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be, to dedicate a certain portion of time every day to reading aloud some passages from books, written in an easy, familiar style; and at every sentence, let them ask themselves this question,-how should I utter this, were I speaking it as my own immediate sentiments ? In that case, on what words should I lay the emphasis, and with what change of notes in the voice? Though at first they may find, that their former habit will counteract their endeavors in this new way, yet by perseverance, they will not fail of success; particularly if they will get each sentence by heart, for some time, and revolve it in their minds with that view, without looking at the book. Nor should they be discouraged by frequent disappointments in their first attempts, but repeat the same sentence over, till they have satisfied themselves. For it is not the quantity that they read, which is to be regarded in this case, but the right manner of doing it; and when they shall have mastered that in some instances, they will afterwards make a rapid progress towards accomplishing it in all.
Nothing has contributed so much, and so universally to the corruption of delivery, as the bad use which has been made of the modern art of punctuation, by introducing artificial tones into all sentences, to the exclusion of the natural; for the teachers of the art of read. ing, in order to distinguish with greater accuracy, the stops from each other in utterance, annexed to them different notes of the voice, as well as different portions of time. Those which marked an incomplete sense, had an elevated note of the voice joined to them; those which marked a complete sense, a depressed, or low note. This uniform elevation and depression of the voice, in all sentences alike, produced a new kind of tone, which may be termed the reading brogue, with which all who learned to read, even such as were free from every other kind, became infected. Nor is this brogue confined to reading only, but in general has made its way into all the several branches of public speaking. And this, from an obvious cause. Boys are accustomed to repeat their lessons, declamations, &c. in the same manner as they read. This mode is not only confirmed in them by habit, but they acquire a predilection for it. They consider this species of delivery, which they have been taught, as far superior to that kind which comes of course, without any pains, and therefore judge it most proper to be used on all public occasions. Thus has this unnatural mode of utterance spread itself in the senate-house, the pulpit, the bar, the stage, and every place where public declamation is used; insomuch that the instances of a just and natural elocution are very rare: the want of which is most sensibly, and generally felt in our churches.
Our neighbors the French are not altogether in the same predicament with us, with regard to this article, though it is still in a very imperfect state among them. For though they have been employed near a century in regulating and refining their tongue, still it is, as with us, the written, not the spoken language, which has been the chief object of their attention. There is one article of speech indeed, which they have thoroughly ascertained, and reduced to rule; I mean pronunciation. But as to the art of delivery, it has never so much as been thought of among them; and all their treatises of rhetoric and oratory have, for their object
, like ours, not speech, but only composition in writing. The art of reading, as taught there, differs from our in one essential article, which has been the main cause of the difference between their public elocution and ours; in which they certainly have a great superiority
The article I mean is this; they have laid it down as a maxim, that children are to be taught to read in a perfect monotone; and this monotone is ever after used by them in reading works of all sorts, whether in poetry or prose; and, from custom, is considered by the French, as the only just manner of reading. Nothing, certainly, can be more absurd, nothing more contrary to common sense, nature, and taste, than this mode of reading. Yet it is attended with one advantage, that public elocution is not infected by it, as it is by our method. The monotone is confined wholly to reading; but, in all public declamation, the speakers indulge themselves in the free use of that variety, which is natural to them; and their preachers, who deliver their discourses from memory, not notes, have an elocution more animated, more varied, more just than ours, and produce proportional effects upon their auditors. But this method of reading was a poor expedient to bring about a reformation in one of the articles of delivery: for it is probable, that the first motive towards establishing this principle in the art of reading, was to put an end to the different tones used by people of the different provinces, by making all read alike in one uniform tone. But this, with regard to the article of reading, was
only substituting one evil, and perhaps a worse one, in the room of another; and with regard to the more important use of delivery, whether from memory, or ex
temporaneous, it produced no effect at all; as each in E that case, resumed his own habitual tone of utterance. - They who were in a situation of acquiring a propriety
of speech in conversation, from being bred among those 3 who spoke with purity, retained the same in public: 3 delivery; while they, whose utterance was vitiated,
by being bred up among those, whose provincial tones, or other irregularities of speech, prevailed in private discourse, brought the same faults with them into
public also. Thus, in comparing the two different i methods, used in England and France, in teaching the
art of reading, we find that the former carries a taint in its root, which spreads through all branches of elocution, withers the tree, and will never suffer it to bear fruit: whereas the latter is perfectly inoffensive, does neither harm nor good, and leaves nature and
custom to take their course. Now this view of these I two methods, may serve to point out a third to us; - which, avoiding equally the monotony of the French,
on the one hand, and the adventitious reading tones of the English, on the other, should teach the art of reading, upon principles of pure and correct speaking.
PITCH AND MANAGEMENT OF THE VOICE.
The next points I am to treat of, are the pitch and management of the voice; articles of the utmost importance to give due force and proportion to all the others. To the being heard with satisfaction, it is necessary that the speaker should deliver himself with
( But if he does not know how to pitch his voice properly, he can never have the due management of it; and his utterance will be painful to himself, and irksome to his hearers.
Every speaker who is not corrupted by bad habit, has three pitches in his voice, the high, low, and middle pitch. The middle pitch is that which is used in ordinary discourse, from which he either rises or falls accordingly as the matter of his discourse, or emotions of his mind require. This middle pitch, therefore, is what ought to be generally used, for two reasons; first, because the organs of the voice are stronger, and more pliable in this pitch, from constant use : and secondly, because it is more easy to rise or fall from that pitch, to high or low, with regular proportion.
Most persons, through want of skill and practice, when they read or speak in public, fall into one of the extremes. Either through timidity and diffidence they use the low pitch, in which they are not heard at all, or with so much trouble to the listener, as soon to