Lindley Murray.

The English reader; or, Pieces in prose and poetry, selected from the best writers, designed to assist young persons to read with propriety and effect ... With a few preliminary observations on the principles of good reading online

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Online LibraryLindley MurrayThe English reader; or, Pieces in prose and poetry, selected from the best writers, designed to assist young persons to read with propriety and effect ... With a few preliminary observations on the principles of good reading → online text (page 1 of 24)
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No. 44^0RTH Fourth. Stbeet.


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Mant selections of excellent matter liave been made for the benefit
of young persons. Performances of this kind are of so great utility,
that fresh prociucticns of them, and new attempts to improve the
young mind, will scarcely be deemed superfluous, if the writer niaku
his conipilaiion instructive and iiuerestjug, and sufficiently distinct
from others.

The present work, as the title expresses, aims at the attainment of
three objects : to improve youth in the art of reading ; to meliorate
their language and sentiments ; and to inculcate some of the most im-
portant principles of piety and virtue.

The pieces selected, not only give exercise to a great variety of
emotions, and the correspondent tones and variations of voice, but
contain sentences and members of sentences, which are diversified,
proportioned, and pointed with accuracy. Exercises of this nature
are, it is presumed, well calculated to teach youth to read with pro-
priety and effect. A selection of sentences, in wliich variety and pro-
portion, with exact punctuation, have been carefully observed, in all
their parts as well as with respect to one, will probably have
a much ;;reater effect, in properly teaching the art of reading, than is
commonly imaguied. In such constructions, every thing is accoin-
-nodated to the understanding and die voice : and the common difti-
cultiesin learning to read well are obviated. —When the learner has
acquired a habit of reading such sentences, A^ith justness and facility,
he will readily apply that habit, and tlie improvements he has made,
to sentences iiiqre coiupl^pated . and irregular, and of a construction
entirely different. •, ^\ X '■„

The language of the pieces chosen for this collection has been care-
fully regarded. Purity, propriety', perspicuity, and, in nicuiy instances,
elegance of diction, distinguish them. They are extracted from the
works of the most coriect and elegant writers. From the sources
whence the sentiments are drawn, the jeader may expect to find them
connected and regular, sufficiently important and impressive, and di-
vested of everything that is either trite or eccentric. The frequent
perusal of sucii conipositioii naturally tends to infuse a taste for this
species of excellence ; and to produce a habit of thinking, and of
coinposing, with judgment and accuracj'.*

That this collection may also serve the' purpose of promoting piety
and virtue, the Compiler has introduced many extracts, which place

* The learner, in his progress through this volume and the Sequel to
It, will meet with numerous instances of composition, in strict confor-
mity to tlie rules for promoting perspicuous and elegant writing con-
tained in the Appendix to the Author's English Grammar. By occa-
sionally examining this conformity, he will be confirmed in the utility
of those rules ; and be enabled to apply them with ease and dexterity.

It is proper further to observe, that the Reader and the Sequel, be
sides teacliing to read accurately, and inculcating many important
sentiments, may be considered as auxiliaries to the Author's Enghsli
Grammar; as practical illustrations of the principles and rules con-
tamtu ill mat work.


religion in the most amiable light: and which recommend a great
variety ol moral duties, by the excellence of their nature, and the
happy effects they produce. These subjects are exhibited in a style
and manner wh.ich arc calculaicfi to arrest the attention of youth;
and to make stron? and durable impressions on their minds.*

The Compiler has been careful tn avoid every expression and sen-
timent, that might gratify a corrupt mind, or, in the least degree,
offend the eye or ear of innocence. Tliis he conceives to be peculiar-
ly inciunbent on every person who writes for the benefit of youth.
It would indeed be a great and happy improveuient in education, if no
writings were allowed to come imder their notice, hut such a.s are per-
fectly innocent ; and if on all proper occasions, they were encouraged
to peruse those n hich tend to in^ipire a due reverence for v-rtue, and an
abhorrence of vice, as well as to animate them with sentiments of piety
and goodness. Such impressions deeply engraven on their minds, and
connected with all their attainments, could scarcely fail of attending
them through life, and of producing a solidity of principle and char-
acter, that would be altle to resist the danger arising from future inter-
course with the world.

The Authour has eudeavourea to relieve the grave Emd serious
parts of his collection, by the occasional admission of pieces whic*"
amuse as well as instruct. If, however, any of his readers shoul»
think it contains too great a proportion of the former, it may be sonv
apologj- to obser\'e, that in the existing publications designed for th%
perusal of young persons, ihe preponrlerance is greatly on the side oi
gay and amusing productions. Too much attention may be paid te
this medium of improvement. When the imagination, of youth es-
pecially. Is much entertained, the sober dictates of the understanding
are regarded with indifference; and the influence of good affections is
either feeble or transient. A temperate use of such entertainment
seems therefore requisite, to afibrd proper scope for the operations of
the understanding and the heart.

