from "The Prophet," by Meyerbeer.)
Ex. No. 1.
Ah! mon fils
Ex. No. 2
il re-nia ta me-re
Here, the B may be but two commas distant from the C; and in the second
example given, the A flat may also be but two commas removed from the
G, and this change far from producing a disagreeable effect upon the
ear, will make a most striking impression and the accent will be far
more dramatic than before. Try the reverse, that is, divide the interval
B sharp-C into seven commas on the semitones A flat-G; it will be
unendurable. Whence we may deduce the fact that to sing false is to sing
above or below a note in the inverse direction to its attraction.
Delsarte, in his definition, speaks only of the semitone, and we
ourselves give examples of that sort of attraction only; but it does not
follow that the other intervals are not equally subject to the same law.
Their attraction may not be shown by the same effects.
The master added, in speaking of trueness in singing: "The triad is the
breathing-place of the tonality; the notes composing it should be
absolutely true. They are the singer's invariable and necessary law.
They characterize repose. Their office is that of attraction, and they
can only be attracted mutually, with the exception of the tonic, which
is the centre of attraction not only for various notes, but for the
phrase and the entire composition."
Delsarte was very severe in regard to those who sang false; but to sing
true was not, to his thinking, a good quality. He said, on this point,
that no one would compliment an architect because he had built a house
in accordance with geometrical rules. Whence he concluded that trueness
is the least of good qualities, and the lack of it the greatest of
vices, and he added in regard to style: "The most important quality is
expression, and a lack of expression is the least of vices."
Let us add that the application of passional trueness depends upon a
thousand conditions of rhythm and harmony, to analyze which would lead
us much too far. The artist must make use of it according to his
aptitudes and his tendencies, for he must preserve his individuality. He
must learn by observation and the study of his own faculties to apply
theoretical rules founded upon natural laws.
Practical trueness, while it allows us to depart from legitimate
trueness, has strong analogies with the _tempo rubato_. The _tempo
rubato_, which Delsarte employed in a remarkable and striking way in
dramatic passages, actually permits the musician, in certain cases and
in the desired proportion, to change the value of the notes while
respecting the principle of time, which is invariable. But the
application of these rules is subject to the emotional intensity; it is,
therefore, impossible to determine theoretically and absolutely its
[From the _Atlantic Monthly_ for May, 1871, by permission of Houghton,
Mifflin & Co.]
By Francis A. Durivage.
It was not until last summer, and then under peculiarly impressive
circumstances, that I saw, for the first time, a remarkable man whose
name is indissolubly associated with French art--François Delsarte, of
Paris. My curiosity had been deeply excited by what I had heard of him.
I was told that, after long years of patient toil and profound thought,
his genius had discovered and developed a scientific basis for
histrionic art, that he had substituted law for empiricism in the domain
of the most potential of the fine arts; and when the names of Rachel and
Macready were quoted in his list of pupils, I was eager to behold the
master and to learn something of the system which has yielded such
fruits to the modern stage.
The kindness of a friend procured me the rare privilege of admission to
the last session of Delsarte's course, which closed in July. It was on
one of those weary summer days when the hush of expectation, following
the fierce excitement caused by the declaration of war, had eclipsed the
gayety of Paris.
The notes of the Marseillaise had ceased to stir the blood like the
sound of a trumpet. The glare and glitter of French chivalry, which had
masked the feebleness of the Imperial military system, had vanished. The
superb Cent Gardes, the brilliant lancers, the savage Turcos, and the
dashing Spahis had been replaced by the coarsely clad troops of the
line. It was "grim-visaged war" and not its pageantry that we beheld;
heavy guns rumbling slowly across the Place de la Concorde; dark masses
of men moving like shadows on their funeral march to the perilous edge
of battle. It was a relief to exchange these sad scenes for that quiet
interior of the Boulevard de Courcelles, where a little group of persons
devoted to æsthetic culture were gathered around their teacher, perhaps
for the last time.
The personal appearance of Delsarte is impressive. Years have not
deprived his massive form of its vigor, nor dimmed the fire of his eye.
