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OBSERVATIONS ON THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD
TO read with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment; productive of improvement both to the understanding and the heart. It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he professes to repeat; for how is it possible to represent clearly to others, what we have but faint or inaccurate conception of ourselves? If there were no other benefits resulting from the art of reading well, than the necessity it lays us under, of precisely ascertain. ing the meaning of what we read; and the habit thence acquired, of doing this with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would constitute a sufficient compensation for all the labour we can bestow upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and others, from a clear com. munication of ideas and feelings; and the strong and durable impressions made thereby on the minds of the reader and the audience, are considerations, which give additional importance to the study of this necessary and useful art. The perfect attainment of it doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordinary natural powers; but as there are many degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aiins fall short of perfection will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to make.
To give rules for the inanagement of the voice in reading, by which the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put in pracțice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructor; much will be attaina. ble by no other means, than the force of example, influencing the imitative powers of the learner. Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found useful, to prevent erroneous and yicious modes of utterance; to give the young reader soine taste for the subject; and to assist him in acquire ing a just and accurate mode of delivery. The observations which we have to make, for these purposes, may be comprised under the following heads: Proper Loudness of Voice; Distinctness ; Slowness; Propriety of Pronuncia. ţion; Emphasis; Zones ; Pauses ; and Mode of Reading Verse.
Proper Loudness of Voice. THE first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must de to make himself heard by all those to whom he reads." He must endea. vour to fill with his voice, the space occupied by the cornpany. This power of voice, it may be thought, is whálly a natural talent. It is, in a good mea. sure, the gift of nature; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his voice; the high, the middle, and the low one. The high, is that wbich he uses in calling aloud to some per
NOTE. For many of the observations contained in this preliminary tract, the author is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blair, arril to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
son at a distance. The low, is when he approaches to a whisper. The middle, is that which he employs in common conversation, and which be should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake, to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, loudness or strength of sound, with the key or note in which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his voice louder, without altering the key: and we shall always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of voice to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas, by setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is also heard with pain by his audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. it should be a constant rule never to utter a greater quantity of voice than we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we kcep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty lo discharge their several offices with ease; and we shall always have our voice under command. But wheveyer we transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule, 100, in order to be well heard, to cast our eye oll some of the most distant persons in the coinpany, and to consider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, as to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within reach of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us remember, that in reading as well as in conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts the ear, by making the voice come upon it in rum, bling, indistinct ruasses.
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key, and is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monolony, are most observable in persons who were taught to read in large rooms who were accustomed to stand at too great a distance, when reading to their teachers; whose instructors were very imperfect in their hearing; cr who were taught by persons who considered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances, which demand the serious attention of every one to whom the education of youth is committed.
distinctness of articulation contributes inore than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space, is smaller than is commonly imagined ; and, with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach further than the strongest voice can reach without it.” To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which he pronounces, be heard distinctly; without slurring, whispering, or suppressing, any of the proper sounds.
An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation,) it will be incumbent on his teacher to carry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his progress, till he become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him .forward, with the hope of forining a good reader, it'te cannot completely articulate fyer clementary on the language,
Pue degree of Slowness. IN order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articula. tion, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that there inay be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every such performance insipid and satiguing. But the extreme of reading too fast is much more common; and requires the more to be guarded against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few errors are more difficult to be corrected. To pronounce with a proper degree of slowness, and with full and clear articulation, is necessary to be studied by. all who wish to become good readers; and it cannot be too much recommend ed to them. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses and rests which it allows the reader more easily to make; and it enables the reader to swell all his sounds, both with more force and more harmony.
Propriety of Pronunciation AFTER the fundamental attentions to the pitch and management of the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness of speech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study,'is propriety of pro nunciation; or, giving to every word which he utters, that sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to il; in opposition to broad, vul. gar, or provincial pronunciation. This is requisite both for reading intelligi. bly, and for reading with correctness and ease. Instructions concerning this article may be best given by the living teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not be improper here to make. In the English language, every word which consists of more syllables than one, has one accented syllabte.--The accent rests sometimes on the vowel, sometimes on the consonant. The genius of the language requires the voice to mark that syllable by a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. Now, after we have learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an important rule, to give every word just the saine accent in reading, as in common discourse. Many pera sons err in this respect. When they read to others, and with solemnity, they pronounce the syllablesin a different manner from what they do al other times. They dwell upon them, and protract them; they multiply accents on the same words. from a mistaken notion, that it gives gravity and importance to their subject, and adds to the energy of their delivery. Whereas ihis is one of the greatest faults that can be committed in pronounciation; it'makes what is cal. led a pompous or mouthing manner; and gives an artificial, affected air in reading, which detracts greatly both froin its agreeableness and its impression,
Sheridan and Walker have published dictionaries, for ascertaining the rrue and best pronunciation of the words of our language. By attentively con sulting them, particularly “Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary," the young reader will be much assisted, in his endeavours to attain a correct pronunciation of the words belonging to the English language.
Emphasis. BY emphasis is meant a stronger and fuller sound of voice, by wltich we distinguish some word or words, on which we design to lay particular stress and to show how they affect the rest of the sentence. Soinetimes the eupha. tic words must be distinguished by a particular tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress... On the right management of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation: If ng einphasis be placed on any words, not only is discourse.rendered heavy and lifeless, but the meaning left ofen ambiguous if the emphasis be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning aholly.
