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The preparation of this Manual would not have been undertaken, but for the obvious want, at the present time, of a suitable text-book in Elocution, for the use of classes in our colleges, academies, and schools. And if undertaken, the effort would have proved comparatively futile, but for the existence of such works as “ The Philosophy of the human Voice," by James Rush, M. D., of Philadelphia, from the valuable materials of which I have been permitted to draw at pleasure,—and the “Chironomia," of AUSTIN, which for nearly forty years has been the common source from which have been derived the principles of Gesture. I take pleasure in acknowledging my obligations to these eminently philosophical works; and this acknowledgment I wish to make in this preface in terms so general, as not again to need to recur to the subject. Having used these books for several years as works of almost daily reference, nothing but the most studied affectation could prevent me from employing the materials which they so richly furnish for the use of all future learners in the principles of the voice and of gesture. But aside from this general use of these works, I have referred directly to them, in the preparation of almost eyery chapter and section of this Manual; nor could I otherwise have done justice to the ordinary learner, since these books, both by their scarcity and their price, are placed beyond his reach.
The principles adopted as the basis of this Manual, and which are developed in its successive pages, it is believed, do not differ materially from those views of the subject which have already received the stamp of public approbation. But this concession is not intended to prejudice the claim of this book to all the originality, as regards either arrangement, method of illustration, or matter, which experience in the business of teaching could be expected to suggest on such a subject.
The work of Dr. Rush, just referred to, relates to a single branch only; and neither this nor the Chironomia professes to be a practical manual. Several practical works, both on the Voice and on Gesture, are, however, before the public. From the merits of these I would not wish to detract one tittle. Had they fewer faults and greater excellences, the future authors of text-books in this interesting but neglected branch of science would find less formidable prejudices to contend with. I have, as I trust, too just a sense of the responsibility involved in the preparation of a Text-Book for Learners, to dare to assume it with any feeling of carelessness or indifference. He who prepares a popular textbook becomes the benefactor or the curse of the age in which he lives; and, in the last case, may be held answerable even to posterity for the injury inflicted on the world. All these elementary works, also, which were within my reach, have therefore been consulted ; and from them some useful suggestions have been adopted. They possess very different degrees of excellence; but it is sufficient to authorize another attempt at setting forth this difficult subject, that no one of them presumes to bring in a claim to perfection. Neither does the present work; though it has at least one advantage over others that of presenting both branches of the subject in the same volume, which must prore a great convenience to the teacher, as well as to the learner.
Though some new technical terms will present themselves to the student of this Manual, as few such have been used as the objects and nature of the work would possibly allow; and from among those employed by different writers, such have been selected as were judged best fitted to express the ideas embraced in them. So far as the nomencla. ture of this science is concerned, the authors before named have left little for future writers to supply; and to their works the faithful teacher will not fail to make frequent reference, till he shall have fully imbibed their spirit.*
I am aware of the difficulty of setting forth with perfect clearness a subject which is new; and such will this be to many into whose hands this book will fall. Yet I flatter myself that I have succeeded in rendering the entire subject so simple that any person of ordinary resolution and perseverance can master it, even without an instructor. This object I have had constantly in view, with the hope that many a young man, already engaged in the duties of the holy ministry, may be induced to subject himself to a course of private training, which may both prolong his life, and make every portion of it more useful. Still, a few lessons from a good teacher, when access can be had to one, will greatly facilitate the progress of the learner.
* In 'describing the vocal phenomena, I have but rarely found occasion to deviate from the technical forms of expression used by Dr. Rush; and still less frequently to dissent from the principles established in his masterly work on the Human Voice. In setting forth the elementary sounds of the English language, however, I have chosen to retain the old distinction into vowels and consonants, as well adapted to a popular text-book ; and have used the term tonic, to designate a portion of the consonants,a term which he applies only to the vowel elements. The term Slide also, is not employed by Dr. Rush, which proves that it is not indispensable even in a full discussion of the functions of the voice. It is used in this work merely as a matter of convenience, being both a short and expressive designation of one of the most important functions of the speaking voice.
To the intelligent and observing, the remark will appear trite, that in our age, and particularly in our country, a good delivery is one of the most important acquisitions to the scholar. To the man who wishes to produce a strong impression on the present age, what other acquisition promises so much? But the truth that a good delivery can be acquired by study and practice, is now almost as generally admitted by the intelligent as is the fact of its importance; and this Manual is presented but as a more perfect development of the same system which has produced nearly all the accomplished orators of our day. This is but a system of principles, by which the learner is to be led into the very arcana of the orator's art, instead of acquiring by mere imitation the power of mimicking some of his tones and gestures.
The section on Expression, it is believed, is a more full attempt to present the vocal " language of the passions,” in intelligible terms, than has ever before been made. In this it is not proposed to furnish a substitute for real feeling. In oratory there can be no substitute for this. The object of this section is, First, to do for the learner what is done for the student in many other branches of science—to give him a theoretical knowledge of that, the practice of which nature may perhaps have taught him ; Secondly, to enable him, by the use of the appropriate symbols of feeling, to awaken within himself emotion, when perhaps it may not exist to the extent he desires,—for the natural language of any passion tends to excite that passion, as directly as the existence of the passion prompts to its natural expression ; Thirdly, to assist him in overcoming bad habits, whether of extravagance or of feebleness, in the vocal expression of the passions; and, Fourthly, to furnish what appears to me the best system of training for the voice that can be devised.--one that will best develop all its powers, at the