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ical and sentimental beauties than any other book; and it is a worthy object, when opportunities favor, to present these beauties to the scholar and the man of taste.
PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION.
BY ELOCUTION, in the modern use of the term, IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD THE PRONUNCIATION OF SENTENCES EITHER IN READING OR SPEAKING.* As well observed by Dr. Abercrombie, [Port Folio, July, 1810,] “Reading should be considered, as nothing more than speaking at sight, by the assistance of letters.” So far then, as the voice may be concerned, to SPEAK WELL AND TO READ WELL, ARE ONE AND THE SAME THING. The principles, contained in the following treatise, therefore, may with equal fitness be applied to either.
*When this book is used in schools, those definitions and rules which are printed in capitals, should be committed to memory.
An attempt to reduce the principles of reading to a theoretic system of any considerable extent, is, I am aware, regarded by many, as impracticable and useless. It is said, that the oral expression should in all cases be adapted to the sense, and that as the latter is, so the former should be infinitely various; and therefore not to be regulated by specific rules. It is true, the sentiments we may have occasion to read, are infinitely various; and it is impossible to define by any rules, that can be given, all the diversities, a perfect elocution may require. But the like may with equal truth be affirmed of music, and almost every art that can be named. The questions, to be solved by arithmetic, are infinitely various; but still there are many analogies among them, whereby they are rendered susceptible of rules, the utility of which it were folly to deny.
Some perhaps may imagine there is a wide difference between the principles of arithmetic, for instance, and those of elocution ; apprehending that the former, but not the latter are derived from nature and unalterable truth, to which as a standard they may always be referred. I think, however, it may be made to appear, that there is no practical difference between them. I will not say that certain qualities, or forms, or relations of sound are naturally suited to express and to produce certain affections or emotions of mind; but, if they be not so from nature, they are so from habits, so early and so general, as are not to be distinguished from nature itself. The genuine principles of elocution, like those of natural philosophy, are founded entirely on experiment and observation. To determine, how a particular sentiment or sentence should be uttered, we are to inquire, how those of a similar kind are uttered, in common conversation, where nature is unbiased and unrestrained ; and where, so far as the grand essentials of expression are concerned, there is a general agreement of all classes, from the most illiterate to the most learned; all having the like emphases, the like inflections, and the like intonations.*
*In regard to the general agreement, it is observed by Dr. Abercrombie, (Lect. 111.) “There are few people, who speak English with ease, who have not the most accurate use of emphasis and tone, when they utter their sentiments in common discourse. There is little need
But again; if to read naturally and to read well are one and the same thing, as also to read *unnaturally and to read ill, it may be asked, What need of particular rules ? why not leave the learner to the influence of nature, without any other guide? To this I answer, Because unnatural habits of reading have become so tinveterate and so general, that scarcely one of authorities, however, on a fact, which is notorious to every person of discernment and observation.
*Says Mr. Sheridan, · Where truth is concerned, the very faults of a speaker, which seem natural, are more agreeable to the hearer, than such beauties, as are apparently borrowed; in the same manner, as the most indifferent natural complexion is preferred by those, whose taste is not corrupted, to the finest painted skin." Lect. 7. On Elocution.
The following representations of Mr. Sheridan are too generally descriptive of our own country at the present day. •In this' (the art of Reading,) 'there are few that succeed even tolerably.' • The art itself has always been in the lowest state among us, and this proceeds from a method of teaching it, erroneous and defective to the last degree.' (Lect. 1, Art of Reading:) I appeal to the experience of mankind, whether in general any thing else be taught, but the pronunciation of words, and the observation of the stops.' (Lect. 5.) "We aro taught to deliver our own exercises, or the works of others, with little or no variation of voice, or else with some disagreeable, discordant cant, applied to all sentences alike.' (Diss. 2.)