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the true system of the universe. He replied, “By continually thinking upon it.” He was frequently heard to declare that, “if he had done the world any services, it was due to nothing but industry and patient thought; that he kept the subject under consideration constantly before him, and waited till the first dawning opened gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.” Attention to the meaning and full effect of what we utter in declamation will guide us, better than any system of marks, in a right disposition of emphasis and inflection. By attention, bad habits are detected and repudiated, and happy graces are seized and adopted. Demosthenes had a habit of raising one shoulder when he spoke. He corrected it by suspending a sword, so that the point would pierce the offending member when unduly elevated. He had a defective utterance, and this he amended by practising declamation with pebbles in his mouth. Practice in elocution, under the guidance, if possible, of an intelligent instructor, will lead to more solid results than the most devoted endeavors to learn, by written rules, what is above all human attempt at “circumscription and confine.” Possess your mind fully with the spirit of what you have to utter, and the right utterance will come by practice. If it be a political speech of a remarkable character, acquaint yourself” with the circumstances under which it was originally uttered; with the history and peculiarities of the speaker; and with the interests which were at stake at the time. Enter, with all the warmth of your imaginative faculty, into the speaker's feelings; lose yourself in the occasion; let his words be stamped on your memory; and do not tire in repeating them aloud, with such action and emphasis as attention will suggest and improve, until you have acquired that facility in the utterance which is essential to an effective delivery before an audience. If it be a poem which you have to recite, study to partake the enthusiasm which the author felt in the composition. Let the poetical element in your nature be aroused, and give it full play in the utterance of “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” The practice of frequent public declamation in schools cannot be too much commended. The advantages of such training, if not immediate, will be recognized later in life. In awakening attention, inspiring confidence, acquainting the pupil with the selectest models of Oratory, compelling him to try his voice before an audience, and impressing him with a sense of the importance of elocutionary culture, the benefits which accrue from these exercises are inestimable. The late John Quincy Adams used to trace to his simple habit of reciting, in obedience to his father, Collins’ little ode, “How sleep the brave,” &c., the germ of a patriotic inspiration, the effects of which he felt throughout his public career ; together with the early culture of a taste for elocution, which was of great influence in shaping his future pursuits.
DIVISIONS OF ELOCUTION.
Elocution is divided into Articulation and Pronunciation ; Inflection and Modulation ; Emphasis ; Gesture.
ARTICULATION AND PRONUNCIATION.
Correct articulation is the most important exercise of the voice, and of the organs of speech. A public speaker, possessed only of a moderate voice, if he articulate correctly, will be better understood, and heard with greater pleasure, than one who vociferates, without judgment. The voice of the latter may, indeed, extend to a considerable distance, but the sound is dissipated in con
* As an assistance to the pupil in carrying out this recommendation, the author has, in many instances, appended illustrative notes, or brief biographical sketches, to the extracts from the speeches of great orators.
fusion. Of the former voice, not the smallest vibration is wasted; every stroke is perceived at the utmost distance to which it reaches, and hence it may often appear to penetrate even further than one which is loud, but badly articulated. “ in just articulation,” says Austin, “the words are not hurried over, nor precipitated syllable over syllable. They are delivered out from the lips, as beautiful coins, newly issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed, perfectly finished, neatly struck by the proper organs, distinct, sharp, in due succession, and of due weight.” Pronunciation points out the proper sounds of vowels and consonants, and the distribution of accent on syllables. Articulation has a reference to the positions and movements of the organs which are necessary to the production of those sounds with purity and distinctness; it also regulates the proportion of the sounds of letters in words, and of words in sentences. Articulation and pronunciation may thus be said to form the basis of elocution. An incorrector slovenly pronunciation of words should be carefully avoided. The most eloquent discourse may be marred by the mispronunciation of a word, or by a vicious or provincial accent. The dictionaries of Worcester or Webster, in which the pronunciation is based mainly on the accepted standard of Walker, should be carefully consulted by the pupil, wherever he is doubtful in regard to the pronunciation of a word, or the accent of a syllable. These dictionaries also contain ample rules for the guidance and practice of the reader in the attainment of a correct pronunciation of the rudimental sounds of the vowels and consonants. They should be carefully studied. A speaker who continually violates the ear of taste by his mispronunciation must never hope to make a favorable impression upon an educated audience.
