« PreviousContinue »
Delivery, in the most general sense, is the communication of our thoughts to others, by oral language. The importance of this, in professions where it is the chief instrument by which one mind acts on others, is so obvious as to have given currency to the maxim, that an indifferent composition well delivered, is better received in any popular assembly, than a superior one, delivered badly. In no point is public sentimient more united than in this, that the usefulness of one whose main business is public speaking, depends greatly on an impressive elocution. This taste is not peculiar to the learned or the ignorant; it is the taste of all men.
But the importance of the subject, is by no means limited to public speakers. In this country, where literary institutions of every kind are springing up; and where the advantages of education are open to all, no one is qualified to hold a respectable rank in well-bred society, who is unable at least to read, in an interesting manner, the works of others. They who regard this as
may take as an example the celebrated response of the
Ibis et redibis nunquam peribis in bello. The eye has no means of judging whether the meaning is, you shall never return, or you shall never perish, unless a pause is inserted before or after nunquam, to determine with which verb it is grammatically connected.
So far the principles of written language go ;-they embrace words and pauses, and here stop. But the moment we come to transform this written language into oral, by reading aloud, a new set of principles come in with their claims, for which the arts of writing and of printing have made no provision. Here the reader becomes a speaker, and is required to mark with his voice the degrees of emphatic stress, and all the varieties of pitch, quantity of sound, and rate of utterance which sentiment demands. But he is trammelled with the narrowness of language as presented to the eye. He has been accustomed to regard words and pauses only, and all the movements of his voice are adjusted accordingly. You may tell him that he has a tone, but he knows not what you mean.
Tell him to be natural,—to be in earnest, and you have given him an excellent direction indeed, but how to apply it to the case in hand, is the difficulty. He is more rapid perhaps, or more loud, for this admonition, but under the dominion of inveterate habit, he goes on with his tone still.
To the above defect in the art of printing, let another fact be added, that a great proportion of language, as it appears in books, neither demands nor admits any variety of tones and emphasis; and another still, that, in most
men, habits of voice, once established, cannot be changed without great and persevering efforts ; and it will not seem strange that the number of good readers is so small, even among educated and professional men. British writers have constantly complained of the dull, formal manner in which the Liturgy and the sacred Scriptures are read in their churches. And often, in the pulpits of this country, the reading of the Bible is apparently so destitute, not of feeling and devotion merely, but of all just discrimination, as to remind one of the question put by Philip to the nobleman of Ethiopia; “Understandest thou what thou readest ?”
When we consider the extent to which these faults prevail in rhetorical reading, and the correspondent faults which of course prevail in public speaking, it is time that this greatly neglected subject should receive its due share of attention, amid the general advances in other departments of literature and taste,
Now, if there could at once spring up in our country a supply of teachers, competent, as living models, to regulate the tones of boys, in the forming age,---nothing more would be needed. But, to a great extent, these teachers are to be themselves forined. And to produce the transformation which the case demands, some attempt seems necessary to go to the root of the evil, by incorporating the principles of spoken language with the written, Not that such a change should be attempted in respect to books generally ; but in books of elocution, designed for this single purpose, visible marks may be employed, sufficient to designate the chief points of established correspondence between sentiment and voice. These princi
ples being well settled in the mind of the pupil, may be spontaneously applied, where no such marks are used.
But as this subject is to be resumed under the head of inflections, I drop it here, with a remark or two in passing.
Be it remembered then, that all directions as to management of the voice, must be regarded as subsidiary to expression of feeling, or they are worse than useless. * Emotion is the thing. One flash 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 of mere rules, where feeling is absent.* The benefit of analysis and precept is, to aid the teacher in making the pupil conscious of his own faults, as a prerequisite to their correction. The object is to unfetter the soul, and set it free to act. In doing this a notation for the eye, designed to regulate the voice in a few obvious particulars, may be of much advantage: otherwise why shall we not dismiss punctuation too from books, and depend wholly on the teacher for pauses, as well as tones ?
The reasonable prejudice which some intelligent men have felt against any system of notation, arises from the preposterous extent to which it has been carried by a few popular teachers, and especially by their humble imitators. A judicious medium is what we want. Five characters in music, and six vowels in writing, enter into an infinitude of combinations in melody and language. So the elementary modifications of voice in speaking are few, and easily