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may read aloud to him every day; and that he will interrupt and correct you every time that you read too fast, do not observe the proper stops, or lay a wrong emphasis. You will take care to open your teeth when you speak; to articulate every word distinctly; and to beg of any friend you converse with, to remind and stop yon, if ever you fall into the rapid and unintelligible mutter. You will even read aloud to yourself, and tune your utterance to your own ear; and read at first much slower than you need to do, in order to correct that shameful habit of speaking faster than you ought. In short, you will make it your business, your study, and your pleasure, to speak well, if you think right. Therefore, what I have said is more than sufficient, if you have sense; and ten times more would not be sufficient, if you have not: so here I rest it. Chesterfield.
ON THE ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING. Much declamation has been employed to convince the world of a very plain truth, that to be able to speak well an ornamental and useful accomplishment. Every one will acknowledge it to be of some consequence, that what a man has hourly occasion to do, should be done well. Every private company, and almost every public assembly, affords opportunities of remarking the difference between a just and graceful, and a faulty and unnatural elocution ; and there are few persons who do not daily experience the advantages of speaking well, and the inconveniences of speak.
ing ill. The great difficulty is, not to prove that it is a desirable thing to be able to read and speak with propriety, but to point out a practicable and easy method, by which this accomplishment may be acquired.
Follow nature, is certainly the fundamental law of oratory; without a regard to which, all other rules will only produce affected declamation, not just elocution. And some accurate observers, judging perhaps from a few specimens of modern eloquence, have concluded, that this is the only law which ought to be prescribed ; that all artifi. cial rules are useless; and that good sense, and a cultivated taste, are the only requisites to form a good public speaker.
But it is true in the art of speaking, as well as in the art of living, that general precepts are of little use till they are unfolded, and applied to particular cases. To discover 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 speaking, 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 reason to doubt, that, in passing throngh that course of exercise which is necessary to attain this end, much assistance 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 unexperienced and unpractised learner? And what is there in the art of speaking, which should render it incapable of receiving aid from precepts ?
A good articulation consists in giving a clear, full, and deliberate utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of these sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood; and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example.
Some persons find it difficult to articulate the letter l; others, the simple sounds expressed by 1', s, th, sh. But the instance of defective articulation which is most common, and therefore requires particular notice, is the omission of the aspirate h. This is an omission which materially affects the energy of pronunciation ; the expression of emotion 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 sounded, and sounded where it ought to be omitted.—These and other similar faults may be corrected, by daily reading sentences so contrived, as frequently to repeat the sounds which are in. correctly uttered; and especially, by remarking them whenever they occur in conversation.
Other defects in articulation regard the complex sounds, and consist in a confused and cluttering pronunciation 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 short syllables come together ; and to read, at certain stated times, much slower than the sense and just speaking would require.
Almost all persons who have not studied the art of speaking, have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly, that this latter exercise ought generally to be made use of for a considerable time at first: for, where there is a uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution.
ON EMPHASIS AND PAUSES. By emphasis is meant that stronger and fuller sound of voice, by which, in reading or speaking, we distinguish the accented syllable of some word, on which we design to lay particular stress, in order to show how it affects the rest of the sentence. On the right management of the emphasis depend the whole life and spirit of every discourse. If no emphasis be placed on any word, not only is discourse rendered heavy and lifeless, but the meaning left often ambiguous. If the emphasis be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.
To give a common instance; such a simple question as this, ‘Do you ride to town to-day?" is capable of no fewer than four different acceptations, according as the emphasis is differently placed on the words. If it be pronounced thus : Do you ride to town to-day? the answer may naturally be, No: I send my servant in my stead. If thus: Do you ride to town to-day? answer, No: I intend to walk. Do you ride to town today? No: I ride out into the fields. Do you ride to town to-day? No: but I shall to-morrow.
In order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the great rule, and indeed the only rule possible to be given, is, that the speaker or reader study to attain a just conception of the force and spirit of those 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 greatest trials of a true and just taste; and must arise from feeling delicately ourselves, and from judging accurately of what is fittest to strike the feelings of others.
Next to emphasis, the pauses in speaking demand attention. These are of two kinds : first, emphatical pauses; and next, such as mark the distinctions of sense. An emphatical pause is made after something has been said of peculiar moment, on which we want to fix the hearer's at. tention. Such pauses have the same effect as a strong emphasis, and are subject to the same rules ; especially to the caution of not repeating them too frequently.
But the most frequent and the principal use of pauses is, to mark the divisions of the sense, and at the same time to allow the speaker to draw his breath; and the proper adjustment of such pauses is one of the most difficult articles in delivery. In