DEFECTS IN PRONUNCIATION.
The omission to sound the final g in such words as moving, rising, — as if they were spelled morin, risin, – is one of the most frequent defects which inattentive readers exhibit. A habit also prevails of slurring the full sound of the italicised letter in such words as belief, polite, political, whisper, which; several, every, deliverer, traveller; history, memorable, melody, philosophy; society, variety, &c.; also of muffling the r in such words as alarm, reform, arrest, warrior; omitting the e in the last syllable of sudden, mitten, &c.; corrupting the a in musical, social, whimsical, metal, &c.; the i in certainly, fountain, &c.; the last o in Boston, notion, &c.; giving e the sound of u in momentary, insolent, and the like; and a the same sound in jubilant, arrogant, &c.; giving the sound of er to the final termination of such words as fellow, potato, follow, hallow ; giving to r in war, warlike, partial, &c., the sound of w; prolonging the sound of w in law, flaw, as if there were an r tacked on at the end of the words; in such words as nature, creature, legislature, &c., failing to give the full sound to the u and e of the last syllable, as they are sounded in pure, sure, &c.; giving to the a in scarce the sound of u in purse ; slurring the final o in occasion, invention, condition, &c.; giving the sound of u to the a in Indian; giving the sound of um to the final m in chasm, patriotism, &c.; the sound of i to the e in goodness, matchless; the sound of fle to the ful of awful, beautiful, and the like. The e in the first syllable of such words as terminate, mercy, perpetrate, &c., ought, according to the stricter critics in elocution, to have the sound of e in merit, terror, &c. A habit of speaking through the nose, in the utterance of such words as now, cow, is prevalent in New England, and should be overcome by all who would not make themselves ridiculous in educated society.
Other common defects in pronunciation are thus satirized by Holmes:
“Learning condemns, beyond the reach of hope,
Less stern to him who calls his coat a coat,
“Once more; speak clearly, if you speak at all;
In the beginning of a course of elocution, it is necessary that a minute attention be paid to the producing of the exact sounds on the unaccented syllables; and though this may be censured by many, as affected and theatrical, it must, for a time, be encouraged. Most persons will give the sound of a in accessory distinctly and purely, as the accent is on it; but, if the accent is on the second syllable of a word beginning in the same way, as in accord, the greater number of people would give the ac an obscure sound, as if the word were uccord. The same remark holds with regard to the initial ab, ad, af, ag, al, am, an, ar, ap, as, at, ar, as, con, col, &c.; e, de, re, i, in, o, ob, op, &c. Thus, the o in omen, the e in eract, will be sounded correctly by most persons; but, in opinion, proceed, and emit, as the accent is shifted, these vowels would be generally sounded upinion, pruceed, and imit. Through the same neglect, the second o in nobody is not sounded like the 0 in body, as it should be; and the a in circumstances is different from the a in circumstantial; — the former words being sounded nob’dy, circumst'nces. The terminational syllables ment, mess, tion, ly, ture, our, ous, en, el, in, &c., are also generally given impurely, the attention being directed principally to the previous accented syllable ; thus, the word compliments is erroneously given the sound of complimints; nation, that of nashn; only, onlé (the e as in met); nature, natchur; valor, valer; famous, famuss; novel, nowl; chicken, chickn; Latin, Latn. Sometimes the concluding consonant is almost lost in the unaccented syllable, while it is preserved in the accented ; thus, in the noun subject, in which the accent is on the first syllable, the t is scarcely sounded by many who would sound it in the verb to subject, in which the accent is on the last syllable. In d and t final, the articulation is not completed until the tongue comes off from the roof of the mouth. Distinctness is gained by this attention to the quality of unaccented vowels, and to the clear and precise utterance of the consonants in unaccented syllables. Care must be taken, however, that the pupil do not enunciate too slowly. The motions of the organs must frequently be rapid in their changes, that the due proportions of syllables may be preserved.
As emphasis is to a sentence what accent is to words, the remarks which have been made on accented and unaccented syllables apply to words emphatic and unemphatic. The unemphatic words are also apt to become inarticulate from the insufficient force which is put upon them, and the vowel-sounds, as in can, as, and the consonant d in and, &c., are changed or lost. In certain words, such as my, mine, thy, thine, you, your, the unemphatic pronunciation is different from the emphatic, being sounded me, min, the, thin, ye, yur; as, this is min own, this is yur own. In solemn reading, this abbreviated pronunciation is avoided, and the words are pronounced as they are when single.
