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ful, does not require a tenth part of the rules, which some have thought necessary.
I have made these last remarks, because, while I think it a mere prejudice, and
one, to maintain that there are no elementary rules of good reading, there is another extreme, which would carry theoretic directions beyond all bounds of common sense and practical utility. I refer to the theory which maintains that, while musical notes are uttered without any slide, the sounds of articulate language are always spoken with a perceptible slide of the voice, either upward or downward. This, in my opinion, is carrying a useful, general theory to an improper extreme. In the notes of a tune, as given from a stringed instrument, or from the human voice, there certainly is no inflection. But no man of accurate ear will say that there is any neccssary distinction between the notes sol, fa, as uttered in music, and the same sounds in speech, where they occur in examples like the following;
My soul, how lovely is the place,'
“ Father of all, in every age, in every clime ador'd." Though it is possible to speak the open vowels, o and a, in the Italic syllables, with inflections, it is not requisite, nor natural; and if any think it to be so, I must suppose that they have not been accustomed to distinguish between a slide of the voice, and that transition of note to higher or lower, in which consecutive syllables are uttered. If however, the position that every syllable has a slide, is held as an occult theory, it is harmless, and needs not a moment's discussion; but if practical importance is attached to it, so that the learner must try to distinguish what slide he must give to each syllable, in the simplest language, the theory becomes positively injurious in influence. It frustrates all just discrimination, by aiming at that which is needless ana endless in minuteness. It operates much as it would to re quire, by the Italic character, or other notation, every word in a sentence to be spoken with emphatic force.
Now the most general principle of a good elocution that can be laid down is; the voice must conform to sentiment Where the thought is simple, and without emotion, as, “No man may put off the law of God;" to insist on any thing like marked stress or inflection is worse than useless. But call the pupil to read;" Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures:"- Arm, warriors! Arm for fight !" and it is quite another case. Here stress and inflection are needed on the emphatic words. Why?-Because sense and emotion require it. Let these few words be right, and no matter for the rest;-they will be right, or nearly so, of
But if you require the pupil to give stress and inAlection to all the words, you teach him to sacrifice the sense, and aim at conformity to some arbitrary standard of excellence, which he may imagine that he understands, but which will ruin all significant variety in his intonations.
There is one great law of mind, and of language, which Teachers of youth should well understand, namely, that emotion speaks with its own appropriate modes of expression. Where a sentence contains a simple thought, without emotion of any sort, it requires nothing but proper words, in grammatical order. No principle of rhetoric is concerned in forming such a sentence, and none in uttering it, except distinctness. But the moment that passion speaks, grammar is subordinate, and rhetoric becomes ascendant. A groan, a shriek of distress, thrills the heart, without the help of syntax; and the same principle exists as to all the lower degrees of passion, till we come down again to the mere province of words, and grammar. Now passion and discriminating sentiment demand an appropriate expression of voice, not in the mere utterance of words, but in the manner of uttering them. On this principle, rest all the laws of inflection, emphasis &c. which can be given to any valuable purpose.
These laws, as I have said, are few; and can be stated and reduced to practice, with as much ease as any other laws of language.
I shall finish these general remarks, by laying down a plain distinction between the two sorts of reading, the grammatical, and the rhetorical.
Grammatical reading, as I have just intimated, respects merely the sense of what is read. When performed audibly, for the benefit of others, it is still only the same sort of process which one performs silently, for his own benefit, when he casts his eye along the page, to ascertain the meaning of its author. The chief purpose of the correct reader is to be intelligible; and this requires an accurate perception of grammatical relation in the structure of sentences; a due regard to accent and pauses, to strength of voice, and clearness of utterance. This manner is generally adopted in reading plain, unimpassioned style. The character and purpose of a composition may be such, that it would be as preposterous to read it with tones of emotion, as it would to announce a proposition in grammar or geometry, in the language of metaphor. But though merely the correct manner, suits many purposes of reading, it is dry and inanimate, and is the lowest department in the province of delivery. Still the great majority, not to say of respect able men, but of bookish men, go nothing beyond this in their attainments or attempts.
Rhetorical reading has a higher object, and calls into action higher powers. It is not applicable to a composition destitute of emotion, for it supposes feeling. It does not barely express the thoughts of an author, but expresses them with the force, variety, and beauty, which feeling demands.
To this latter sort of reading would I bend all my efforts in forming the habits of the young. To this, almost exclusively, would I apply precepts respecting management of the voice. And with a view to prevent the formation of bad habits, or to cure them before they become established, I would take off children, just so soon as they can read with
tolerable readiness, from lessons which belong to the grammatical class,
those which contain some rhetorical principles. These lessons should, at first, be chiefly narrative; or narrative and colloquial combined;by which I mean, dialogue proper, or rhetorical dialogue; in which the same voice must represent two speakers or more.
It has been well said, that a good articulation is to the ear, what a fair hand-writing, or a fair type is to the eye. Who has not felt the perplexity of supplying a word, torn away by the seal of a letter; or a dozen syllables of a book, in as many lines, cut off by the carelessnes; of a binder? The same inconvenience is felt from a similar omission in spoken language; with this additional disadvantage, that we are not at liberty to stop, and spell out the meaning by construction.
A man of indistinct utterance reads this sentence; “The magistrates ought to prove a declaration so publicly made.” When I perceive that his habit is to strike only the accented syllable clearly, sliding over others, I do not know whether it is meant, that they ought to prove the declaration, or to approve it, or reprove it,--for in either case he would speak only the syllable prove. Nor do I know, whether the magistrates ought to do it, or the magistrate sought to do it.
Defective articulation arises from bad organs, or bad habits, or sounds of difficult utterance.
Every one knows how the loss of a tooth, or a contusion on the lip, affects the formation of oral sounds. When there is an essential fault in the structure of the mouth; when the tongue is disproportionate in length or width, or sluggish in its movements; or the palate is too high, or too low; or the teeth badly set, or decayed, art may diminish, but cannot fully remove the difficulty. In nine cases out of ten, however, imperfect articulation comes not so much from bad organs, as from the abuse of good ones.
The animal and intellectual temperament doubtless has some connexion with this subject. A sluggish action of the mind, imparts a correspondent character to the action of the vocal organs, and makes speech only a succession of indolent, half-formed sounds, more resembling the muttering of a dream, than the clear articulation, which we ought to expect in one who knows what he is saying. Excess of vivacity, on the other hand, or excess of sensibility, often produce a hasty, confused utterance. Delicacy speaks in a timid, feeble voice; and the fault of indistinctness is often aggravated in a bashful child, by the indiscreet chidings of his teacher, designed to push him into greater speed in spelling out his early lessons; while he has little familiarity with the form and sound, and less with the meaning of words. The
way is now prepared to notice some of those difficulties in articulation, which arise from the sounds to be spoken.
The first and chief difficulty lies in the fact that articulation consists essentially in the consonant sounds, and that many of these are difficult of utterance. My limits do not allow me to illustrate this by a minute analysis of the elements of speech.
It is evident to the slightest observation that the open vowels are uttered with ease and strength. On these, public criers swell their notes to so great a compass. On these too, the loudest notes of music are formed. Hence the great skill which is requisite to