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ever entered into the mind or heart of man. The
act of uttering these aloud, with the full force of meaning which lies involved in them, is a source of the most refined pleasure. And as for the listener, he may feel himself, with rapt delight, brought into the very presence of those gifted ones of former ages, whose eloquence, poesy, or humor, have travelled down to us, or of those of kindred talent in later times, whose fame, blended with that of the former, is destined to be transmitted to the most remote generations. The power of the reader over the listener, is sufficiently evinced by the crowded audiences which have attended upon Mrs. Kemble’s expensive reading entertainments, for the last two years. The voice is susceptible of great cultivation ; and it is believed that
; almost every one, however bad hiş habits, may, with a firm determination, and faithful, persevering efforts, attain the power of reading, in a manner satisfactory to himself and gratifying to others.
It is not intended here to enter into a minute analysis of elocution, but only to give some general directions, which are thought best calculated to remedy existing defects. Example, in this, as in other things, is better than precept. The teacher should read well himself, and then the scholar will be likely to do so, from imitation. Specific rules as to the qualities that go to form a good reader have their uses, but, at the same time, their evils. It is found, that those who cultivate elocution as an art, or profession, or those who endeavor to model themselves by střict rules upon the mode of uttering every word and sentence, are apt to become stiff, formal, ineffective readers. The art does not attain the perfection of art - that of concealing itself. It is seen to be all art ; and the listener is much less affected than by a more simple and natural manner, though it may be less in accordance with the requirements of
The first suggestions that will here be made, in relation to reading well, respect attitude. The posture of the reader should be such give full expansion to the chest, that the organs of respiration, as well as those of voice, may have easy and perfect play. The erect attitude is, of course, best fitted to this purpose, and standing is, in most respects, better than sitting. No pubļic speaker could be very eloquent while sitting. It is more graceful to hold the book in the left hand; and it should never be so much elevated as to intercept the sound, as it issues from the mouth,
Before attempting to read an exercise aloud, it is necessary that the scholar should study it well. It is a great mistake to suppose that 2. reading-lesson does not require as much previous preparation as any other. The scholar should never attempt to read anything which he
does not first perfectly understand. He should then enter into the spirit of the piece, make the sentiments of the writer his own, and thus be prepared to personate the author, or the characters which he represents.
After having done this, his next aim should be, šo to utter the language as to transmit, in full force, to the mind of another, what he finds implied upon the silent, written page. These directions require attention both to grammatical and rhetorical reading ; — the former referring merely to correctness in the simple utterance of the words ; the latter, to all the attributes of graceful and impressive reading.
I. The requisites of correct or grammatical reading simply will be noticed.
1. The most prominent of these essentials is, that the reader shall make himself well heard, and that without a painful effort of attention, on the part of the hearer.
The chief requisite to this is perfect distinctness of articulation. It has been justly said, that, * A good articulation is to the ear, what fair hand-writing is to the eye;" and every one knows the difficulty and chagrin attending the attempt to decipher an illegible, half-written scrawl. It is no less tédious and vexatious to try to follow the reading of one whose dull, mumbling, indistinct utterance of words conveys to the ear no certain sound.
Distinctness refers to the perfect formation of every elementary sound which enters into the composition of a word or syllable. Every letter, which is not silent, has a definite, appropriate sound, — differing, indeed, in its state of combination, from its alphabetical name, - and this sound, in every instance, should be made sensible to the ear. The Americans are considered much more deficient, in this respect, than the English, as they generally pass over many letters, giving them either no sound at all, or a very incorrect one. To acquire a habit of distinct articulation, one of the best methods is, to practise upon giving these elementary sounds, one by one, in a full, explosive manner. As in the word man, book, or any other, the sounds, as they are represented by the letters m-a-n, 6-00-k, &c., should be dwelt upon separately, over and over again, until the vocal organs are trained to a full utterance of everỷ individuál sound. To do this, the lips, tongue, palate, and other organs of voicë, müst be brought into energetic, muscular uction. Pure indolence šeems often to be the cause of indistinct utteranče ; and where this fault exists, it is almost unavoidable to conclude that there is no energy inherent in the cháracter.
Ånothér exercisë, fitted to promote distinctness, iš to practise upon examples in which there is an immediate succession of the same or
similar sounds ; as, “ The steadfast stranger in the forests strayed ;" “ That lasts till night;'“ That last still night;" and the like. Repeating passages of alliteration, as, Peter Piper,” &c., contributes to the same purpose.
2. A proper degree of loudness is another essential to being heard, though not so important as distinctness. These wo qualities have often been confounded; yet they are radically different. Loudness, or fulness, is opposed to softness, or feebleness ; these two are the forte and piano of voice, which should vary with the sentiment, care being taken that the softest notes shall have sufficient force to be heard by the few or many that may be addressed, in the large or small space in which the reader is placed.
