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John CARILL WORSLEY, Esq.
LATE PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY IN
This work having been undertaken principally with the design of assisting the Students at W ARRINGTON, in acquiring a just and graceful Elocution , I feel a peculiar propriety in addressing it to you, as a public acknowledgment of the steady support which you have given to this Institution, and the important services which you have rendered it.
In this Seminary , which was as first established , and has been uniformly conducted, on the extensive plan of providing a proper course of Instruction for young men in the most useful branches of Science and Literature , you have seen many respectable characters formed, who are now filling up their stations in society , with reputation to themselves and advantage to the Public. And, while the same great object continues to be pursued , by faithful endeavours to cultivate the understandings of youth , and by a steady attention to discipline, it is hoped, that you will have the satisfaction to observe the same effects produced , and that the scene will be realized, which OUR POETESS has so beautifully described-
When this, this little group their country calls
I am ,
With sincere Respect and Gratitude ;
W ENFIELD. A N
E LO CU TIO N.
Much declamation has been employed to convince the world of a very plain truth, that to be able to speak well is an ornamental and useful accomplishment. Without the laboured panegyrics of ancient or modern orators, the importance of a good elocution is sufficiently obvious. Every one will acknowledge it to be of some consequence, that what a man has hourly occasion to do, should be done well. Every private company, and almost every public assembly affords opportunities of remarking the difference between a just and graceful, and a fanlty and unnatural elocution; and there are few persons who do not daily experience the advantages of the former, and the inconveniences of the latter. The great difficulty is, not to prove that it is a desirable thing to be able to read and speak with propriety , but to point out a practicable and easy method by which this accomplishment may be acquired.
Follow Nature, is certainly the fundamental law of Oratory, without a regard to which, all other rules will only produce affected declamation, not just elocution. And some accurata observers, judging, perhaps, from a few unlucky specimens of modern eloquence, have concluded
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 precepts 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 ?
Presuming , 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.
A 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 consequence 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 k. 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. The 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 impossible that there should be a strong emphasis , natural tones, or any just elocution.