His head is cast in a Roman mould; indeed, the fine medallion likeness
executed by his daughter might well pass for an antique in the eyes of a
stranger. In his personal bearing there is nothing of that
self-assertion, that posing, which is a common defect of his
The pupils whom I met were ladies, with the single exception of a young
American, Mr. James S. MacKaye, to whom, as his favorite disciple and
one designated to succeed him in his profession, Delsarte has imparted
all the minutiae of his science. To this gentleman was assigned the
honor of opening the _séance_ by a brief exposition of the system, and
of closing it by reciting in French a brilliant tragic monologue, the
effect of which, in spite of the absence of appropriate costume and
scenic illusion, electrified the audience. In this scene, "Les Terreurs
de Thoas," those rapidly changing expressions of the features, those
statuesque attitudes melting into each other, which we all remember in
Rachel, indicated a common origin. It needed not the added eloquence of
words and the sombre music of the voice to tell the tragic story of the
victim of the Eumenides. After listening to the recitation, I was not
surprised to learn that the young student was to appear, under the
auspices of his teacher, at the Théâtre Français, during the approaching
winter,--an honor never before conceded to any foreigner. The large
American colony in Paris was looking forward to this _début_ with a
natural pride, and Delsarte with the calm assurance of his favorite's
triumph. Alas! we all reckoned without taking King William, the Crown
Prince, the Fed Prince, von Moltke, and von Bismarck into our account.
We never fancied, on that bright July morning, that Krupp of Essen's
cannon and the needle-gun were soon to give laws to Paris. But _inter
arma silent artes_ as well as _leges_. Nearer and deadlier tragedies
than those of Corneille and Racine were soon to be enacted; and the
poor players were summoned to perform their parts upon no mimic stage.
However, "what though the field be lost? all is not lost." The _venue_,
to borrow a legal phrase, has been changed, but the cause has not been
abandoned. Our young countryman has returned to his native land,
bringing with him the fruits of his long studies, to appeal to an
American audience, and it is quite possible that his teacher may be
induced to transfer his school of art to the United States.
Although at this _séance_ Delsarte appeared disposed to efface himself
in favor of his brilliant representative, he kindly consented to speak a
few words (and what a charming French lesson was his _causerie_!) and to
present a specimen of his pantomimic powers. The latter exhibition was
really surprising. He depicted the various passions and emotions of the
human soul, by means of expression and gesture only, without uttering a
single syllable; moving the spectators to tears, exciting them to
enthusiasm, or thrilling them with terror at his will; in a word,
completely magnetizing them. Not a discord in his diatonic scale. You
were forced to admit that every gesture, every movement of a facial
muscle, had a true purpose, a _raison d'être_. It was a triumphant
The life of this great master and teacher, hereafter to be known as the
founder of the Science of Dramatic Art, crowded with strange
vicissitudes and romantic episodes, forms a record full of interest.
François Delsarte was born at Solesmes, Department of the North, France,
in 1811. His father was a physician, and his mother a woman of rare
abilities, who taught herself to speak and write several languages.
Shortly after the battle of Waterloo a detachment of the allied troops
was passing through Solesmes, in the midst of a dead and sullen silence,
when the commandant's quick ear caught the sound of a childish voice
crying, "Vive l'Em-pe-weur! Vive Na-po-lé-on!" Every one smiled at the
juvenile speaker's audacity, except the stern officer whose name has,
unfortunately, escaped the infamous celebrity it deserved. By his
orders, a platoon of soldiers sought out the child's home and burned it
to the ground; and thus little François Delsarte became the innocent
cause of the ruin of his family.
The atrocities committed during the White Terror, of which this incident
is an example, though passed over by history, are not forgotten by the
survivors of that cruel period. The leaders in the second terror could
not plead the ignorance of Robespierre's followers in excuse of their
excesses, for they were nobles, magistrates, priests and officers of
Delsarte's early years were passed in the midst of cruel privations and
domestic troubles, for even love forsook a home blighted by poverty. His
father, naturally proud and imperious, irritated by straitened
circumstances, out of which there seemed no issue, crushed by the weight
of obligations to others, lost heart and hope, became morose, sceptical
and bitter, and treated his wife and family with such harshness and
injustice, that Delsarte's mother was finally compelled to abandon her
husband. She fled with her two boys to Paris, hoping there to make her
talents available. All her efforts, however, were fruitless, and she
found herself on the verge of starvation.
One evening, as she sat with her two boys in her wretched room, tortured
by their questions after their father, she could not suppress her tears.
François, the eldest, then nine years of age, tried to console her. He
told her that he was almost a man, able to earn his food and to take
care of her and his little brother. She listened to his prattle with a
sad smile, kissed him and embraced him.
