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American Monitor, &c.
ELOCUTION. ELOCUTION is a branch of oratory, the power and importance of which, is greater than is generally thought; insomuch that eloquence takes its name from it.
It was much cultivated by Quintilian, and before him by Cicero, and before him by M. Antonius; but before his time, it was too much neglected by the Roman crators: Which made him say, “ he had seen many men famous for eloquence, but jot one of them that understood elocution."
But what stress was laid upon it by the Greek orators, appears from that celebrated saying of Demosthenes; who being asked, what was the first principal thing in oratory? answered, Pronunciation; being asked again, what was fecond ? replied, Pronunciation. And what was the third ? Pronunciation. Denoting that, in his judgment, the whole art, fpirit, and
confifted in this. Cicero, and after him Quintilian, divided oratory into five parts: 1. Invention-by which we provide ourselves with suitable and sufficient materials for a discourse. 2. Disposition -by which they meant the division of their subject into parts and sentences, according to the most natural order ; and consequently; the proper distribution and arrangement of their ideas. 3. Elocution-by which they always meant, what we call Diction; which consists in fuiting our words to our ideas, and the style to the subject. 4. Memory, or a faculty of clearly difcerning and retaining our ideas, and of calling to mind the propereit words by which to express them. 5. Pro. nunciation; or the art of managing the voice and getture in speaking.
So that by pronunciation, the ancients understood bothi Elocution and Action; and comprehended in it the right managenient of the voice, looks, and gesture. To the former of these, viz. the right management of the voice in reading or speaking, which is indifferently called by us, Elocution and Pronunciation, 1 shall here confine myself.
The great design and end of a good pronunciation is, to make the ideas seem to come from the heart ; and then they will not fail to,excite the attention and affections of those that
hcar us: from which the great benefit and usefulness of this 100 much neglected art may be seen.
Of Bad Pronunciation. THE several faults of pronunciation are these following: I. When the voice is too loud.
This is very disagreeable to the hearer, and very inconvenient to the speaker.
It will be very disagreeable to the hearers, if they be persons of good talle ; who will always look upon it to be the effect either of ignorance or affectation.
Some will impute it to your ignorance, and suppose that you were never instructed better, lince you left the reading school; where children generally get a habit of reading in a high-pitched key, or a uniform elevated voice, without any regard to emphatis, cadence, or a graceful elocution.
Others will impute it to affectation ; or a design to work upon their pasions; which will immediately defeat the design, if you had it. For if you would effectually move the passions, you muit carefully conceal your intention so to do for as foon as the mind perceives you have such a design upon it, it will be upon its guard. However, none but the most low, weak, and mechanical minds will be affected with mere dint of found and noise. And the passions so raised leave no lasting or valuable effects upon the mind, and answer no good purpose or end; because the understanding hath nothing to do with such impressions, and the memory no handle by which to retain or recall them. Not to say, it often answers a bad end; affects the mind in a wrong place, and gives it a false Lias. However this may be thought to become the stage or the bar, it least of all befits the pulpit ; where all ought to be folemn, ferious, rational, and grave as the subjects there treated of.
It is false oratory then to seek to persuade or affect by mere vehemence of voice : a thing that tath been often attempted by men of mean furniture, low genius, or bad taste, among the ancients as well as the moderns. A practice which formerly gave the judicious Quintilian great offence : who calls it not only clamouring, but furious bellowing; not vehemence, but downright violence.
Besides, an overstrained voice is very inconvenient to the speaker, as well as disgustful to judicious hearers. It exhausts his fpirits to no purpose ; and takes from him the proper management and modulation of his voice according to the sense
15 of his subject : and, what is worst of all, it naturally leads him into a tone.
Every man's voice indeed should fill the place where he speaks ; but if it exceed its natural key, it will be neither sweet, nor soft, nor agreeable, because he will not be able to give every word its proper and distinguishing sound.
2. Another fault in pronunciation is when the voice is too low.
This is not so inconvenient to the speaker, but is as disagreeable to the hearer, as the other extreme. And inderd to the generality of hearers a too low voice is much more displeasing than a too loud one; especially to those who are troubled with an impediment in hearing, and those who are best pleafed with a lively and pathetic address, as most are. It is always offensive to an audience to observe any thing in the reader or speaker that looks like indolence or inattention. The hearer will never be affected whilst he sees the speaker indifferent.
The art of governing the voice consists a good deal ia dexterously avoiding these two extremes: at least, this ought to be first minded. And for a general rule to direct you herein, I know of none better than this carefully to preferv: the key, that is, the command of your voice; and at the same time, to adapt the elevation and strength of it to the condition and number of the persons you speak to, and the nature of the place you speak in.-It would be altogether as ridiculous in a general who is haranguing an army to speak in a low and languid voice, as in a person who reads a chapter in a family, to speak in a loud and eager one.