Tlie readei will perceive, that the Compiler has been solicitous to
recommend to 3-oung persons, the perusal of the sacred Scriptures, by
interspercing through his work some of the most beautiful and hiterest-
ing passages of those invaluable writings. To excite an early taste and
veneration for this great rule of life, is a \Mih\i of so high importance,
as to watrant the attempt to promote it on evei-y proper occasion.

To improve the young mind, and to afl'oid some assistance to tutors,
in the arduous and important work of education, were the motives
which led to this production. If the Author should be so successful
as to accomplish these ends, even in a small degree, he will think that
his time and pains have been well employed, and will deem himself
amply rewarded.

* In some of the pieces, tlie Compiler has made a few alterations,
chiefly verbal, to adapt them tlie better to the desi^i of his work



To read with propriety is a pleasing and important attainment ;
productive of improvenicat both to the understanding and the heart.
It is essential to a complete reader, that he minutely perceive the
ideas, and enter into the feelings of the author, whose sentiments he
professes to repeat : for how is it possible to represent clearly to
others, what we have bat faint or inaccurate conceptions of ourselves?
If there were no other benefits resulthig from the art of reading well,
than the necessity it lays us luider, of precisely ascertaining themean-
ing of what we read ; and the habit thence acquired, of doing this
with facility, both when reading silently and aloud, they would con-
stitute a suflicient compensation for all the labour we can bestow
upon the subject. But the pleasure derived to ourselves and crtliers,
frrm a clear communication of ideas and feelings; and the strong and
diirable impressions made thereby on the minds of the reader and the
audience, are considerations, which give additional importance to the
study of this necesssary and useful art. The perfect attainment of it
doubtless requires great attention and practice, joined to extraordi-
«iary natural powers : but as there are n.flny degrees of excellence in
'he art, the student whose aims ftlJ short r,f perfection, will find him-
self amply rewarded for every exertion he may think proper to iiiaKe.

To give rules for tlie management of tiie voice in reading, by which
tlie necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and
put in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be
offered on these points, much will remain to be taught b3' the living
insiructer : much will be attainable by no other means, than the
force of example influencing the imitative powers of the learner.
Some rules and principles on these heads will, however, be found use-
ful, to prevent erroneous and vicious modes of utterance; to give the
young reader some taste of the subject; and to assist him in acquiring
a just and accurate mode of delivery. The observations which we have
to make, for these purposes, may be conip'-ised under the following
lieads : PROPER i.oidxess of voice ; distinctness ; slowness ; pboprie-
TY Of pronunciation ; E..iPHAais ; tones ; pauses ; and mode of rf ad-



Proper loudness of voice.
The first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless,
must be, to make himself be heard by all those to whom he reads.
He must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occupied by tlie
company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natu-
ral talent. It is, ill a good measure, the gift of nature; but it may
receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this
For many cf tUe observations contamed in this preliminary tract,
the Author is indebted to the writings of Dr. Blai* and to the Ency
clopedia Bnlannica.



puTpose, on tlie proper pitch anH management of the voice. Eveiy
person has tliree pitches in his voice; the HWiH, the iniuniK, and tlie
i-o\vone. The high, is tliat wliich he ntesin calhng aloud to tome
l^rson at a distance. Tlic low is, v.hen he approaciiestoa whispet
The middle is, that which he employs in common conversation, and
which he should Generally use in reading to others. For it is a great
mistake, to imagine that one must take the highest pitch of his voice,
in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding
two things which are diffcren*, loudness or strength of sound, with
the key or note on whicii we speak. There is a variety of sound
within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his
voice louder, without altering the key-, and we siiall alwa5s be able
to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of
voice, to which in conversation we are accustomed. \\ lieieas by set-
ting out on our highest pilch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less
compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We
shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain ; and v.henever a pe/son
speaks with pain to himself, ho is always heard w ith pain by his au-
dience. Let us therefoie give the voice full strength a-.'.d sivtlj c\
sound ; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It si;ould
1)8 a consiant rule never to utter a gre^aer quantity of voice we
■an aftbid without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinarj-
effo't. As long as we keep within these bounds, tiie other orsians of
speecii will be at liberty to discharge their several offices witli ease;
and we shall always have our voice under command. But « hcnever
Tve transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have rio longer
any management of it. It is a useftil rule too, in order to be weB
heard, to cast our eye on some of the most distant persons in tlie
company, and to consider ourselves as reading to tlicm. We natii-
lally and mechanically utter our words with such a degree of strengtji,
as to make ourselves be heard hy the person whom we address, pro-
vided he is within the reach of our voice. As this is the case in con-
versation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us reirember
that in reading, as \^■^)\ as in conversation, it is possible to ofiend by
speaking too loud This extreme hurts the ear, by making the voice
come upon it in rumbling, indistinct masses.

