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It will be very disagreeable to the Hearers, if they be Perfons of good Taste : who will always look upon it to be the Effect either of Ignorance or Affectat:on.
Besides, an overstrained Voice is very inconvenient to the Speaker, as well as disgustful to judicious Hearers. It exhausts his Spirits to no Purpose. And takes from him the proper Management and Modulation of his Voice according
to the Sense of his Subject. And, what is worst of all, it - naturally leads him into a Tone.
Every Man's Voice indeed should fill the Place where he speaks ; but if it exceed its natural Key, it will be neither sweet, nor soft, nor agreeable, because he will not be able to give every Word its proper and distinguishing Sound.
2. Another Fault in Pronunciation is, when the Voice is too low.
This is not so inconvenient to the Speaker, but is as difagreeable to the Hearer, as the other Extreme. It is always offensive to an Audience to observe any thing in the Reader or Speaker that looks like Indolence or Inattention. The Hearer will never be affected whilst he sees the Speaker indifferent,
The Art of governing the Voice consists a good deal in dexterously avoiding these two Extremes : At least, this ought to be first minded. And for a general Rule to direct you herein, I know of none better than this, viz. carefully to preserve the Key of your Voice; and at the same time, to adapt the Elevation and Strength of it to the Condition und Number of the Perfons you speak to, and the Nature of the Place you speak in. It would be altogether as ridiculous in a General who is haranguing an Army to speak in a low and languid Voice, as in a Person who reads a Chapter in a Family to speak in a loud and eager one.
3. Another Fault in Pronunciation is, a thick, hasty, cluttering Voice.
When a Person mumbles, or (as we say) clips or swallows his Words, that is, leaves out some Syllables in the long Words, and never pronounces some of the short ones at all; but hurries on without any Care to be heard distinctly, or to give his Words their full Sound, or his Hearers the full Sense of them.
This is often owing to a Defect in the Organs of Speech, or a too great Flutter of the animal Spirits; but oftener to 2 bed Habit uncorrected.
Demosthenes, the greatest Orator Greece ever produced, had, it is said, ncvertheleis three natural impediments in Pronun
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ciation; all which he conquered by invincible Labour and
· This Manner of reading may do well enough when we are examining Leases, perusing Indentures, or reciting Acts of Parliament, where there is always a great Superfluity of Words; or in reading a News-Paper, where there is but little Matter that deserves our Attention; but is very improper in reading Books of Devotion and Instruction, and especially the sacred Scriptures, where the Solemnity of the Subject, or the Weight of the Sense, demands a particular Regard.
The great Disadvantage which attends this Manner of Pronunciation is, that the Hearer loses the Benefit of more than half the good Things he hears, and would fain remember, but cannot. And a Speaker should always have a Regard to the Memory as well as the Understanding of his Hearers.
5. It is also a Fault to speak too Now.
Some are apt to read in a heavy, droning, seepy Way; and through mere Carelessnes make Pauses at improper Places. This is very disagreeable. But to hemm, hauk, sneeze, yawn, or cough, between the Periods, is more so.
A too slow Elocution is most faulty in reading Trifles that do not require Attention. It then becomes tedious. A Person that is addicted to this Now Way of speaking, should always take care to reward his Hearer's Patience with important Sentiments, and compensate the Want of Words by a Weight of Thought.
But a too low Elocution is a Fault very rarely to be found, unless in aged People, and those who naturally speak so in common Conversation. And in these, if the Pronunciation be in all other Respects just, decent, and proper; and especially if the Subject be weighty or intricate, it is very excusable.
6. An irregular or uneven Voice, is a great Fault in reading.
That is, when the Voice rises and falls by Fits and Starts, or when it is elevated or depressed unnaturally or unseason
ably, without Regard to Sense or Stops; or always beginning a Sentence with a high Voice, and concluding it with a low one, or vice versa; or always beginning and concluding it with the same Key. Opposite to this is
7. A flat, dull, uniform, Tone of Voice, without Emphasis or Cadence, or any Regard to the Sense or Subject of what is read.
This is a Habit, which Children, who have been used to read their Lessons by way of Talk, are very apt to fall into, and retain as they grow up. Such a Monotony as Attorneys Clerks read in when they examine an engrossed Deed. This is a great Infelicity when it becomes habitual ; because it deprives the Hearer of the greatest Part of the Benefit or Ad. vantage he might receive by a close Attention to the weighty and interesting Parts of the Subject, which should always be distinguished or pointed out by the Pronunciation. For a just Pronunciation is a good Commentary : And therefore no Perfon ought to read a Chapter or a Psalm in Public, before he hath carefully read it over to himself once or twice in private. But
Lastly, the greatest and most common Fault of all, is reading with a Tone.
No Habit is more easy to be contracted than this, or niore hard to be conquered. This unnatural Tone in reading and speaking is very various ; but whatever it be, it is always difgustful to Persons of Delicacy and Judgment.
