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The term, ELOCUTION, as applied to the following work, is to be understood as meaning simply the art of pronunciation in general, or the intelligibly and emphatically repeating or rehearsing what is written in any language, as no patavicinity or provinciality of dialect (which is merely local and transitory,) should interfere with an art established on the fundamental principles of all language, the pupil will be supposed capable of pronouncing every word in this respect unexceptionably, it not being the design of this work to instruct students in their alphabet, or spelling-book.
To attempt to teach by the eye what should be taught by the ear, must always be difficult. Hence, the futility of most written instructions for attaining the knowledge of the pronunciation of a language without a master. Singing has its system of notation, and is to be acquired in much greater perfection by that means than speaking. To learn the proper tones of speaking, you must hear another who speaks justly, or have a strong and right feeling of nature yourself.
Yet are rules, even in this art, not without their use; for though it may be impracticable to describe in words the particular expression which belongs to each emotion and passion, much regarding Articulation, as well as Modulation, (which are the foundation of all speaking,) may be learnt by mechanical and grammatical means. The recommendation to copy nature in real life, it has been justly observed, is too general, and would only be useful to adults,-boys cannot make these observations to any advantage.
In forming the present compilation, the Editor's aim has been to select, from different writers, such rules and observations as seemed to him best adapted to this end ; and which, being digested into a series of practical lessons, might lead youth on, step by step, to the knowledge and attainment of a just mode of reading and speaking. For this purpose, Sheridan, Rice, Herries, Burgh, and other old authors have been consulted, as well as several of the best modern ones, and such hints, and occasionally, passages borrowed from them as seemed suited to this publication. But he acknowledges his greatest obligations to the author of a late treatise—“Principles of Elocution,” from whom he has extracted the chief part of the rules for inflection. These, as well as some other of that writer's observations on Accent, Emphasis, Pause, &c., he conceives peculiarly adapted to the use of schools, as they are founded on grammatical principles ; and he has accordingly given them for the most part verbatim, making only such little alterations as he considered would render them more elucidatory, and adapt them to his own arrangement.
He has divided the work, agreeably to the Title, into Four Parts,-two of which consist of rules, and the other two chiefly of examples.
In the First PART, treating of Articulation, he has adopted the system of the Rev. Mr. Herries, in his “ Elements of Speech," a book now scarce, and but little known, but which, on this point in particular, he conceives to be of great merit. That gentleman's plan, to make the scholar learn the powers and PROPERTIES of the letters rather than their NAMES, is the only one by which the voice can be improved, and a just articulation obtained, and without which all public speaking must be feeble and imperfect. To render this system more useful to students, and lessen the master's trouble, there are added, all the way, after the explanations or signs of the sound, examples of words and passages in which such sound occurs, the examples thus forming a sort of lesson on each. These are wanting in the author's work alluded to, but will be found in practising them, greatly to facilitate improvement in this important branch of the study.
Having acquired by the above method as much melody of voice, and force and precision of pronunciation as possible, the pupil, in the SECOND Part, is introduced to a knowledge of the Modulation of the Speech, and the way in which it is marked and divided by Accent, Emphasis, and Pause. He is before supposed to be only capable of articulating clearly and distinctly; he now proceeds to learn the nature of the inflexions, or risings and fallings of the voice ; to round his periods; to separate, arrange, and understand the qualities of the sentences composing them, and to give that agreeable and musical variation of tone, or change of key, ascending and descending, which so delights the ear in a good speaker. For most of the observations composing this part, the Editor must repeat his obligations to Mr. Ewing's “Principles,” just mentioned.
The THIRD PART treats of the Passions and Emotions of the Mind, by an acquaintance with which we are enabled to add grace and feeling to correctness in speaking. In this part, the Editor has avoided the beaten track of giving a mere collection of extracts, under the heads of Pathetic Pieces, Comic Pieces, Narrative Pieces, &c., which generally constitute the bulk of former compilations of this kind, and has confined himself to a description of each particular passion, and to a selection of such examples as are calculated to illustrate that passion, and that passion ALONE. This is absolutely necessary to precede a collection of the sort of extracts mentioned, if we would wish the pupil to have any idea of the way required to speak them, as he cannot be supposed capable of discriminating properly the different passions and emotions which occur in a composition of any length, and much less of expressing them without some previous directions.
Most of the examples in this part of the work are from SHAKESPEARE, indisputably the greatest master of the passions that ever lived, and whose language, more than that of any other author, is adapted to recitation. Some are however, from other poets and dramatists, and a few passages are quoted from the Sacred Writings; which, besides that they abound in specimens of the noblest pathos and sublimity, require a peculiar style of reading, which the young pupil should not be unacquainted with. On the subject of GESTURE, the editor has done little more than copy the observations of a preceding writer: which he thinks are calculated to teach as much action as is wanted in speaking on ordinary occasions. School-boys are not required to be actors,
. nor if they were, would written or graphical directions teach them. To hold the body in a graceful posture, and use the arms without the appearance of awkwardness and absurdity, is all that is required.
PART FOUR, contains a short selection of full pieces, and to which portion of the work such a collection properly belongs, the pupil by the previous exercises and directions, having acquired the necessary instructions for entering on their study.