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following speech of Gracchus, quoted by Cicero, and inserted in the Spectator, No. 541.
Whither shall I turn? Wretch that I am! to what place shall I betake myself ? Shall I go to the Capitol ? alas ! it is overflowed with my brother's blood ! or shall I retire to my house? yet there I behold my mother plunged in misery, weeping and despairing !
Every distinct portion of this passage may be truly said to be an exclamation ; and yet we find, in reading it, though it can scarcely be pronounced with too much emotion, the inflections of voice are the same as if pronounced without any emotion at all : that is, the portion, Whither shall I turn, terminates like a question with the interrogative word, with the falling inflection. The member, Wretch that I am, like a member forming incomplete sense, with the rising inflection ; the question, without the interrogative word, Shall I go to the Capitol, with the rising inflection ; alas ! it is overflowed with my brother's blood, with the falling: The question commencing with the disjunctive or, or shall I retire to my house, with the falling inflection, but in a lower tone of voice.
Thus we see how vague and indefinite are the gen cral rules for reading this point, for want of distin. guishing high and low tones of voice from those upward and downward slides, which may be in any note of the voice, and which, from their radical difference, form the most marking differences in pronunciation.
The parenthesis is defined by our excellent grammarian, Dr. Lowth, to be a member of a sentence inserted in the body of a sentence, which member is neither necessary to the sense, nor at all affects the 'construction. He observes, also, that in reading or speaking, it ought to have a moderate depression of the voice, and a pause greater than a comma. This is, perhaps, as just a definition of the parenthesis, as could be given in so few words, and may serve to regulate our opinion of it when the marks of it in printing are either omitted or used improperly ; but several other particulars respecting this grammatical note may be remarked, which will tend greatly to acquaint us with the true nature of it, and shew us how it may be pronounced to advantage.
And first it may be observed, that the parenthesis seems to have been much under-rated by the generality of writers on composition, who consider it rather as a blemish than an advantage to style, and have almost entirely prohibited the use of it. This, how. ever, cannot be done without arraigning the taste of the best writers, both ancient and modern, who frequently make use of this figure of grammar, and often with great advantage : for though, when used injudiciously, it interrupts the course of the thought, and obscures the meaning ; yet sometimes it so happily conveys a sentiment or stroke of humour, as to entitle it to no small merit among the grammatical figures, and to rank it even with those of oratory and eloquence. What, for example, can add greater force to a pathetick sentiment than a thought rising up from the fulness of the heart, as it were in the middle of another sentence ? What can add greater poignancy to a sally of wit, than conceiving it as springing naturally from the luxuriancy of the subject without the least effort or premeditation of the writer ? What can give such inportance to a transient thought, as producing it in the negligence of an intervening member ; and how much is composition familiarized, and rendered natural and easy, by the judicious introduction of these transient una premeditated thoughts ! This manner of conveying a thought makes us esteem it the more in proportion as the author seems to esteem it less ; and if, to this advantage of the parenthesis, we add that of the conciseness of thought and variety of pronunciation, it sometimes bestows on the style and cadence of a sentence, we shall by no means think it a trifling or insignificant part of composition.
But though the parenthesis has often an excellent effect both in composition and delivery, yet, when it is used too frequently, or extended to too great a length, it embarrasses the reader, and obscures rather than illustrates the meaning of the author ; for which reason we find good writers constantly avoid a long and complicated parenthesis. The best parenthesis, therefore, is the shortest ;, for as the main current of the sentence is standing still while this intervening member is pronounced, the thread of the discourse is broken, and, if discontinued too long, is with difficulty taken up again.
The real nature of the parenthesis once understood, we are at no loss for the true manner of delivering it. The tone of voice ought to be interrupted, as it were by something unforeseen ; and, after a pause, the pa. renthesis should be pronounced in a lower tone of voice, at the end of which, after another pause, the higher tone of voice, which was interrupted, should be re. sumed, that the connection between the former and latter part of the interrupted sentence may be restored, It may be observed, too, that in order to preserve the integrity of the principal members, the parenthesis ought not only to be pronounced in a lower tone, but a degree swifter than the rest of the period, as this still better preserves the broken sense, and distinguishes the explanation from the text. For that this is always the case in conversation, we can be under no doubt, when we consider, that whatever is supposed to make our auditors wait, gives an im,
pulse to the tongue, in order to relieve them as soon as possible from the suspense of an occasional and unexpected interruption.
Rule I. The most general rule is, that the paren. thesis always terminates with that pause and inflection of voice with which the interrupted part of the sentence that precedes it is marked; for any closer connection between the parenthesis and the latter, than between the parenthesis and the former part of the sentence, would form a fresh member, compounded of the parenthesis and the latter part, and by this means leave the former imperfect. Accordingly, when the member immediately preceding the parenthesis ends with imperfect sense, or a comma and the rising inflection, (which is almost always the case,) the parenthesis ends with a comma, and the rising înflection likewise.
Know ye not, bréthren, (for I speak to them that know the Jáw,) that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Rom. vii. In
When it ends with perfect sense, generally marked with a colon, and consequently requires the falling inflection of voice, (which very seldom happens,) the parenthesis ends with a colon and falling inflec. tion also.
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought thema without violence : for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned :) And when they had brought them, they Set them before the council.
Acts, v. 26, 27,
But before we proceed to give other examples, it will be necessary to take notice, that though the pause and inflection, terminating the parenthesis and the member that precedes it, may be said to be the same, it must still be understood to mean the same only as far as the difference of tone with which the parenthesis is pronounced will permit ; for if the parenthesis is to be pronounced in a lower tone than the principal sentence, which seems universally allowed, the pause and inflection of voice with which the pa. renthesis ends, must necessarily be pronounced lower than the same pauses and inflections terminating the preceding member: but as this is only like reading the same sentence in a higher or lower, in a louder or softer tone, (in all which modes of pronunciation the pauses and inflections have an exact proportion, and are called the same, though different in some respects ;) so the higher and lower tone with which the same pause and inflection are pronounced in and out of a parenthesis, may be so easily conceived, that, perhaps, this observation may, by most readers, be thought superfluous. To resume therefore the rule :
A parenthesis must be pronounced in a lower tone of voice, and conclude with the same pause and inflection which terminate the member that immedi, ately precedes it.
Notwithstanding all this care of Cicero, history informs as that Marcus proved a mere blockhead; and that nature (who it seems was even with the son for her prodigality to the fá. ther) rendered him incapable of improving, by all the rules of èloquence, the precepts of philosophy, his own endeavours, and the most refined conversation in Athens. Spectator, No. 307.
Natural historians obsérve (for whilst I am in the country I must fetch my allusions from thénce) that only male birds have voices; that their songs begin a little before breeding, time, and end a little after.
Ibid. No. 128
Dr. Clarke has observed, that Homer is more perspicuous than any other author ; but if he is so (wbich yet may be quéss