Every one knows the difference made in the same musical note, whether it be sounded forte or piano, with the loud or with the soft pedal. When a scholar is asked to speak louder, the meaning is, not to raise the key and take a higher pitch, but to throw aside that faint, dying-away manner, and give more fulness, energy and strength, to the voice. The voice may be greatly strengthened by reading aloud as a stated exercise, and giving as much quantity, impulse, or rotundity of voice as possible, taking care not to raise the key essentially, in efforts to do so. The difference between a proper fulness of voice, which enables one to be heard well, and its opposite of feebleness, is as the “ cordial grapple” in hand-shaking, compared with the meeting of hands where there is no more expression than between two rolls of soft linen that might chance to come in contact.
3. Pitch is a term expressive of the key on which one speaks — the high or the low of the scale of vocal sounds. This is often confounded with loudness. The best rule as to pitch is, to take that of the individual in common conversation, as this gives the speaker most power, and is most agreeable to the hearer. This differs in different persons the natural pitch of one being a shrill treble, of another a subdued tenor, and of a third a grave bass. Variety, or frequent changes of pitch, are desirable and natural. The ear of the hearer, and the vocal organs of the speaker, tire of the same pitch, whether it be high or low. As the mind gets animated with the subject, it is natural and agreeable that the voice should rise. But the reader should have such perfect self-possession, ease and independence, that when he has finished the passage which called forth more vehemence, he should immediately fall back upon his key-note. Public speakers are very apt to err, in this respect; some speaking continuously at the top of their voices, and others remaining constantly upon a low, uniform level.
Pitch has much less to do with being heard than is usually supposed. A meré whisper, on the lowest key of the voice, if loud and distinct, may fill a large building. As in the opera of “ La Favorità," when thë Reverend Father, followed by a train of monks, exclaims, in surprise, as he enters the apartment where Fernando štands over the dead body of his loved Leonora, “What do I see!” Salvi, in the character of Fernando, whispers to the Father, in a low tone, that the attendant monks may not hear, but so loud that the sound of “LEONORA” reaches every ear in the large audience.
4. A due degree of slowness is another requisite to being heard well. Many scholars have the habit of reading so rapidly, as to prevent their being understood, on account of the mingling of sounds which results from it. But even if they could be heard, this rapid utterance gives no time for the mind to take in the thought, and dwell upon it with pleasure. Deliberate reading gives weight and dignity to what is uttered, and impresses it upon the mind more fully; it also makes the exercise more easy, and capable of being longer sustained. Commas, periods, and all the other marks of punctuation, should be denoted by an adequate suspension of voice.
5. In pronunciation, good usage must be allowed as authority; and where this differs, one may be permitted to consult his own taste. It seems best, in regard to this, to be governed by uniform rules as far as possible; that is, to give to the same letters, or the same combinations, the sounds which they most generally have. There is a nicety in giving the right accent to words, which should be carefully attended to. In poetry, this must sometimes yield to measure. In old poetry, the ed of the imperfect tense and perfect participle generally requires to be sounded.
II. The suggestions which have already been made, refer chiefly to those particulars necessary to be observed, in order that simply the words of the piece may be heard and understood. But that the thought and sentiment should be conveyed forcibly and impressively to the mind of another, that the feelings should be moved, that grace and beauty in reading should be attained, — it is necessary that attention be given to Emphasis, Inflections, Tones, Transitions, and all that goes to constitute rhetorical reading.
1. Emphasis has been well called “the soul of delivery;" for, without it, reading or speaking is perfectly lifeless. It sometimes falls upon one word alone, and sometimes upon a succession of words; often a whole sentence is emphatic.
To determine where it should be placed, one of the best rules is, to study to apprehend the full force of the sentence, and then pronounce it as would be natural, in animated conversation, in order to convey the idea in an effective manner. Another means of finding which are the emphatic words, is to ask an obvious question, and the natural manner of giving the answer will elicit the emphasis required. Thus, in the Hymn on the Seasons :
The question may be asked, What are but the varied God? And the answer would be made, These, these are but the varied God. So as follows; What is full of Thee? The rolling year is full of Thee. When walks thy beauty forth ? In the pleasing Spring, thy beauty walks. When comes thy glory, with light and heat? In the Summer months. When shines thy bounty unconfined ? In Autumn.
In all these cases, not only the emphasis, but the inflections given in the answers, are precisely those which should be introduced in the reading of the sentences.
A succession of particulars generally requires emphasis ; as, in the above sentences, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. In cases of opposition, or contrast, the use of emphasis is so obvious that one can scarcely refrain from applying it; as,
“I that denied thee gold will give my heart."
In the following example, the emphasis falls on a whole clause : “If you seek to make one rich, study not to increase his stores, but to diminish his desires."
These suggestions on ernphasis cannot better be closed than by the concluding remarks of Mr. Lindley Murray, upon the same subject. “In order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis,” he says, " the great rule to be given is, that the reader study to attain a just conception of the force and spirit of the sentiments which he is to pronounce. For, to lay the emphasis with exact propriety, is a constant exercise of good sense and attention. It is far from being an inconsiderable attainment. It is one of the most decisive trials of a true and