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UPON THE PRINCIPLES OF GOOD READING.
An ability to read in a correct and interesting manner, has become indispensably requisite for all who would hold a respectable station in society; and not only should its acquisition be considered as a polite accomplishment, but as a talent, subservient to the purposes of business, and of rational enjoyment.
There are indeed but few persons in this country, who are unable to read with some degree of correctness; yet those who
be called good readers, are less frequently met with than is generally imagined. Perfection in the art of reading, requires a natural talent, joined to the most persevering industry; and although it is a point to which few if any are ever able to arrive, yet every approach to it is of comparative value, and worth the effort required for its attainment.
Perhaps there cannot be a more unerring standard fixed for reading, than to adopt the same easy and natural mode that we would in common conversation. In the latter our object is to communicate our own thoughts; in the former to communicate the thoughts of others;and in both we wish to do it in the manner calculated to make us best understood. By this remark we do not design to recommend to those, who have adopted a careless manner of conversation, the adoption of a similar one in reading; but the same rules which serve to improve the one, may, by their application, have the same happy effect upon the other. But let it be distinctly understood, that no rules can be given for the management of the voice in reading, which, independent of feeling, can insure the object desired. “Emotion," says a distinguished writer, " is the thing. One flush of passion on the cheek, one beam of feeling from the eye, one thrilling note of sensibility from the tongue, have a thousand times more value than any exemplification
mere rules, where feeling is absent." The observations which we shall make upon the principles of reading, or manner of delivery, will be comprised under the following heads : ArticuLATION, ACCENT, EMPHASIS, INFLECTION, MONOTONE, and MODULATION, with a few remarks upon the READING OF VERSE.
1. Articulation. A GOOD articulation consists in a clear and distinct utterance of the different sounds of the language; and is one of the most important particulars to be considered. No matter upon what subject, or upon what occasion a man may read or speak to his fellow men, he never will be listened to for any length of time, unless he be distinctly heard, and that without effort on the part of his hearers. No interest of the subject can excuse a rapid and indistinct utterance. Many there are
who fail in this particular. Some persons have natural impediments, which render the utterance of certain sounds quite difficult; but an indistinct articulation more frequently arises from a want of care to avoid it, and from a too much indulged disposition in children when learning to read, to hurry over their lessons with a rapidity which renders them unable to articulate, distinctly, the unaccented syllables. And it may here be observed, that teachers cannot too sedulously guard their pupils against this practice—a practice which, if tolerated in the young reader, will soon become a confirmed habit—an uncompromising barrier to a good delivery,
Those who have been accustomed to converse with persons partially deaf, can well appreciate the importance of distinct utterance. A moderate voice with a clear articulation, is much more readily heard by such persons, than an indistinct one however loud; and it is from the same cause that a man with but a feeble voice, can make himself better understood by a large assembly, than the possessor of a powerful one without an observance of a just articulation. It was to a de fect in his articulation that Demosthenes attributed the failure which attended his first efforts in public speaking; and to his success in surmounting this difficulty, we may attribute his elevation from an uninteresting speaker, to one of the most renowned orators of any age.
One of the sources of an indistinct articulation, may be traced to an inattention in giving the proper sounds to the unaccented vowels. In many words, by a careless articulation one vowel is substituted for another; thus,-for educate, we hear ed-e-cate; for calculate, cal-kelate; for populous, pop-e-lous ; &c. In some words the vowel is nearly or quite suppressed; as, for the word, prevail, we hear pr-vail;
for predict, pr-dict; for propose, pr-pose; for provide, pr-vide, &c. The accented vowels, too, in words which are followed by the same or similar sounds, are often but indistinctly uttered, as may be seen by the following example :
“Tho oft the ear the open vowels tire." But the greatest source of defective articulation, lies in the circumstance that it depends mostly upon the consonant sounds, many of which require some effort to articulate. The vowel sounds are easily expressed; but many of the consonants, under certain arrangements of letters, are hard of utterance, and are often not articulated at all. This is particularly the case where the termination of one word or syllable, with one or more consonants, is succeeded by a similar arrangement in the syllable or word next following, as was the case with the vowels in the above example. Thus,-in syllables, -attempt, atempt; afflict, af-lict; ennoble, en-oble ; tyranny, ty-ran-y; appeale ap-eal, &c. In words,
The youth hates study.
The youth hates tudy.
The steadfas tranger in the fores trayed.
teachers ought to prove his work;"_and whether to understand that “his teachers ought to prove;" or, “his teacher sought to prove;" or, “his teachers ought to approve;" might be a subject of unsatisfied anxiety. In the following, the sense is entirely perverted by not uttering a consonant distinctly
The horse performs well on neither side.
The horse performs well on either side. Teachers seldom pay sufficient attention to this branch of elocution, in instructing their pupils. It is the basis, upon which all the other properties of a good delivery rest; and it will be in vain to press pupils forward, in the hope of their becoming good readers, until they first form a habit of distinct utterance. Those who have acquired a habit of indistinct articulation, should be made to read slow, and with a reference solely to this defect; and this practice should be continued, until a correct habit be formed.
Whoever will listen to the reading or speaking of others, may observe that a bad articulation is not unfrequent. Letters, words, and sometimes parts of sentences, are often so nearly suppressed, or blended together, as almost to baffle all effort to apprehend the meaning. To prevent this, requires nothing more than practice upon the elementary sounds of the language; and a daily exercise upon them, exclusively, in reading and conversation, would be attended with the most profitable results to all who are defective in this important attainment. The following exercises present some of the most difficult sentences to articulate :-In reading them, let every word be
and distinctly articulated :
The finest street in Naples.'