3. Another fault of pronunciation is a thick, hasty, cluttering voice.
This is, when a person mumbles, or clips, or swallows his words, that is, leaves out some syllables in the long words, and never pronounces some of the short ones at all ; but hurries on without any care to be heard distinctly, or to give his words their full sound, or his hearers the full sense of them.
This is often owing to a defect in the organs of speech, or a too great flutter of the animal spirits; but oftener to a bad habit uncorrected.
Demosthenes, the greatest orator Greece ever produced, had, it is said, nevertheless, three natural impediments in propunciation; all which he conquered by invincible labour ard perseverance. One was a weakness of voice : which he cured by frequently declaiming on the sea-shore, amidit the noise of the wares. Another was a shortness of breath; which he mended by repeating his orations as he walked up a hill. And the other was the fault I am speaking of; a thick mumbling way of speaking; which he broke himself of by declaiming with pebbles in his mouth.
4. Another fault in pronunciation is when persons speak too quick.
There is scarce any fault more common than this, especially among young persons, who imagine they can read very well, and are not afraid of being fopped in their career by the un. expected intervention of any hard word. And scarce any bad habit of the voice is conquered with more difficulty ; though one would imagine nothing is more easy.
This manner of reading may do well enough when we are examining leases; perusing indentures; or reciting acts of par. Jiament, where there is always a great fuperfluity of words ; or in reading a newspaper, where there is but little matter that deferves our attention ; but is very improper in reading books of devotion and inltruction, and especially the sacred scriptures, where the folemnity of the subject or the weight of the sense demands a particular regard. But it is most of all inexcusable to read forms of prayer in this manner as acts of devotion. The
great disadvantage which attends this manner of pronunciation, is, that the hearer loses the benefit of more than half the good things he hears, and would fain remember, but
And a speaker fhould always have a regard to the memory, as well as the understanding, of his hearers.
5. It is also a fault to speak too slow.
Some are apt to read in a heavy, droning, sleepy way; and through mere carelessness make pauses at improper places. This is very disagreeable. But to hem, hauk, sneeze, yawn, or cough, between the periods, is valtly more so.
A too low elocution is most faulty in reading trifles that do not require attention. It then becomes tedious. A perfon that is addicted to this Now way of speaking should always take care to reward the bearer's patience with important sentiments, and compensate the want of words by a weight of thoughts ; and give his discourse its proper quantity of folid sense, that, as we say, what it wants in length, it may make out in breadth,
But a too slow elocution is a fault very rarely to be found, unless in aged people, and those who naturally speak so in common conversation. And in these, if the pronunciation be in all other respects just, decent, and proper, and especially if the subject be weighty or intricate, it is very excusable.
17 6. An irregular or uneven voice, is a great fault in reading.
That is, when the voice rises and falls by fits and starts, or when it is elevated and depressed unnaturally or unseasonably, without regard to sense or stops; or always beginning a fentence with a high voice, and concluding it with a low one, or vice versa; or always beginning and concluding it with the same key. Opposite to this is
7. A flat, dull, uniform tone of voice, without emphasis or cadence, or any regard to the sense or subject of what is read.
This is a habit, which children who have been used to read their lessons by way of task, are very apt to fall into, and retain as they grow up; such a monotony as attorneys' clerks read in, when they examine an engrossed deed. This is a great infelicity when it becomes habitual; because it deprives the hearer of the greatest part of the benefit or advantage he might reccive by a close attention to the most weighty and interesting parts of the fubje&t, which should always be distinguished or pointed out by the pronunciation-For a just pronunciation is a good commentary.
Laitly, the greatest and most common fault of all is reading with a tone.
No habit is more easy to be contracted than this, or more hard to be conquered. This unnatural tone in reading and speaking is very various ; but whatever it be, it is always dila guftful to persons of delicacy and judgment.
Some have a woinanish squeaking tone ; which, persons whose voices are forill and weak, and over-trained, are very
apt to fall into.
Some have a singing or canting tone, which enthufiaftic speakers generally much affect, and by which their hearers are often much affected. Others affect a high, swelling, theatrical tone; who being ambitious of the fanie of fine orators, lay too much emphasis on every sentence, and thereby tranfgre's the rules of true oratory.
Others affect an awful and Itriking tone, attended with folemn grimace, as if they would move you with every word, whether the weight of the subject bear them out or not. This is what persons of a gloomy or melancholy cast of mind are most apt to give into.
Some have a fet uniform tone of voice; which I have already taken notice of.-Others, an odd, whimsical, whining tone, peculiar to themselves, and not to be described-only that it is laying the emphasis on words which do not require or deferve it.