« ElőzőTovább »
When you can articulate your
words well, turn your attention to the pronunciation of sentences. In learning to articulate, you have practised with single words, giving to each its full sound, without reference to its association with other words. You will now study how to pronounce many words placed together. In this process you have not, as before, to sound each word in full, but you must mould the pronunciation of each according to the meaning it is designed to convey, and also in accordance with certain conventional laws of speech by which, in a collocation of sounds, some are subordinated to others, and some modified so as to harmonise with those which precede or follow. Here, again, teachers of elocution profess to prescribe rules, for the guidance of the pupil, which
be correct in themselves, but the observance of which would certainly make the reader who tries to observe them an ungainly pedant and his reading a positive pain to his audience. Pronunciation is, in truth, a matter of taste and ear, and if
you cannot learn it by help of these monitors within, you will never master it by formulas prescribed from without.
I am treating now of pronunciation merely. The right expression to be given to sentences will be the subject for much more extended consideration presently.
Practice and patience are the only hints I can offer you for the acquirement of a correct and pleasing pronunciation. But it is almost certain that you will not be entirely free from defects acquired in early life, and especially from provincialisms, of which it is so very hard to rid yourself, because you are not conscious of their presence. The sounds of the first words written or your memory are hard to be obliterated and never can be corrected by your own unaided efforts.
remedy is to invite the assistance of a friend, who will be quite as efficient for the purpose as a master; ask him to listen while you read, and to detect any provincialisms, or faulty or slovenly pronunciations, of which you may be guilty. Direct him to stop you as the word is spoken and show you your error by uttering to you the word, first, as you spoke it, and then as it ought to have been spoken; and you should repeat it again and again until he ceases to find any fault with it. When you have thus completed a sentence and corrected every word that was imperfectly pronounced, read it again once or twice, rapidly but clearly, to be sure that you have caught the true sounds; then, after an interval of diversion of the ear by reading other things, return to the passages that were the most incorrectly read, and try them again, until you can read them rightly without reflection or pause. Scoring the imperfectly pronounced words with a pencil, as your listening friend, or your own ear, tells you of their faultiness, will assist you in the performance of this useful exercise.
Having thus acquired distinct articulation and correct pronunciation, you will address yourself to the third stage in the art of reading-expression. Not merely must single words be fully sounded, and collected words rightly sounded, but that which you read requires to be uttered in the proper tone and with correct emphasis.
I shall best explain to you what I mean by this, and convince you of its importance, by looking at the sources of it.
Speech is one, and the most frequent, of the media by which mind communicates with mind. When you address another person, it is your purpose either to convey to him some fact, or to excite in him some emotion, or to convince him by some argument.
Strict philosophy would assign this third object to the former ones; but, as I am not writing a philosophical treatise, but merely telling you my experiences as to the best manner of learning an art, I prefer this threefold description as most intelligible. Whatever the mind desires to convey expresses itself naturally and unconsciously in a manner of its own.
You will instantly recognise this natural language in the expression of the more powerful emotions-joy, grief, fear. Each has its proper tone, the expression of which is recognised by all human beings, whether the emotion be or be not shaped into speech. But the finer emotions have their own appropriate expression also, which you may discover if you observe closely, diminishing by delicate shades until they can be caught only by the refined ear, and from which we may conclude that whatever the mind desires to express in speech is naturally and unconsciously uttered in a tone appropriate to itself, and which tone is adapted to excite the corresponding emotion in the mind to which it is addressed. You feel alarm-your voice, without effort on your part, sounds the note of alarm; it falls upon the ear and
into the mind of another man, and instantly excites the same emotion in him. You are oppressed with grief-you give utterance to your grief in tones of sadness; the mind that hears them feels sad too; the same emotion is awakened in that mind by the faculty which is called sympathy. Words that come from the mind are but the mind made audible and therefore
every wave of thought or feeling. This is what I mean by expression in reading,
We have not always expression when we speak, because sometimes we talk almost mechanically, without the mind being engaged ; or rather with no purpose to convey
any state of our own mind to the minds of others. That kind of talk you will readily recognise. There is another sort of speech that may be without expression, which we call speaking by rote, where words come from the memory only and not from the mind. This exception, indeed, admirably illustrates the rule.
It is a proverbial saying, that a man talks like a parrot-by rote—to imply that he is merely reproducing sounds that have been impressed upon his memory, and not giving utterance to thoughts and feelings existing in his mind. You know the unmistakeable monotony of speech by rote, and may thus, perhaps, more clearly apprehend my meaning when in these letters I treat only of the speech that expresses by infinite tones the infinite conditions of the mind from which it proceeds.
You will readily gather from this brief sketch of the source of Expression that it is a mental process, and that the surest, if not the only, way to accomplish it is to speak from the mind. If, in reading, you were uttering your own thoughts, there would be no difficulty in this, for nature would supply the right tones without an effort, and even without consciousness, on your part. You will say, perhaps, that in reading you do not express your own mind, but the mind of another. That is true ; but the same principle applies. In order to read well you must make the thoughts of the author your own.
This is a special faculty, possessed by various minds in various degrees. I can best explain it to you by reference to the case of the actor, who is a reader from memory instead of from book, and in whom the faculty is so highly cultivated that its operation can be most clearly seen. But the subject will require a longer exposition than could properly be given to it at the close of a letter ; so at this point I pause.
THE ART OF THE ACTOR AND THE READER.
THE Actor reads from his memory instead of reading from a book, and he adds action to expression. The reader reads from the book, and not from his memory, but he should recite what he reads in precisely the same manner as does the actor. You have often heard it said of a man that he reads in a theatrical manner, as if that was a fault in him ; but, before it is admitted to be a fault, we must understand precisely in what sense the phrase is used. The term might be employed to indicate reading like a bad actor or like a good one. Some persons,
educated in evil habits of reading, unaccustomed to hear good reading, and who have never contemplated reading as an art and an accomplishment, might ignorantly denounce as “theatrical" any reading that rises above gabbling and all attempts to give natural expression to the words and thoughts. Such reading is “theatrical” indeed, but only in a commendable sense. There is, however, a theatrical manner, that is called so reproachfully, and with justice, for it means reading like a bad actor-ranting, mouthy, and