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NOTE.—The aim of the Author of the present work has been to supply a Reading Book which shall be to the present generation of students what “ Enfield's Speaker” was to him in his own school-days. At the same time he has endeavoured to make the introductory Essay on Elocution more reliable and complete than anything of the kind previously presented to the public.
THE NEW SPEAKER.
The advantages to be derived from the study and practice of the Art of Elocution have, of late years, become obvious to all who have received, or are desirous of receiving, a polite education ; and though the art of Gesture, including the expression of the countenance, may be considered as included in that of Elocution-according to the modern acceptation of the term-yet, with most of our public speakers, or rather with the educated portion of them, the management of the voice in acquiring a correct articulation and pronunciation of words, seems to absorb their principal attention. Something more than this is evidently requisite to form a perfect orator. Elocution, including the management of the voice, countenance, and gesture in speaking together with a thorough critical
knowledge of the English language, should be deemed indispensable for all who are destined for the senate-house, the bar, the pulpit, or the stage.
The ancients attached so much importance to this art, or, as they termed it, Pronunciation or Action, that they laboured incessantly, in spite of natural difficulties and defects, to acquire that perfection in oratory which has become the wonder and admiration of their posterity. Hence it was that from the excellent models of Greece and Rome, even the lower orders of the community acquired a correct pronunciation and manner of expressing themselves. Before the art of printing was invented, it had always and everywhere been the custom to express one's thoughts orally rather than by writing; and, from the fact that the orators, public speakers, and philosophers of Greece and Rome taught viva voce, without the assistance of books, a public, general standard of pronunciation was fixed and open for adoption to all portions of the public. From the influence and prevalence of good example, the people naturally acquired a correct and just pronunciation—just as in the various counties of England and in the Colonies they acquire a bad one from the absence of a correct standard.
In modern times, it is greatly to be deplored that more attention and study is not paid to what constitutes the external part of oratory. With us the merits of an orator are weighed by the reported form in which his speeches are presented to us in the daily newspapers. Now, it must be obvious to all, that even a masterpiece of composition, in the mouth of one who has an indistinct or disagreeable utterance, an ungainly manner, and uncouth appearance, or who has never learnt how to speak in public, would fail to ensure attention from any audience ; whereas, were we to place even an indifferent piece in the hands of a clever actor, and require him to deliver it, it would, most probably, draw forth raptures of applause. From the almost universal practice nowadays of communicating most of our thoughts by writing, the value and importance of a just and correct delivery are lost sight of, and the orator is scarcely ranked above him who, however awkwardly, assumes the office of a public speaker.
How is it, again, that there is such a dearth of accurate knowledge of our own English tongue amongst us, with regard to the precise meaning of words, a facility in the choice of them, and a correct fluency of speech? The same reason holds good in this case as in the former. As amongst our public speakers, both in the senate and at the bar, the art of delivery is neglected and almost lost sight of, and therefore cannot be appreciated as it ought to be by those who naturally look up to them as their models, so, in many instances, the same spirit of neglect seems to prevail in the due
selection of terms, facility in their choice, and, consequently, in the correct fluency of speech. It cannot, however, be denied that many of our modern English orators, if we judge of them by the written form of their orations, will readily bear comparison with the greatest among the ancients. The latter were accustomed to regard delivery as equally important with the other branches of rhetoric; and the pains they took to acquire perfection in this art were equal to the labour they expended in the study and formation of their dis
For as delivery constituted the external part of oratory, and comprehended the management of the voice, countenance, and gestures of the body, so did invention, disposition, elocution or choice of words, and memory relate more particularly to the understanding. Among the moderns, also, we discover this same attention and anxiety prevalent with all our actors of repute, though, if we seek for it off the stage, we shall scarcely find any one who would deem it of importance. Perhaps the difficulty of acquiring perfection in this art, arising from the time and labour necessary to be expended on it, is the grand reason of its neglect amongst us. Its cultivation can hardly be considered, by any sensible
person, as dangerous from the assumption that by the use of it an undue influence would be exercised over people's minds ; for, even as Aristotle determined rhetoric to be necessary and useful, just as dangerous weapons are of service to enable