During all of the sleepless night which followed, François was revolving
his hidden projects of independence, and at gray dawn, confiding his
purpose only to his brother, and bidding him tell his mother, when she
awoke, that he would soon be back with money to buy bread for them, the
child stole forth to seek his fortune in the great dreary world of
He wandered about all day, and at night, hungry and weary, entered a
jeweler's shop in the Palais Royal, kept by an old woman, to whom he
appealed for employment--vainly at first. Finally, however, she
consented to engage him as a drudge and errand boy, allowed him to sleep
in an _armoire_ over the door, and gave him four pounds of bread a week
in lieu of wages. Four pounds of bread a week! The allowance appeared
munificent, and he accepted the offer with gratitude. A brief experience
dispelled his illusions. He was always weary and always hungry. After a
few weeks' trial, he left his first benefactress and secured some kind
of employment at five sous a day, out of which he contrived to save two.
In two weeks he had saved nearly a franc and a half for his dear mother.
One day, while executing a commission for his employer, he found his
little brother alone in the street crying bitterly.
"How is dear mamma?" was his first question.
"Dead, and carried away by ugly men."
The winter of 1821 was unusually severe for Paris. One night Delsarte
and his brother fell asleep in each other's arms in the wretched loft
they occupied; but when the former opened his eyes to the morning's
light he was holding a corpse to his heart. The little boy had perished
of cold and starvation. Almost mad with terror and grief, the survivor
rushed into the streets to summon the neighbors.
The next day a little hatless boy, in rags and nearly barefooted,
followed two men bearing a small pine coffin which they deposited in the
_fosse commune_ of _Pére la Chaise_.
After seeing the grave covered, Delsarte left the cemetery and wandered
wearily through the snow, now utterly alone in the world, across the
plain of St. Denis. Overcome by cold, hunger, and grief, he sank to the
ground, and then, before he lost consciousness, a strain of music, real
or imaginary, met his ear and charmed him to a forgetfulness of misery,
bereavement, all the evils that environed him. It was the first
awakening of his artist soul, and to this day Delsarte believes that it
was no earthly music that he heard.
Rousing himself from a sort of stupor into which he had fallen, he saw a
_chiffonnier_ bending over him. The man had for a moment mistaken the
prostrate form for a bundle of rags; but taking pity on the half-frozen
lad, he placed him in his basket and carried him to his miserable home.
And so the future artist commenced his professional career as a Parisian
While wandering about the great city in the interest of his employer,
his only solace was to listen to the songs of itinerant vocalists and
the occasional music of a military band. Music became his passion. From
some of the gamins he learned the seven notes of the scale, and, to
preserve the melodies that delighted him, he invented a system of
musical notation. On a certain holiday, when he was twelve years old,
while listening to the delightful music in the garden of the Tuileries,
the little _chiffonnier_ busied himself with drawing figures in the
dust. An old man of eccentric appearance, noticing his earnest
diligence, accosted him.
"What are you doing there, boy?" he asked.
Terrified at first, but reassured by the kind manner of the stranger,
Delsarte replied: "Writing down the music, sir."
"Do you mean to say those marks have any significance? That you can read
"Let me hear you."
Encouraged by the interest manifested in him, the lad sang in a sweet
and pure but sad voice the strains just played by the military band. The
old man was amazed.
"Who taught you this process?"
"Nobody, sir; found it out myself."
Bambini--for it was the then distinguished, but now almost forgotten,
professor--offered to take the boy home with him; and he who had entered
the garden of the Tuileries a rag-picker, left it a recognized musician.
In the dust of Paris were first written the elements of a system
destined to regenerate art. Bambini taught his protégé all he knew, but
the pupil soon surpassed the master and became his instructor in turn;
for if the one had talent, the other possessed genius.
Bambini predicted the future of Delsarte. One day when they were walking
arm-in-arm in the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the former said: "Do you
see all those people in carriages, with their fine liveries and
magnificent clothes? Well, the day will come when they will only be too
happy to listen to you, proud of your presence in their _salons_,
envying your fame as a great artist."
Bambini's death left Delsarte poor and friendless. At fourteen, however,
he managed to get admitted into the Conservatoire, where, though he
labored hard, he met with harsh treatment and discouragement. The
professors disliked him for his reflective nature and persistent
questionings which brought to light the superficiality of their
acquirements; his fellow-pupils, for his exclusive devotion to study and
his reserve, the result of diffidence rather than of _hauteur_. His
professors were dictators, who, while differing from each other as
teachers, were yet united in frowning upon any attempt on the part of
their pupil to emancipate himself from the thraldom of conventionalism
and routine. Genius was a heresy for which they had no mercy.
