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Unhappy Close of Life,
HUMOROUS, SATIRICAL, AND COMIC PIECES.
On Female Oratory,
Awkwardness in Company,
Receipt to make an Epic Poem,
From Speeches of Lord Mansfield, 423 Burke's Panegyrio on the Elo-
LITERARY CLASS BOOK;
It is usual to preface COMPILATIONS of this kind with rules for reading founded upon the INFLECTIONS OF THE VOICE, as developed by Walker in his “Elements of Elocution." Those rules, and the principles on which they are founded, are, in our estimation, more ingenious in theory than useful in application; and such, we are confident, is the general opinion. Even of the teachers who use such compilations in their schools, few, we are convinced, require their pupils to peruse the “ Principles of Elocution" prefixed to them, much less to apply them in practice.
And so much the better; for no person ever became a GOOD READER by being taught to READ BY RULE. In fact, the followers of Walker have made far more of the “Inflections of the Voice” than even he attempted. His views on the subject were at first put forward doubtingly, and theoretically; and even when he had convinced himself that he had made a great “ discovery” in this respect, and that he had succeeded in founding a System of Elocution thereon, he evidently betrays doubts with regard to its utility in practice.* The truth is, he was too shrewd not to perceive that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to apply in practice, and upon the spur of
• " Elements of Elocution," Part II. & 10.
the moment, the numerous and complicated rules which he had laid down; and in point of fact, his doctrine on the subject just amounts to this, that a GOOD READER will, in certain constructions of language, employ certain inflections of voice; and that such inflections, in such cases, should be imitated by all who desire to become good readers. Now, it follows from this, that as a good reader is sure to employ on all occasions the inflections of voice that are natural and suitable, the shortest and easiest way of effecting the object would be, to aim directly at becoming a GOOD READER. When this end is attained, rules for the purpose become unnecessary and absurd. The following admirable observations from Archbishop Whately's excellent “Treatise on Rhetoric,” are conclusive on this point:
“To the adoption of any such artificial scheme there are three weighty objections: first, that the proposed system must necessarily be imperfect; secondly, that if it were perfect, it would be a circuitous path to the object in view; and, thirdly, that even if both those objections were removed, the object would not be effectually obtained.
“ Ist. Such a system must necessarily be imperfect; because though the emphatic word in each sentence may easily be pointed out in writing, no variety of marks that could be invented—not even musical notation_would suffice to indicate the different tones in which the different emphatic words should be pronounced; though on this depends frequently the whole force, and even sense, of the expression. Take, as an instance, the words of Macbeth in the witches' cave, when he is addressed by one of the spirits which they raise, · Macbeth! Macbeth! acbeth!' on which he exclaims, •Had I three ears I'd hear thee:' no one would dispute that the stress is to be laid on the word “three,' and thus much might be indicated to the reader's eye; but if he had nothing else to trust to, he might chance to deliver the passage in such a manner as to be utterly absurd; for it is possible to pronounce the emphatic word 'three' in such a tone as to indicate that since he has but two ears he cannot hear. Again, the following passage, (Mark iv. 21,) • Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel or under a bed,' I have heard so pronounced as to imply that there is no other alternative : and yet the emphasis was laid on the right words. It would be nearly as hopeless a task to attempt adequately to convey, by any written marks, precise directions as to the rate the degree of rapidity or slowness with which each sentence and clause should be delivered. Longer and shorter pauses may indeed be easily denoted; and marks may be used, similar to those in music, to indicate, generally, quick, slow, or moderate time; but it is evident that the variations which actually take place are infinite_far beyond what any marks could suggest; and that much of the force of what is said depends on the degree of rapidity with which it is uttered; chiefly on the relative rapidity of one part in comparison of another. For instance, in such a sentence as the following, in one of the Psalms, which one may usually hear read at one uniform rate, ‘All men that see it shall say, This has God done; for they shall perceive that it is his work;' the four words, this has God done,' though monosyllables, ought to occupy very little less time in utterance than all the rest of the verse together.
“ 2nd. But were it even possible to bring to the highest perfection the proposed system of marks, it would still be a circuitous road to the desired end. Suppose it could be completely indicated to the eye in what tone each word and sentence should be pronounced, according to the several occasions, the learner might ask, but why should this tone suit the awful —this, the pathetic—this, the narrative style? Why is this mode of delivery adopted for a command—this, for an exhortation—this, for a supplication ? &c. The only answer that could be given is, that these tones, emphases, &c., are a part of the language; that nature, or custom, which is a second nature, suggests spontaneously these different modes of giving expression to the different thoughts, feelings, and designs which are present to the mind of any one who, without study, is speaking in earnest his own sentiments. Then, if this be the case, why not leave nature to do her own work? Impress but the mind fully with the sentiments, &c., to be uttered ; withdraw the attention from the sound, and fix it on the sense ; and nature, habit, will spontaneously suggest the proper delivery. That this will be the case, is not only true, but it is the very supposition on which the artificial system proceeds; for it professes to teach the mode of delivery naturally adapted to each occasion. It is surely, therefore, a circuitous path that is proposed, when the learner is directed first to consider how each passage ought to be read; i. e. what mode of delivering each part of it would spontaneously occur to him if he were attending exclusively to the matter of it; then, to observe all the modulations, &c., of voice which take place in such a delivery; then, to note these down by established marks in writing; and, lastly, to pronounce according to these marks. This seems like recommending, for the purpose of raising the