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principle of "every man his own teacher;"—for it is self-evident that the teacher of elocution in schools, will effect his object much more readily by vivá voce instruction, accompanied by a few simple diagrams, than by attempting to insist too much upon an accurate knowledge of the abstract principles of the art.
Having been in the habit for many years of accustoming my pupils to the practice of public recitations, I have been compelled, in my anxiety to furnish them with new and appropriate selections, to search very extensively in order to find, and then to devote considerable time to arrange, pieces suitable for the purpose. In this way I have accumulated a larger collection of recitations, and of a much more varied and practical character than has ever yet been published in a single volume.
In the selections made, due caution has been exercised, in choosing such only as are calculated to elevate and strengthen the mind, or afford harmless amusement. In no instance have I presumed to interpolate lines, for the purpose of preserving the unity of the piece, even where extensive excision may have rendered the context rather abrupt, or the meaning of the author somewhat obscure, this being regarded as the less evil of the two; omissions have only been made, in addition to the cases already enumerated, when the selection would occupy too much time in delivery; and then only such, -as do not materially, if at all, - detract from the author's meaning, or the general effect of the extract.
In scenes adapted from dramatic writers, -and in this portion of the work it is believed considerable novelty will be found,-great alteration has frequently been unavoidable, in consequence of the necessity which existed, not only of omitting the female characters, but occasionally of linking together isolated passages, or scenes so as to form a connected and effective extract;—the work containing nothing but what
has been spoken publicly by boys,-or is deemed suitable for that purpose. Upon the principle that
“ All work and no play
Makes Jack a dull boy,”I have considerably enlarged the space usually allotted to pieces of a humorous character;-in it, will be found several by our modern writers, which it is believed have never been introduced into works of this kind before, and which I have found, in practice, very beneficial, by varying the somewhat monotonous character of school recitations.
The advantages, therefore, which I trust the work will be found to possess over others of a similar kind, are mainly these: - The number of the selections, their practical character,-and, to a great extent, their novelty. It is conceived, that the book is adapted to serve as a first-class reading book, in schools, and as a text book for Elocution Classes at Literary Institutions.
It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to urge the importance of the study and practice of elocution, particularly the latter,--for the greatest writers of all ages have borne testimony to the wonderful influence which oratorical power exerts over mankind. It has been well observed, that speeches of indifferent quality, well spoken, always produce an infinitely greater effect than those which, though far superior as literary compositions, have been tamely or monotously delivered; and that “even in the senate, the pulpit, and at the bar, the finest sentiments and the most brilliant ideas are often rendered ineffective by the monotonous, inappropriate, ungraceful, inanimate manner in which they are uttered.”—(Mr. Lennington's Speaker). This defect, which is frequently alluded to and deplored by the best writers of the day, might be remedied, if the study and practice of the elements of elocution were included in the
curriculum of our public and private schools generally; followed
up, if needed, by a higher course of study of the same subject at the Universities. It was well observed by Mr. Walker in his “Speaker” published upwards of sixty years since,--and the observation, with but few exceptions, is equally just now,—that the systems which had hitherto been promulgated were too delicate and complicated to be taught in schools;" and in accordance with this opinion, he enumerates only the more important inflections and modulations in a very succinct and practical manner,-describing more in detail, the principal gestures and positions suitable for delineating certain emotions, accompanying his remarks, in unison with the dictum of Horace,
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem
Ipse sibi tradet spectator" (Ars Poetica),
The accompanying illustrations have been engraved from photographs of two of my pupils, taken by myself, expressly for this work. I think that they will be found to comprehend all the leading positions, both absolute and relative.
In conclusion, I would venture, with much diffidence, to express a hope that my fellow-labourers in education, who may have experienced the difficulties I have described, in finding selections in every way suitable for school recitations, will consider that this compilation does, in a great measure,—if not wholly,— supply the desideratum.