voice decline towards the end of a sentence, the general rule should be to keep it up, and even slightly to raise it. Thus it is that the attention of an audience is sustained and a liveliness is imparted to your discourse far beyond the apparent simplicity of the means adopted. Try it ; read a page, using the English downward inflection, and then read the same page, using the upward inflection at the end of each sentence, and mark the contrast upon your own energies. Ask a friend to do the like and listen; you will instantly recognise the superior life and vigour infused into the composition. Repeat the experiment in a large room, before a numerous audience, and you will find that, while it is very difficult for the ear to seize the words uttered in the falling inflection, the entire sentence is clearly and readily caught by the most distant listener when the rising inflection is used—that is to say, when the voice is made to rise, instead of being permitted to fall, at the end of a sentence.

I remember once being at a rehearsal at Drury-lane, with one of our great actors. I expressed surprise that he did not speak louder, as it seemed to me that his voice was not raised much beyond that of ordinary conversation; yet it filled the house and came back to us. He explained to me that it was really so. “If I were to speak twice as loud,” he said, “I should not be heard half so well. To be heard by a large audience, you have only to speak slowly and to raise your voice at the end of every sentence.” It was a lesson not to be forgotten, and having tried and proved it, I recommend

it to you.





THE hints that have been offered so far relate to. reading generally; they are designed to assist you in the development of those physical powers, without which intellectual capacity fails to express itself. The right management of the voice is as necessary as the right understanding of that which the voice is to utter. Both are indispensable ; both require persistent study ; neither will compensate for defects in the other, and, in its influence on a miscellaneous audience, it is doubtful whether a reading mechanically good would not surpass a reading intellectually good. However this may be, do not place too much reliance upon the virtues you mentally infuse into your reading, to the neglect of the graces with which voice and manner will invest them. To read well, you must do both well.

For the purpose of controlling your breath, and thus governing your voice, some attention must be given to attitude, and fortunately the position that is best adapted for utterance is that which is most easy to yourself and

most agreeable to your audience. You should sit as uprightly as possible, or, if that be inconvenient, inclining very gently in the chair, the arms well thrown back, so as to give to the chest the fullest and freest expansion, and the head erect, so as to remove all pressure from the throat, where the delicate organs of the voice are playing. Not only do you thus exercise them with the greatest ease to themselves, but the sounds they produce are sent most audibly and distinctly to the furthest range of listeners. If you stoop forward, bending over your book, you cannot take a full breath, you cannot regulate your tones, you are unable to make your breathing coincident with the necessary pauses of the discourse, and your

voice is sent down, to be muffled against your book, or stifled upon the floor, instead of being flung forth in a flowing stream of sound, to reach the ears of the most distant of the assembled circle. If you want to measure the amount of voice required to touch those furthest from




easy enough. There needs no intricate calculation, not even a mental estimate of space. Nothing more is needed than that you should look at the person who stands the most distant of those you desire to address, and instinctively, without effort or calculation of your own, your voice will take the pitch of loudness requisite to make him hear. But

you will probably say that, however useful these rules for attitude may be to speakers, they are inapplicable to readers; for how, you will ask, is it possible, sitting upright or reclining gently back in a chair, with head erect, to read a book without holding it straight before the eye and consequently eclipsing your face entirely? I confess there is some difficulty in accomplishing this feat, at first, but it is to be acquired with a little practice.

Two processes are requisite to the performance. First, you must learn the art of keeping the eye and mind in advance of the tongue ; and, secondly, you must learn, while the head is erect, to read by turning the eyes down to a book placed below you, but yet at the angle most convenient to sight and which you must ascertain at the moment, for it varies with the nature of the composition, the size of the type, and even the quality of the paper. If your audience did not look at you when reading, this position of the eye would, if unrelieved, be inconvenient only to yourself. But an audience must be looked at by you, as well as look at you, or you will not secure their attention. A reader, you must remember, is not a mere conduit pipe, to convey the words of the book to the minds of the listeners : a good reader communicates directly with his audience ; he makes the ideas of the author so much his own, when transmitted through his mind, that they come from him animated and inspired by something of his own living spirit, so that the minds of the listeners feel themselves in communion with his mind, and there is a consciousness that the intercourse is intellectual and not mechanical merely. Strive, then, that your reading shall sound and seem as little like reading, and as much like speaking, as possible : give to what you say, and to the manner of saying it, the air of being the utterance of your own mind rather than the mere repetition of the production of another mind, and this you can accomplish only by repeatedly raising your eyes from the book and looking at the audience while you complete the sentence which the eye and the mind, travelling before the tongue, have committed to the memory.

I have now said all that occurs to me as likely to be

useful to you respecting that portion of the Art of Reading which depends upon the physical processes. But in the cultivation of these powers you must not forget that they are intimately allied with the intellectual processes. No single movement of the smallest muscle employed in the art of reading is purely mechanical ; it is governed more or less by mental emotions, with which it vibrates in a mysterious sympathy you can neither prompt nor control. The voice will express in tones and in tremors the feelings that are flashing through the brain, and the main object of all your studies and strivings will be, not so much to acquire something new, as to remove the bad habits by which the natural expression is impeded. You will have a great deal more to unlearn than to learn. Your endeavour from the beginning should be to go back to nature—to have faith in her—to find out what in your practice is artificial, and what is true, and by persevering effort to emancipate yourself from the slavery of habit. In these suggestions I have sought to consult nature alone, and I have given very little attention to the “ rules” which professional writers and teachers have promulgated. I never met any person who had profited by them. It is not that it can be asserted of any of them, examined individually, that they are erroneous; they err only in that they attempt to reduce to rule an art which cannot, like science, be reduced to rule. I challenge the proof to be thus tried. Let a page of any book be read strictly according to the rules of any treatise on, or teacher of, elocution; it will be found intolerably starched, ungainly and stupid. Continually the infinite variations of the thought to be expressed will enforce a departure from the letter of the rule. Either the rule must bend to

« ElőzőTovább »