Abbildungen der Seite

Feribed; that all artificial rules are useless; and that good fense, and a cultivated taste, are the only requisires to form a good public speaker. But it is true in the art of speak. ing, as well as in the art of living, that general precepts are of little use till they are unfolded, and applied to par. ticular cases. To difcover and correct those tones and habits of speaking, which are gross deviations from Nature, and, as far as they prevail, must destroy all propriety and grace of utterance; and to acquire a habit of reading, or fpeaking, 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 reafon to doubt, that, in passing through that course of exercise which is necessary in order to attain this end, much aflistance 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 unpractifed learner? And what is there in the art of speaking, which fhould render it in capable 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, fuch Rules respecting Elocution, as appear best adapted to form a correct and graceful speaker.

Let your Articulation be diftinet and deliberate.

GOOD Articulation consists in giving a clear and full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of the founds, therefore, ought to be well underkood: and much pains should be taken to discover and

a 5


correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to fome defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example.

SOME persons find it dificult to articulate the letter l; others, the fimple founds expressed by r, s, th, sh. But the instance of defective articulation which is most common, and therefore requires particular notice, is the omis: fion 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 founded, and founded 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 Joup. These and other similar faults may be corrected; by daily reading sentences fo contrived, as frequently to repeat the sounds which are incorrectly uttered; and especially, by remarking them whenever they occur in conversation.

OTHER defects in articulation regard the complex founds, and confift in a confused and cluttering pronuneiation 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 Mort fyllables come together; and to read, at certain stated times, much flower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons, who have not studied the art of speak. ing, have a habit of uttering their words fo rapidly, that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first: for where there is a ani


[ocr errors]

formly rapid utterance, it is absolutely imposible 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 flow, all other graces
Will follow in their proper places.


Let your Pronunciation be bold and

forcible. AN

N infipid flatness and languor is almost a univerfal fault in reading. Even public fpeakers 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 defire that it should be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault : 'a speaker without energy is a lifeless itatue.

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; preferve 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 fercible 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 chose who, in contempt and despite of all rule and pro


a 6

priety, 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 a compass and variety in the height of your voice. THE

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 occafions, 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 distintness and force with which he utters his words, than upon the height of the key in which he speaks.

WITHIN a certain cornpass of notes, above or below which articulation would be difficult, propriety of fpeaking requires variety in the height, as well as in the strength and gone of the voice. Different kinds of speaking require different heights of voice. Nature instructs us to relate a itory, to support an argument, to command: a fervant, to utter exclamations of anger or rage, and to pour forth lamentations and forrows, not only with different tones, but with different elevations of voice. Men, at different ages of life, and in different situations, speak in very dif. ferent keys. The vagrant, when he begs; the foldier, when he gives the word of command; the watchman, when he announces the hour of the night; the sovereign,


[ocr errors]

when he issues his ediét; the fenator, 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, accuftom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest notes on which you can articulate diftinctly. 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 feveral heights of the voice; read, as exercises on this rule, such compofitions as have a variety of speakers, or fuch as relate dialogues ; observing the height of voice which is proper to each, and endeavouring to change them as Nature directs.

In the same composition there may be frequent occafion 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 *.

RULE IV. 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

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


« ZurückWeiter »