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ESSAY ON ELOCUTION. that this is the only law which ought to be prescribed; that all artificial rules are useless; and that good sense, and a cultivated taste, are the only requisites to form a good public speaker. But it is true in the art of speaking, as well as in the art of living, that general precepls are of little use till they are unfolded, and applied to particrilar cases. To observe the various ways by which nature expresses the several perceptions, emotions, and passions of the human mind, and to distinguish these from the mere effect of arbitrary custom or false taste; to discover and correct those tones , and habits of speaking, which are gross deviations from nature, and as far as they prevail, must destroy all propriety and grace of utterance:and to make choice of such a course of practical lessons, as shall give the speaker an opportunity of exercising himself in each branch of elocution: all this must be the effect of attention and labour ; and in this much assistance may .certainly be derived from instruction. What are rules or lessons for acquiring this or any other art, but the observations of others, collected into a narrow compass, and digested in a natural order, for the direction of the unexperienced and unpractised learner? And what is there in the art of speaking , which should render it incapable of receiving aid from precepts ?
Presunting , then , that the acquisition of the art of speaking , like all other practical arts, may be facilitated by rules, I proceed to lay before my readers, in a plain didactic form, such rules respecting elocution , as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.
ESSAY ON ELOCUTION.
good Articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of these sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood, and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequenee of inattention or bad example. Many of these respect the sounding of the consonants. Some cannot pronounce the letter 1, and others the simple sounds r, s, th, sh ; others generally omit the aspirate h. These faults may be corrected , by reading sentences, so contrived as often to repeat the faulty sounds; and by guarding against them in familiar conversation.
Other defects in articulation regard the complex sounds, and consist in a confused and cluttering pronunciation of words. Tlie most effectual methods of conquering this habit , are, to read aloud passages chosen for that purpose (such for instance as abound with long and unusual words, or in which many short syllables come together) and to read, at certain stated times much slower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons, who have not studied the art of speaking, have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly, that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first : for where there is uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely inpossible that there should be a strong emphasis , na
ESSAY ON ELOCUTION. Aim at nothing higher, till you can read dis tinctly and deliberately.
Learn to speak slow, all other graces
RULE I I.
Iet your Pronunciation be bold and forcible. AN
N insipid flatness and langrior is an almost universal fault in reading; ann even public speakers often suffer their words to drop from their lips with such a faint and feeble utterance, that they appear neither to understand of feel what they say themselves , nor to have any desire that it shonld be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault: a speaker without energy, is a lifeless statue.
In order to acquire a forcible manner of pronouncing your words , inure yourself while reading, to draw in as much air as your lungs can contain with ease, and to expel it with vehemence in uttering those sounds which require an emphatical pronunciation ; read aloud in the open air , and with all the exertion you can command; preserve your body in an erect attitude while you are speaking ; let all the consonant sounds be expressed with full impulse or percussion of the breath, and a forcible action of the organs employed in forming them; and let al the vowel-sounds have a full and bold utterance. Practise these rules with perseverance,
you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
But in observing this rule , beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. We find this fault chiefly among those, who, in contempt and despite of all rule and propriety ,are determined
to command the attention of the vulgar. These are the speakers , who, in Shakespeare's phrase, « offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearsing a passion to rags , to very tatters, to split » the ears of the groundlings. » Cicero compares such speakers to cripples who get on horseback because they cannot walk: they bellow, because they cannot speak.
RULE III. Acquire a compass and variety in the height
of your voice. Tue monotony so much complained of in | public speakers, is chiefly owing to the neglect
of this rule. They generally content themselves | with one certain key, which they employ on all
occasions, and on every subject; or if they at1 tempt variety, it is only in proportion to the
number of their hearers, and the extent of the place in which they speak; imagining that speaking in a high key is the same thing as speaking loud; and not observing, that whether a speaker shall be heard or not, depends more upon the distinctness and force with which he utters his words, that upon the height at which he pitches his voice.
But it is an essential qualification of a good 1 speaker, to be able to alter the height, as well
as the strength and the tone of his voice, as occasion requires. Different species of speaking require different heights, of voice. Nature instructs us to relate a story , to support an argument, to command a servant, to utter exclamation of anger or rage, and to pour forth lamentations and sorrows, not only with different but different elevations of voice. Men at
ESSAY ON ELOCUTION. different ages of life, and in different situations, speak in very different keys. The vagrant, when he begs; the soldier , when he gives the word of command ; the watchman , when he announces the hour of the night; the sovereign, when he issues bis edict; the senator, when he harangues ; the lover, when he whispers his tender tale ; do not differ more in the tones which they use, than in the key in which they speak. Reading and speaking therefore, in which all the variations of expression in real life are copied, must have continual variations in the height of the voice.
To acquire the power of changing the key on which you speak, at pleasure , accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys , from the lowest to the highest notes you can command. Many of these would neither be proper nor agreeable in speaking ; but the exercise will give you such a command of voice, as is scarcely to be acquired by any other method. Having repeated this experiment till you can speak with ease at several heights of the voice ; read, as exercises on this rule, such compositions as have a variety of speakers, or such as relate dialogues, observing the height of voice which is proper to each , and endeavouring to change them as nature directs.
In the same composition there may be frequent occasion to alter the height of the voice, in passing from one part to another, without any change of person. Shakespeare's « All the World's a Stage, » etc. and in his description of the Queen of the Fairies , afford examples of this. Indeed every sentence which is read or spoken, will admit of different elevations of the voice in different parts of it ; and on this chiefly, perhaps