By the habit of reading, when j'oung, in a loud and vehement man-
ner, the voice becomes fi.xed in a strained and imnatural kev; and ia
rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which
constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the rea-
der, and pleasure to the audience. This unnaiuraJ pitch of the voice,
and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were
taught to read in large rooms; who were accustomed to stand at too
great a distance, when reading to their teachers; whose instructers
were very imperfect in their hearing ; or who were taught bj' persons,
that jonsidercn loud e.xpression as the chief requisite in forming a
good reader. The^e are cir"umstances which demand the serious at-
tention of every one to whom the education of youth is committed



Tn the next place, to being well heard and clearly understood,
distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of
sound. The quantitj- of sound necessary to fill even a large space, is
smaller than is commonly imagined ; and, with distinct aniculation, a
person with a weak voice will make it reach farther, than the strongest
voice can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader cvs.hi to
pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its
due nroportion ; and make everj* syllable, and eveneverj* letter in ilie
word which he pronounces, be heard distinctly ; without slurring,
whispering, or suppressing any of the proper sounds.

An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds oi the lan-
guage, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinct-
ness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect,
imperfect, (and many there are in this situation) it will be incumbent
on his teacher, to carry him back to these articulations ; and
to suspend his progress, till he become perfect master of them. It
will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good
reader, if he cannot completely aiticulate every elementary soiaid of
the language."

Due degree of slmcness.
In order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with
regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech con-
founds all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to
obsene, that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It
is obvious that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows
the minds of the liearers tc be always outrunning the speaker, must
render every such performance insipid and fatigueing. But the extreme
of reailing too fast is much more common, and requires the more to
be gaurded against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few er-
rours are more difficult to be cor'-ected. To pronounce with a proper
degree of slowness, and with fidl and clear articulation, is necessary
to be studied by all, who wish to become good readers; and it cannot
be too much rt-commended to them. Such a pronunciation gives
weight and dignity to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice,
by the pauses and rests which it aIlos>'s the reader more easily to
make ; and it enables the reader to swell aU his sounds, both with
more force and more harmony.

Propriity of Pronvnciaiion.
A ITER the fjndamental attentions to the pitch and m.anagement of
the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness
of speech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study, is
propriety of pronunciation ; or, giving to evcr^- word which he utters,
that sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to it ; in
opposition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronunciation. This ia
requisite botli for reading intelligibly, and for reading with correctness


and ease. Instnictio)is conceniing this article may be best given by
the living teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not
be improper here to make. In the English language, every word
which consists of more syllables than one, has one accented sellable.
The accents rest sometimes on the vowel, sonietuiies on the consonajit.
The genius of the language requires the voice to mark tliat syllable
bj' a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest.
Now, after we have learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an
important rule, to give every word just the same accent in reading, as
in common discourse. Many persons err in this respect When th.ey
read to others, and with solemnit)', they pronounce the syllables in a
ditl'erent manner from what they do at other times. They dwell upon
them and protiact them; they multipl)' accents on the same word ;
from a nustaken notion, that it gives gravity and importsmce to their
subject, and adds to the energy of their delivery. Whereas this is one
of the greatest fauli§ that can be committed in pronunciation: il
makes what is called a pompous or mouthing manner ; and gives an
artificial, aftected air to reading, which detracts greatly both Ironi its
agreeableness and its impression.

Sheridan and VN alker have published Dictionaries, for ascertaining
the true and best proimnciation of the words of our language. Ey
attendvely consulting them, particidarly " Walker's Pronouncing
Dictionarj-," the young reader will be much assisted, in his endea-
vours to attain a correct pronuiiciation of the words belonging 'o tlw
English language.

By emphasis is meant a stroiiger and fuller sound of voice, by whxli
we distinguish some word or words, on which we design to laj' jiar
ticular stress, and to show how they aflect the rest of the sentence.
Sometimes the emphatic words must be distinguiihed by a particu'-ar
tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress. On the right manage-
ment of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation. If no em-
phasis be placed on any words, not only is discourse rendered heavy
and lifeless, but the meaning left often an biguous. If the emphasis
be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.

