Saturday, August 15, 2009

"He gesticulated all over"

Other descriptions of Henry Clay’s oratory note that his superb voice was complemented by a wide range of theatrical effects. Here is Benjamin Perley Poore (“The Veteran Journalist, Clerk of the Senate Printing Records, Editor of the Congressional Directory, and Author of various Works”), in the wonderfully-entitled Perley’s Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis: Illustrating the Wit, Humor, Genius, Eccentricities, Jealousies, Ambitions and Intrigues of the Brilliant Statesmen, Ladies, Officers, Diplomats, Lobbyists and other noted Celebrities of the World that gather at the Centre of the Nation; describing imposing Inauguration Ceremonies, Gala Day Festivities, Army Reviews, &c., &c., &c. (1886):
The fire of his bright eyes and the sunny smile which lighted up his countenance added to the attractions of his unequaled voice, which was equally distinct and clear, whether at its highest key or lowest whisper – rich, musical, captivating. His action was the spontaneous offspring of the passing thought. He gesticulated all over. The nodding of his head, hung on a long neck, his arms, hands, fingers, feet, and even his spectacles, his snuff-box, and his pocket-handkerchief, aided him in debate. He stepped forward and backward, and from the right to the left, with effect. Every thought spoke; the whole body had its story to tell, and added to the attractions of his able arguments.

I don’t know whether books such as this one can be downloaded from Google Books onto Kindle, but if they can this one and some of the others I have referred to in recent posts look like excellent candidates: great stories, and they’re free!

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