Some have a womanish squeaking Tone; which Persons whose Voices are shrill and weak, and over-strained, are very apt to fall into.
Some have a singing or canting Note; and others affume a high, swelling, theatrical Tone; who being ambitious of the Fame of fine Orators, lay too much Emphasis on every Sentence, and thereby transgress the Rules of true Oratory, ..
Some affect an awful and striking Tone, attended with solemn Grimace, as if they would move you with every Word, whether the Weight of the Subject bear them out or not. This is what persons of a gloomy or melancholy Cast of Mind are most apt to give into.
Some have a set, uniform Tone of Voice; which I have already taken notice of. And others, an odd, whimsical, whining Tone, peculiar to themselves, and not to be defcribed; only, that it is laying the Emphasis on Words which do not require or deserve it.
These These are the moft common Faults of a bad Pronunciations Our next Enquiry is
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II. How to avoid them.
1. If you would not read in too loud or too low a Voice, consider whether your Voice be naturally too low or too loud, and correct it accordingly in your ordinary Conversation : by which means you will be better able to correct it in reading. If it be too low, converse with those that are deaf; if too loud, with those whose Voices are low. Begin your Periods with an even moderate Voice, that you may have the Command of it, to raise or fall it as the Subject requires.
2. To cure a thick confused cluttering Voice, accustom yourself, both in Conversation and Reading, to pronounce every Word distinct and clear. Observe with what Deliberation some converse and read, and how full a Sound they give to every Word; and imitate them. Do not affect to contract your Words, (as some do) or run two into one. This may do very well in Conversation, or in reading familiar Dialogues, but is not so decent in grave and solemn Subjects; especially in reading the sacred Scriptures.
It appears from Demofthenes's Cafe, that this Fault of Pronunciation cannot be cured without much Difficulty, nor will you find his Remedy effectual without Pains and Perseverance.
3. To break a Habit of reading too fast, attend diligently to the Sense, Weight, and Propriety of every Sentence you read, and of every emphatical Word in it. This will not only be an Advantage to yourself, but a double one to your Hearers; for it will at once give them Time to do the same, and excite their Attention when they see yours is fixed. A folemn Pause after a weighty Thought is very beautiful and striking.- A well-timed Stop gives as much Grace to Speech as it does to Music.- Imagine that you are reading to Persons of now and unready Conceptions; and measure not your Hearer's Apprehension by your own. If you do, you may polibly out-run it. And as in reading you are not at liberty to repeat your Words and Sentences, that should engage you to be very deliberate in pronouncing them, that their Senle may not be loft. The Ease and Advantage that will arise both to the Reader and Hearer, by a free, full, and deliberate Pronunciation, is hardly to be imagined. · I need lay down no Rules to avoid a too flow Pronunciation; that being a Fault which few are guilty of.
4. To cure' an uneven, defultory Voice, take care that you do not begin your Periods either in too high or too low a Key; for that will necessarily lead you to an unnatural and improper Variation of it. Have a careful Regard to the Nature and Quantity of your Points, and the Length of your Periods; and keep your Mind intent on the Sense, Subject, and Spirit of your Author.
The same Directions are necessary to avoid a Monotony in Pronunciation, or a dull, set, uniform Tone of Voice. For if your Mind be but attentive to the Sense of your Subject, you will naturally manage and modulate your Voice according to the Nature and Importance of it.
Lastly, To avoid all Kinds of unnatural and disagreable Tones, the only Rule is, to endeavour to speak with the same Ease and Freedom as you would do on the same Subject in private Conversation. You hear no body converse in a Tone; unless they have the Brogue of some other Country, or have got into a Habit (as some have) of altering the natural Key of their Voice when they are talking of some serious Subject in Religion. But I can see no Reason in the World, that when in common Conversation we speak in a natural Voice with proper Accent and Emphasis, yet as soon as we begin to read, or talk of Religion, or speak in Public, we should immediately assume a ftiff, aukward, unnatural Tone. If we are indeed deeply affected with the Subject we read or talk of, the Voice will naturally vary according to the Passion excited; but if we vary it unnaturally, only to seem affected, or with a Design to affect others, it then becomes a Tone, and is offensive.
In reading then attend to your Subject, and deliver it just in such a Manner as you would do if you were talking of it. This is the great, general, and most important Rule of all; which, if carefully observed, will correct not only, this, but almost all the other Faults of a bad Pronunciation; and give you an easy, decent, graceful Delivery, agreeable to all the Rules of a right Elocution. For however apt we are to transgress them in reading, we follow thein naturally and easily enough in Conversation. And Children will tell a Story with all the natural Graces and Beauties of Pronunciation, howevet aukwardly they may read the fame out of a book. *
Secondly, • Let the Tone and Sound of your Voice in reading be the same as it is in speaking; and do not affect to change that natural a d