MODULATION OR MANAGEMENT OF THE WOICE.
The modulation of the voice is one of the most important requisites in a public speaker. Even to the private reader, who wishes to execute his task with pleasure to others, it is a necessary accomplishment. A voice which keeps long in one key, however correct the pronunciation, delicate the inflection, and just the emphasis, will soon tire the hearer. The voice has been considered as capable of assuming three keys, – the low, the high, and the middle. This variety is undoubtedly too limited ; but, for the first lessons of a student, it may be useful to regard the classification. A well-trained voice is capable of ranging in these with various degrees of loudness, softness, stress, continuity, and rapidity.
These different states of the voice, properly managed, give rise to that striking and beautiful variety which is essential to eloquent delivery. The difference between loud and soft, and high and low tones, should be well understood. Piano and forte have no relation to pitch or key, but to force and quantity; and, when applied to the voice, they relate to the body or volume which the speaker or singer gives out. We can, therefore, be very soft in a high note, and very loud in a low one ; just as a smart stroke on a bell may have exactly the same note as a slight one, though it is considerably louder. It ought to be a first principle, with all public readers and speakers, rather to begin below the common level of the voice than above it. A good practical rule for the speaker, in commencing, is to speak as if he would have his voice reach those in the centre of the hall. He thus will begin on a level tone, from which he may easily rise. Some abrupt forms of speech require, however, a loud tone of voice, even at the commencement, to give them their due effect; as, for instance: “How long, O Catiline ! wilt thou abuse our patience?”
The right assumption of the keys constitutes what may be termed the feeling of a composition; — without it, acting is lifeless, and argument tiresone. It is a want of this variety which distinguishes the inanimate speaker. His inflection may be correct, and have even what has been termed a musical cadence; but, without this variety of key, he must tire his audience. The effect of a transition from the major to the minor key in music is not more striking than the variety which the voice will occasionally assume. A change of key is generally necessary at the commencement of a new sentence. When, in the preceding sentence, the voice has sunk down towards the close, in the new sentence it sometimes recovers its elasticity, and sometimes it continues in the depressed note on which the preceding sentence terminates.
In common conversation, our tone is light, and appears to come from the lip ; in serious and impressive speaking, it appears to be formed further back, and is accompanied by a greater tension of the muscles of the throat. The deeper formation of the voice is the secret of that peculiar tone which is found in actors and orators of celebrity. Some have this voice naturally; but the greater number must acquire it by assiduous practice. The pupil must be required to speak “ further down in the throat.” This peculiar voice, which is adapted to the expression of what is solemn, grand and exciting, “is formed in those parts of the mouth posterior to the palate, bounded below by the root of the tongue, above by the commencement of the palate, behind by the most posterior part of the throat, and on the sides by the angles of the jaw. The tongue, in the mean time, is hollowed and drawn back; and the mouth is opened in such a manner as to favor, as much as possible, the enlargement of the cavity described.”
To acquire strength and distinctness in this key, the remarks in the last paragraph will be found useful. Nothing more unequivocally marks the finished speaker than a command over the low notes of his voice ; it is a rare accomplishment, but one which is a most valuable principle in Oratory. Strengthening the low notes, after forming them, should be a great object with the master in Elocution ; but it too often happens that the acquisition of a screaming high note is reckoned the desideratum in speaking. . The difficulty of being distinct and audible in the low key is at first discouraging ; but practice will, in most cases, attain the object. Similes in poetry form proper examples for gaining a habit of lowering the voice.
He above the rest,
The following passage, in which King John takes Hubert aside, and tempts him to undertake the death of Arthur, requires, in the enunciation, a full, audible tone of voice, in a low key :
K. John. I had a thing to say, - but let it go;
Hub. So well, that what you bid me undertake,
K. John. Do I not know thou wouldst 7
Hub. And I’ll keep him so
K. John. Death.
Hub. My Lord
R. John. A grave.
Hub. He shall not live.
K. John. Enough.
This is the key of common discourse, and the key in which a speaker must usually deliver the greater part of his speech. Sheridan points out a simple method of acquiring loudness in this key. “Any one, who, through habit, has fallen into a weak utterance, cannot hope suddenly to change it ; he must