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Books are to be called for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or framework. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-trained, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers.
The foundational importance of beautiful speaking has been disgraced by the confusion of it with diplomatic oratory, and evaded by the vicious notion that it can be taught by a master learned in it as a separate art. The management of the lips, tongue, and throat may, and perhaps should be so taught; but this is properly the first function of the singingmaster. Elocution is a moral faculty; and no one is fit to be the head of a children's school who is not both by nature and attention a beautiful speaker.
By attention, I say, for fine elocution means first an exquisitely close attention to, and intelligence of, the meaning of words, and perfect sympathy with what feeling they describe; but indicated always with reserve.
In this reserve, fine reading and speaking (virtually one art) differ from "recitation,” which gives the statement or sentiment with the explanatory accent and gesture of an actor. In perfectly pure elocution, on the contrary, the accent ought, as a rule, to be much lighter and gentler than the natural or dramatic one, and the force of it wholly independent of gesture or expression of feature. A fine reader should read, a great speaker speak, as a judge delivers his charge; and the test of his power
should be to read or speak unseen.
FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LEARN TO INTERPRET
LITERATURE SILENTLY OR THROUGH
THE MEDIUM OF THE VOICE
S. H. CLARK
The University of Chicago
book of Best Readings,” etc.