She authoritatively led us, and disinterestedly labored for us; and we un. hesitatingly admitted her reasonableness.
AUSTIN, a modern writer on delivery, says: "In just articulation the words are not to be hurried over, nor precipitated, syllable over syllable; nor, as it were, melted together in a mass of confusion. They should neither be abridged, nor prolonged; nor swallowed, nor forced; they should not be trailed, nor drawled, nor let to slip out care lessly, so as to drop unfinished. They are to be delivered out from the lips as beautiful coins, newly issued from the mint; deeply and accurately impressed; perfectly finished; neatly struck by the proper organs; distinct; in due succession, and of due weight.”
II. Accent. ALTHOUGH under the head of articulation we have urged the distinct utterance of all the syllables of a sentence, yet every word of more than one syllable, requires a greater stress of the voice upon some one of its syllables than upon the rest, which streis denominated accent. The syllable on which the accent in in most words established by custom, and the ser
on it: but in some few words This may be the case while t, (a wilderness)-desert,
(merit)—to conjure, to conjure, &c. The accent also distinguishes between the same word used as a noun and an adjective; as, minute, minute ; compact, compact; and it also distinguishes between the noun and the verb; as, conduct, to conduct; insult, to insult, &c. Accent is sometimes controlled by emphasis; and in words which have a sameness of form, but are contrasted in sense, it frequently falls upon syllables, to which, did not the emphasis require it, it would not be long; as, He shall increase, but I shall decrease; there is a difference between giving, and forgiving. Although the meaning of comparatively but few words is affected by the accent, its proper use tends to promote the harmony of utterance, and should be governed by the most approved usage and taste.
III. Emphasis. EMPHASIS is the forcible, and peculiar utterance of those words of a sentence, upon which the meaning depends. On the right use of emphasis, rest the whole beauty and intelligence of delivery. When it is not used at all, discourse becomes heavy and insipid; and if it be used wrong, it must be at the expense of the meaning of the authur, whose ideas it is the object of reading to attain.
To give rules by which the proper use of emphasis may be learned, without entering into the meaning and spirit of the composition, is not possible. It is governed by the sentiment, and is inseparably associated with thought and emotion. The right use of emphasis indeed requires, not only an understanding of the author's meaning, but a cor
ponding feeling on the part of the reader: for, although by an understanding of the meaning of a sentence we may be able to point out the emphatic words, yet without entering, to a certain extent, into the same feeling which dictated the sentiment, that peculiar modulation of emphasis which constitutes the beauty of delivery, and which alone can express the true meaning, and the whole meaning of the author, can not be exercised.
Strong emphasis is sometimes required upon words in consideration of their absolute importance; but its principal use is to enforce particular ideas, in contradistinction from others, which are supposed to have been hitherto entertained, or which, it is feared, may be at present received. The learner will observe that in almost every case, where a word requires emphasis, there is some other idea suggested in opposition to that expressed by the word emphasized, and from which the emphasis invites the particular distinction. In some sentences this opposite or antithetic idea is expressed in words, but more frequently it is not. When it is expressed, the words forming both parts of the antithesis receive the emphasis, and there can be no difficulty in discovering them, -as in the following couplet from Pope:
Tis hard to say if greater want of skill
Appear in writing, or in judging ill. But when the word or words in opposition are not expressed, reliance is placed upon the unders' - to supply them. Brutus, in Shaks peare's Julius Cesar, s
wronged yourself to write in such a case.
express ed, and the judgme sense, or the emphi
meaning.. Brutus, in making this assertion, did it under the impression that Cassius thought himself injured by some other person. Taking this, then, for the antithetic idea, and the one which Brutus wished to controvert, the emphasis is involuntarily thrown upon yourself, and this makes the sentence express its true meaning,—thus:
You wronged yourself to write in such a case. The following short sentence may be the appropriate answer to either of five different questions; and consequently be made to express so many different ideas by the emphasis alone :
Thomas will walk to Geneva to-day. If the question be, who will walk to Geneva to-day, it is determined by placing the emphasis in this sentence on Thomas. If it is doubtful whether any one go, it is decided by placing the emphasis on will. If the question be how will he go, it is answered by płacing the emphasis on walk; and, in the same manner, it will be seen that the emphasis, placed upon either of the remaining words of the sentence, makes it the appropriate answer to the question touching place, or time.
This example will further illustrate the subject, by so transposing it as to make it interrogative. The character of the answer will de pend wholly upon the emphasis.
Will Thomas walk to Geneva to-day ?
Answer-No; he will not.
Ans. No; but John will.
Ans. No; he will ride.
Ans. No. He will go to Lyons.
Ans. No; but he will to-morrow. Although the emphasis more commonly falls upon the more important words of a sentence, the following example is one, in which it is required upon a succession of small words. Bassanio, in Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice, had received a ring from his wife, which he had promised never to part with, but which, forgetting his promise, he gave to an officer as a reward for the preservation of his friend's life. The example is his apology to his wife; but without the proper emphasis it is hardly intelligible:
"If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
You would abate the strength of your displeasure." Thus far our remarks upon emphasis have been confined to whas may be called single emphasis; that is, where the emphasis is absolute, and arises from the importance of the word in itself considered; or, where the two words in antithesis are expressed; or, where but one is expressed and the other understood—the most common case. There are also instances where two emphatic words are opposed to two others; and sometimes where three words are opposed to three others in the same sentence. We will give an example of each of these cases.