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Every one, therefore, who would acquire a varr ety of tone in publick reading or speaking, must avoid as the greatest evil a loud and vociferous beginning; and for that purpose it would be prudent in a reader or speaker to adapt his voice as if only to be heard by the person who is nearest to him ; if his voice has natural strength, and the subject any thing impassioned in it, a higher and louder tone will insensibly steal on him ; and his greatest address must be directed to keeping it within bounds. For this purpose it will be frequently necessary for him to recall his voice, as it were, from the extremities of his auditory, and direct it to those who are nearest to him. This it will be proper to do almost at the beginning of every paragraph in reading, and at the introduction of every part of the subject in discourse. Nothing will so pow. erfully work on the voice, as supposing ourselves conversing at different intervals with different parts of the audience.
A celebrated writer on this subject directs a reader or speaker, upon his first addressing his auditory, to fix his eyes upon that part of them from which he is the farthest, and to pitch his voice so as to reach them. This, I fear, would be attended with very ill consequences if the assembly were very large; as a speaker would be strongly tempted to raise his voice, as well as increase its force ; and by this means begin in a key much too high for the generality of his auditory, or for his own powers to continue it. The safest rule, therefore, is certainly to begin, as it were, with those of the assembly that are nearest to us; and if the voice be but articulate, however low the key may be, it will still be audible ; and those who have à sufficient strength of voice for a publick auditory, find it so much more difficult to bring down than raise the pitch, that they will not wonder I employ my chief care to guard against an errour by far the most common, as well as the most dangerous.
Much, undoubtedly, will depend on the size and structure of the place we speak in : some are so immensely large, as many of our churches and cathedrals, that the voice is nearly as much dissipated as in the open air ; and often with the additional inconvenience of a thousand confused echos and re-echos. Here a loud and vociferous speaker will render himself unintelligible in proportion to his exertion of voice : as departing and commencing sounds will encounter each other, and defeat every intention of distinctness and harmony.
Nothing but good articulation will make a speaker audible in this situation, and a judicious attention to that tone of voice which is most suitable to the size and imperfections of the place. If the place we speak in be but small, it will be scarcely necessary to observe that the loudness of the voice should be in proportion. Those who have not ears sufficiently delicate to discern the true quantity of sound necessary to fill the place they speak in, ought to take every possible method to acquire so essential a qualification. A knowledge of musick, many trials of different degrees of loudness, and the friendly criticism of good judges, may do much towards acquiring this accomplishment, and it must ever be remembered, that high and low are essentially distinct from loud and soft ; as we may with the utmost propriety be at the highest note of our voice in the smallest room, provided we are not too loud, and use the lowest part of our voice in the largest, provided we are not too soft and indistinct to be heard.
In order to reduce the foregoing observations to practice, it may not be unprofitable to attend to the following rules.
Rule I. To gain a habit of lowering the voice, it will be necessary to drop the voice to a lower key upon the end of one sentence, and to commence the next sentence in the same low key with which we concluded the former ; for this purpose, it will be necessary to select sentences where this pronuncia: tion is eligible, and practise upon them.
Our sight is the most perfect and most delightful of all our senses. It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converses with its objects at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments. The sense of feeling can indeed give us a notion of extension, shape, and all other ideas that enter at the eye, except colours ; but at the same time it is very much straightened and confined in its operations to the number, bulk, and distance of its particular objects. Spect. No. 411.
I shall first consider those pleasures of the imagination which arise from the actual view and survey of outward objects; and these, I think, all proceed from the sight of what is great, uncommon, or beautiful. There may, indeed, be something so terrible or offensive that the horrour or loathsomenes of the object may overbear the pleasure which results from its greatness, novelty, or beauty ; but still there will be such a mixture
qualifications are most conspicuous and prevailing.
Spect. No. 412.
The sense of feeling, in the first example, and there may indeed, in the second, may very properly commence in a low tone of voice, as this tone is generally suitable to the concession contained in each of the sentences.
Similes in poetry form proper examples for gaining a habit of lowering the voice.
He above the rest,
All her original brightness, nor appear'd
In this example are two similes in succession; and it may be observed, that, in order to pronounce them properly, the voice ought to be twice lowered ; that is, on the first simile at as when the sun, and then at or from behind the moon, which last simile must be in a lower tone of voice than the former, and both nearly in a monotone.
Rule II. This lowering of the voice will be greatly facilitated if we begin the words we wish to lower the voice upon, in a monotone, or sameness of sound, approaching to that produced by repeatedly striking the same key of a harpsichord. Thus in the following passage from Dr. Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination :
With what attractive charms this goodly frame
To deck the poet's or the painter's toil,
Wilt thou, eternal Harmony, descend,
Pleasures of Imagination, Book 1.
This exordium consists of an invocation of several poetick powers, each of which ought to be addressed in a manner somewhat different ; but none of them admits of a difference sufficient to give a variety to a long paragraph, except that of eternal Har. mony: and this from its nature requires a solemn monotone in a much lower key than the rest : if therefore we pronounce the words,
Goddess of the lyre,
If, I say, we pronounce these words in a low monotone, without any inflection of voice on them; we shall throw a great variety into the whole invocation, and give it at the same time that expression which the importance of the subject demands.
Rule III. As few voices are perfect; those which have a good bottom often wanting a top, and inversely ; care should be taken to improve by practice that part of the voice which is most deficient; for instance; if we want to gain a bottom, we ought to practise speeches which require exertion, a little below the common pitch; when we can do this with ease, we may practise them on a little lower note, and so on till we are as low as we desire: for this purpose, it will be necessary to repeat such passages as require a full, audible tone of yoice in a low key i