Thrown upon his own resources, he soon developed, by careful observation
of nature and a constant study of cause and effect, a system and a style
radically differing from those of the professors and their servile
One day, after having sung in his own style at one of the public
exhibitions--applauded, however, only by a single auditor,--he was
walking sadly and slowly in the court-yard of the Conservatoire, when a
lady and a gentleman approached him.
"Courage, my friend," said the lady. "Your singing has given me the
highest pleasure. You will be a great artist."
So spake Marie Malibran, the queen of song.
"My friend," said her companion, "It was I who applauded you just now.
In my opinion, you are a singer _hors de ligne_. When my children are
ready to learn music, you, above all others, shall be their professor."
These were the words of Adolphe Nourrit. The praises of Malibran and
Nourrit gave Delsarte courage, revived his hopes, and decided him to
follow implicitly the promptings of his genius. His extreme poverty
compelled him at last to apply to the Conservatoire for a diploma which
would enable him to secure a situation at one of the lyric theatres. It
The autumn of 1829 found him a shabby, almost ragged applicant for
employment at the stage-door of the Opéra Comique. Repeated rebuffs
failed to baffle his desperate pertinacity.
One day the director, hearing of the annoyance to which his
subordinates were subjected by Delsarte, determined to abate the
nuisance by one of those cruel _coups-de-main_ of which Frenchmen are
pre-eminently capable. The next night, during the performance, when
Delsarte called, he was, to his surprise and delight, shown into the
great man's presence.
"Well, sir, what do you want?"
"Pardon, Monsieur, I came to seek a place at your theatre."
"There is but one vacant, and you don't seem capable of filling that. I
want only a call-boy."
"Sir, I am prepared to fill the position of a _premier sujet_ among your
"Monsieur, if my clothes are poor, my art is genuine."
"Well, sir, if you will sing for me, I will hear you shortly."
He left Delsarte alone, overjoyed at having secured the manager's ear.
In a few moments a surly fellow told him he was wanted below, and he
soon found himself with the manager upon the stage behind the green
"You are to sing here," said the director. "There is your piano. In one
moment the curtain will be rung up. I am tired of your importunities. I
give you one chance to show the stuff you're made of. If you discard
this opportunity, the next time you show your face at my door you shall
be arrested and imprisoned as a vagrant."
The indignation excited in Delsarte by this cruel trick instantly gave
way before the reflection that success was a matter of life and death
with him, and that perhaps his last chance lay within his grasp. He
forgot his rags; every nerve became iron; and when the curtain was rung
up, a beggar with the bearing of a prince advanced to the foot-lights,
was received with derisive laughter by some, with glances of surprise
and indignation by others, and, with a sad and patient smile on his
countenance, gracefully saluted the brilliant audience. The courtliness
of his manner disarmed hostility; but when he sat down to the piano, ran
his fingers over the keys, and sang a few bars, the exquisite voice
found its way to every heart. With every moment his voice became more
powerful. Each gradation of emotion was rendered with an ease, an art,
an expression, that made every heartstring vibrate. Then he suddenly
stopped, bowed, and retired. The house rang with bravos. The
dress-circle forgot its reticence and joined in the tumult of applause.
He was recalled. This time he sang a grand lyric composition with the
full volume of his voice, aided in effect by those imperial gestures of
which he had already discovered the secret. The audience were
electrified. They declared that Talma was resuscitated. But when he was
a second time recalled, his tragic mood had melted; there were "tears
in his voice" as well as on his cheeks.
After the fall of the curtain the director grasped his hand, loaded him
with compliments, and offered him an engagement for a year at a salary
of ten thousand francs. He went home to occupy his wretched attic for
the last time, and falling on his knees poured forth his soul in prayer.
The next day Delsarte, neatly dressed, paid a visit to the directors of
"Gentlemen," said he, "_you_ would not give me a recommendation as a
_chorister_; the _public_ have accorded me _this_." And he displayed his
commission as _Comédien du Roi_.
Delsarte remained upon the lyric stage until 1834, when the failure of
his voice, which had been strained at the Conservatoire, compelled him
to retire. He continued, however, the study of music, and his
productions, particularly a "Dies Irae," placed him in the front rank of
composers. At this period of his life, meditation and study resulted in
a firm religious faith, which never wavered afterward.
He now applied himself to the task of establishing a scientific basis
for lyric and dramatic art, and after years of patient labor perfected a