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certainly be able to command it in all the inferior degrees. Though for the more gradual unfolding of the organs, and regular increase of the quantity of the voice, it will be always right for the hearer to begin at each day's exercise with the shortest distance, and increase it by degrees till he arrives at the utmost; in which situation, for the reason before assigned, the chief chief part of the exercise ought to be performed.
The second rule for giving a proper degree of loudness, or issuing a sufficient quantity of voice proportioned to the room and the audience, which is commonly called pitching the voice, is this. Let the speaker after having looked round the assembly, fix his eyes on that part of his auditory which is farthest from him, and he will mechanically endeavour to pitch his voice so as that it may reach them. This is what we constantly practise in common discourse, for we always proportion the loudness or softness of voice, to the distance of the person to whom we are speaking. When the speaker, therefore, shall have fixed his eye upon the most distant part of his audience, his business is to consider himself as addressing his discourse to some one amongst them, in such a manner as that he may be heard by him, and if the person be not beyond the reach of his voice, he will not fail to effect it. But still he is to take care not to change his usual pitch in order to do this, but only to add force, or degrees of loudness in proportion to the distance. This is what we do in life when we call after any person to come back; we add loudness to our voice according to the distance he has got from us, but we never change the key, or bawl,
till we find that he has got so far as that his ear cannot be reached by the natural pitch of our voice. He, therefore, who sets out in a higher key than is natural to him, in order that he may be heard by the most distant, may be justly said to bawl out his discourse, but not to deliver it.
There is another material circumstance to be attended to in pitching the voice, which arises from the construction of the room in which you are to speak; some being admirably contrived for the purpose of speaking, and others quite the contrary. Of course, in the former, a much smaller quantity of voice will do, than in the latter. The first object of every speaker, ought to be to find out whether his voice can fill the room or not; and afterwards to proportion the quantity of it accordingly. By filling a room with the voice is meant, when there is such a quantity of it uttered, as not only will reach the extremities, but return also to the speaker. And a room may be said to be well constructed for speaking, when this is effected by a moderate exertion of a common voice. The two extremes are when either a room through its size, or ill construction, will admit of no reverberation, or when the reverberation is made by an echo. I shall endeavor to find out what is best to be done in the three cases. In the first case, when the speaker can fill the room with his voice, his business is to find out what quantity will be sufficient to do it; that he may neither unnecessarily waste his voice by throwing out too much, nor diminish his power by using too little; but that he may have a perfect command and management of it, according to the
different degrees of exertion, which may be required in the different parts of his discourse. The best way of finding this out, will be, to begin with a moderate quantity of voice, and to increase it gradually, till the speaker finds out the degree of loudness, that is necessary to fill the room; which will be discovered to him by the return of the sound to his own ear, as soon as he has arrived at the proper pitch. With this degree or quantity of voice he is to deliver all the more forcible, and impassioned parts of his discourse. For though he may be distinctly heard with a smaller exertion, yet it will not be in a manner so satisfactory to the hearer. Every speaker, therefore, in a well constructed room, which is not too large for his powers, may have an infallible criterion by which to judge of that point, as he may be sure that he has filled the ears of his auditory, when he has filled the room; and he may certainly know when he has filled the room, by the return of his voice to his own ear. This is one of the most valuable pieces of management that a public peaker can possess, and of which, with due attention, and a little practice, he may easily become master. This rule is on a supposition that the room is so constructed as to return the sound gently and equably, without any perceptible echo.
But in the second case where the sound is suddenly reverberated by an echo, the difficulty to the speaker is much increased. Nothing is more apt to mislead the unwary and unskilful speaker, than this circumstance in a room; for as his voice sounds much louder to himself on that account, he is apt to conclude that he is the better heard; whereas the very thing
which adds to the loudness, destroys articulation and distinctness of utterance, which are essentially necessary to the being understood. For the quick and sudden reverberation of the sounds which have been uttered, makes such a jumble with those which are uttering, that the whole appears a confused babble, of something like words, indeed, but utterly unintelligible. In the former case, when the room is well constructed for speaking, the return of the voice is made in a moderate and equable manner; in the latter, it rebounds like a tennis-ball. In the first case, the undulation of sound resembles the circles made in a smooth water by the gentle dropping in of a pebble, where all gradually increase in their circumference, and are regular in their figures: the other, resembles the motion of the water when a stone is dashed violently into it, where all is irregular and confused. Nothing can shew the ignorance which prevails in the art of speaking in this age, in a stronger light, than this very circumstance; for there have been few rooms built for the purpose of speaking, in which the contrivers have not endeavored by artificial means to procure as strong an echo as possible, in order to assist the speaker, when it is of all things the greatest hindrance to him. Whoever, therefore, has the misfortune to be under a necessity of speaking in a room of that sort, has no remedy but this. He must lessen the quantity of his voice till he finds no perceptible echo. It is true this will put it out of his power to exert himself, but all he can hope for in such circumstances, is to be heard and understood; energy he must wholly give up, at least it must be confined to very small degrees.
THUS far, I have considered the several points, that are fundamentally, and essentially necessary, to every public speaker; without which, he will be so far from making any impression on his hearers, that he will not be able to command their attention, nor, in many cases, even make himself understood.
But when a man has got so far, as I can see no reason that he should stop there, or that he should not farther endeavor, to make himself master of every thing, which can add grace, or force to his delivery; I shall now attempt to lay open the principles, that may serve as guides to him, in the use of the remaining articles, tones, and gesture: upon which, all that is pleasurable, or affecting in elocution, chiefly depends.
Words are, by compact, the marks or symbols of our ideas; and this is the utmost extent of their power. Did nothing pass in the mind of man, but ideas; were he a different kind of being from what he is; were he like the Houynhms of Swift, always directed by a cool, invariable, and as I may say, instinctive reason; to make known the ideas of such a mind, and its internal operations, would not be beyond the power of words and a language composed of words only, provided there were a sufficient number of them, so that