Emphasis may be divided into the superior and the inferior emphasis. The superior emphasis determines the meaning of a sentence, with reference lo something said before, presupposed by the author as general knowledge, or removes an ambiguity, where a passage may have more senses than one. The inferior emphasis en forces, graces, and enlivens, but does not fix, the meaning of any passage. The words to which this laiter emphasis is given, are in general, such as seem the most important in the sentence, or on other accounts, co merit this distinction. The following passage will serve to exemplify the superior emphasis :
"Of map's first disobedience, and the fruit
• Sing, heavenly Muse !"! Supposing that originally other beings besides, men, had disobeyed the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstance were well known to fis, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the first line; and hence, it would read thus:
“Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit," &c. But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a peculiar manner more than once, the emphasis would fall on first ; and the line bes read,
“Of man's first disobedience," &c. Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an unhearii. of and dreadful punisbment, brought upon man in consequence of his transgression ; on that supposition the third line would be read,
Brought death into the world,” &c. But if we were to suppose, that mankind knew there was such an evil as death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had been free fxom in till their transgression, the line would run thus :
“ Brought death into the world,” &c. The superior emphasis finds place in the following short sentence, which adr :is of four distinct meanings each of which is ascertained by the emphasis, oniy,
“Do you ride to town to-day ?" The following emples illustrate the nature and use of the inferior ema, phasis :
Many persons mistake the love, for the practice of virtue."
Shall I reward his services with fulsehood? Shall I forget him who cannot forget me."
“If his principles are fulse, no apology from himself can make them right, founded in truth, no censure froin others can make them wrong."
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull,
Strong, without rage; without o'erflowing, full." “ A friend, exaggerates a man's virtues ; an enemy, his crimes."
“The wise man iş happy, when he gains his own approbation; the foole when he gains that of others."
The superior emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be determined entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike; but as to the inferior emphasis, taste alone seems to have tije right of fixing its situation and quantity.
Among the number of persons, who have had proper opportunities of learn. ing to read, in the best manner it is now taught, very few could be selected, who, in a given instance, would use the inferior emphasis alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed, use scarcely any degree of it: and ogners do not scruple to carry it far beyond any thing to he found in common 036course : anti even sortretinires throw !1 upon words so very trifling in the
selves, that it is evidently done with no other view, than to give a greater variety to the modulation. * Notwithstanding this diversity of practice, there are certainly proper boundaries, within which this emphasis must be restrained, in order to make it meet the approbation of sound judgment and correet taste, It will doubtless have different degrees of exertion, according 10 the greater or less degree of importance of the words upon which it operates; and there inay be very properly some variety in the use of it: but its application is not arbitrary, depending on the caprice of readers.
As emphasis often falls on words in different parts of the same sentence, so it is frequently required to be continued, with a little variation, on two, and sometimes more words together. The following sentences exemplify both the parts of this position :" If you seek to make one rich, study not to increase is his stores, but to diminish his desires." "The Mexican figures, or picture
writing, represent things, not words; they exhibit images to the eye, not ideas " to the understanding."
Some sentences are so full and comprehensive, that almost every word is emphatical : as, “ Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and “plains!" or as that pathetic expostulation in the prophecy of Ezekiel, “ Why will ye die!"
Emphasis, besides its other offices, is the great regulator of quantity. Though the quantity of our syllables is fixerl, in words separately pronounced, yet it is murable, when these words are arranged in sentences; the long being changed into short, the short into long, according to the importance of the word with regard to meaning. Emphasis also, in particular cases, alters the seat of the accent. This is demonsirable from the following examples: "He shall increase, but I shall decrease." "There is a difference between giving and forgiving." “ In this species of composition, plausibility is much more essential than probability.” In these examples, the emphasis requires the accent to be pliced op syllables to which it does not commonly belong.
In order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the great rule to be given is, that the reader study to attain a just conception of the force and spirit of the 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 niost deci. sive 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.
There is one error, against which it is particularly proper to caution the learner; namely, that of multiplying emphatical words too much, and using the emphasis indiscriminately. It is only by a prudent reserve and distinction in the use of thein, that we can give them any weight. If they recur !oo often; is a reader attempts to render every thing he expresses, of high importance, by a multitude of strong emphasis, we soon learn to pay little regard to theni. To crowd every sentence with emphatical words, is like crowding all the pages of a book with Italic characters: which, as to the effect, is just the saina as to use no such distinctions at all.
Tones. TONES are different both from emphasis and pauses; consisting in the notes or variations of sound which we employ, in the expression of our sentinents. Emphasis affects particular words and phrases, with a degree of tone, or inflexjon of voice; but toues, peculiarly so called, affect sentences, paragraphs, and some times the whole of a discourse.
* By modulation is meant, that pleasing variety of voice, which is perceiveci in uttering a sentence, and which in its nature, is perfectly distincticom einphasis, and the tones of emotion and passion. The young reader should
careful to render his modulation correct and easy; and, for this purpose, rould form it upon the model of the mosi judiciu s and accuvale speakers.