Imatges de pÓgina

all propriety and grace of utterance; and to acquire a habit of reading, or speaking, upon every occasion, in a manner suited to the nature of the subject, and the kind of discourse or writing to be delivered, whether it be narrative, didactic, argumentative, oratorical, colloquial, descriptive, or pathetic; must be the result of much attention and labour. And there can be no reason to doubt, that, in passing through that course of exercise, which is necessary in order to attain this end, much assistance may 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 inexperienced 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 shall lay before my readers, in a plain didactic form, such Rules respecting Elocution, as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.


Let your Articulation be distinct and deliberate.


A GOOD Articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. nature of the 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.


Some persons find it difficult to articulate the letter 7; others, the simple sounds expressed by r, s, th, sh. But the instance of defective articulation which is most common, and therefore requires particular notice, is the omission of the aspirate h. Through several counties in England this defect almost universally prevails, and sometimes occasions ludicrous, and even serious mistakes. This is an omission,

which materially affects the energy of pronunciation; the expression of emotions and passions often depending, in a great measure, upon the vehemence with which the aspirate is uttered. The h is sometimes perversely enough omitted, where it ought to be sounded, and sounded where it ought to be omitted; the effect of which will be easily perceived in the following examples: He had learned the whole art of angling by heart: heat the soup.-These and other similar faults may be corrected, by daily reading sentences so contrived, as frequently to repeat the sounds which are incorrectly uttered; and especially, by remarking them whenever they occur in conversation.

Öther 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 the 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 a uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution.

Aim at nothing higher, till you can read distinctly and deliberately.

Learn to speak slow, all other graces
Will follow in their proper places.


Let your Pronunciation be bold and forcible.

AN insipid flatness and languor are almost universal faults in reading. 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 nor feel what they say

themselves, nor to have any desire that it should 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 your are speaking; let all the consonant sounds be expressed with a full impulse or percussion of the breath, and a forcible action of the organs employed in forming them; and let all the vowel sounds have a full and bold utterance. Continue these exercises with perseverance, till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.

But, in observing this rule, beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. This fault is chiefly found 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 Shakspeare's phrase, "offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearing 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.


Acquire compass and variety in the height of your voice. TH

HE monotony so much complained of in public speakers is chiefly owing to the neglect of this rule. They commonly content themselves with one certain key, which they employ on all occasions, and upon every subject: or if they attempt 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, than upon the height of the key in which he speaks.

Within a certain compass of notes, above or below which articulation would be difficult, propriety of speaking requires variety in the height, as well as in the strength and tone of the voice. Different kinds of speaking require different heights of voice. Nature instructs us to relate a story, to support an argument, to command a servant, to utter excla-' mations of rage or anger, and to pour forth lamentations and sorrows, not only with different tones, but with different elevations of voice. Men, at 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 his 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 in which you speak at pleasure, accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest notes on which you can articulate distinctly. 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 it 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. This is the case, for example, in Shakspeare's "All the World's a Stage," &c., and in his description of the Queen of the Fairies*.

* See Book vii, Chap. 18 and 23, of this work.


Pronounce your words with propriety and elegance. It is not easy to fix upon any standard, by which the propriety of pronunciation may be determined. A rigorous adherence to etymology, or to analogy, would often produce a pedantic pronunciation of words, which in a polite circle would appear perfectly ridiculous. The fashionable world has, in this respect, too much caprice and affectation, to be implicitly followed. If there be any true standard of pronunciation, it must be sought for among those, who unite the accuracy of learning with the elegance of polite conversation. An attention to such models, and a free intercourse with the world, afford the best guard against the peculiarities and vulgarisms of provincial dialects.

The faults in pronunciation, which belong to this class, are too numerous to be completely specified. Except the omission of the aspirate already mentioned, one of the most common is, the interchange of the sounds belonging to the letters v and w. One who had contracted this habit would find some difficulty in pronouncing these words; I like white wine vinegar with veal very well. Other provincial improprieties of pronunciation are, the changing of ow into er, or of aw into or, as in fellow, window, the law of the land; that of ou or ow into oo, as in house, town; i into oi, as in my; e into a, as in sincere, tea; and s into z, as in Somerset, These faults, and all others of the same nature, must be avoided in the pronunciation of a gentleman, who is supposed to have seen too much of the world, to retain the peculiarities of the district in which he was born.


Pronounce every word consisting of more than one syllable with it's proper. ACCENT.

As, when any stringed musical instrument receives a smart percussion, it's vibrations at first produce a loud and full

« AnteriorContinua »