Emphasis may be divided hito the Si'perimir and the /n/triour em-
phasis. The superiour emphasis determines the meaning of a sen-
tence, with reference to somethmg said before, presupposed liy the
author as general knowledge, or removes an ambiguit)-, where a (.as-
eagemay ha\e more senses than one. The inferionr emphasis eiij'or-
ces, graces, and enlivens, but does not ^r, the n)eaning of any passage.
The words to which this latter emphasis is given, are, in general, such
as seem the most imp f^rtant in the sentence, or, on other account.'^ to
merit this distinction. The followhig passage will serve to exemplify
tiie superiour emphasis.

" Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit

" Of that fo-bidden tree, whose mortal taste

" Brought death into the worfa, and all qui woe," &c.

" Sing heavenly Muse I"


Supposing that originally other beings, besides men, had disobeyed
the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstance was
well known to us, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man'a
in tlie first iine ; and hence it would read thus:

" Of man's first disobedience, and the fiiiit," &c.

But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a
peculiar manner more than once, the emphasis would fall on first i
and the line be read,

" Of maii^s Jirst disobedience," &c.
Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an
unheard of and dreadful punishment, brought upon man in conse-
quence of his transgressicn ; on that supposition the third line would
be read,

" Brought death into the world," &c.
But if we were tc suppose that mankind knew there was such an
evil as death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had
been free from it till their transgression, the line would run thus:
" Brought death into the world," &c.
The superiour emphasis finds place in the following short sentence,
wliich admits of four distinct meanings, eachot which is ascertained
by the emphasis only.

" Do you ride to town to-day .'"
The following examples illustrate the nature and use of the inferi-
our emphasis:
" Many persons mistake the love for the practice of virtue."
"Shall i reward his services with falsehood? Shall I forget Aim
who cannot forget me ?

" If his principles are false, no apology from himself can make
them right : if founded in truth, no censure from others can make
them wrong y

" Though deep, yet clear ; though gentle, yet not diiU ,
" Strong without rage : witho'it o\rflowing, fall.''

" A friend exagerates a man's virtues ; an enemy, his crimes."

" The u)ise man is happy, when he gains his own approbation ; the
fool, wlien he gains that of others."

The superiour emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be deter-
nrihied entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike r
but as to the inferiour emphasis, taste alone seems to have the right of
fixing its situation and quantity.

Among the number of persons, who have had proper opportunities
of learning to read, in the best manner it is now taught, verv few
could be selected, who, in a given instance, would use the inferiour
emphasis alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed,
use scarcely any degree of it : and others do not scruple to cam' it
far beyond any thing to be found m comiiion discourse; and even
sometimes tiirow it upon words so very trifling in themselves, tliat it
is evidently done with no other view, than to give greater variety to


the modulation.* Notwithstanding this diversity of practice, there ar*>
ceilainly proper boundaries, within wliich this empiiasis must be res-
trained, in order to inalce it meet the approbation of sound judgment
and correct taste. It will doubtless have different de.^rees of exertion,
accordin^i to the greater or less degrees of importance of tiie words
upon winch it operates; and there may be very properly some vari-
ety in the use of it : but its application is not arbitrar)', dependuig on
the ca])rice of readers.

As emphasis often falls on words in different parts of the same sen-
tence, so it is frequently required to be continued with a little variation
on two, and sometimes more words togrtlier. The following senl^n
ces exemplify botli tlie parts of this position : If you seek to make one
rich, study not to increase his stores, but to diminish /a'i desires." "The
Mexican figures, or picture writing, represent things not wordi: tJiey
exhibit images to the eye, not ideas to the uyiderslnnding."

Some sentences are so full and compreliensive, tiiat almost every
word is emphatical : as, "Ye hills pnd dales, ye rivers, woo's, and
plains!" or, as that pathetic expostulation in the prophecy of r-zekiel,
*'Why will ye die !"

Emphasis, besides its other offices, is the great regulator of quantity.
Tliougli tiie quantity of our syllables is fixed, in words separately pro-
nounced, yet it is mutable, when these words are arranged in senten-
ces ; tiie long being changed into short, the short into long, according
to the importance of the word with regard to meaning. Emphasis also,
in particular cases, alters the seat of tlie accent. This is 'iemonsirable
from the following examples,"He shall mcrease, but I shall decrease."
♦'There is a diflference between giving and^/brgiving." "In this specie*
of composition, ;;^aM5ibility is inuch more essential than /)?o6ability.''
In these examples, the emphasis requires the accent to be placed on
syllables, to which it does not commonly belong.

In order to acquire the proi^ermanagement of the emphasis, the great
rule to be given, is, that the reader study to attain a just conception
of the force and spirit of the sentiments which he is to pronounre.

Online LibraryLindley MurrayThe English reader; or, Pieces in prose and poetry, selected from the best writers, designed to assist young persons to read with propriety and effect ... With a few preliminary observations on the principles of good reading → online text (page 1 of 24)