Ebenezer Porter.

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Delivery, In the most general sense, is the commu-
nication of our thoughts to others, by oral language. The
importance of this, in professions where it is the chief in-
strument by which one mind acts on others, is so obvious
as to have given currency to the maxim, that an indiffer-
ent composition well, delivered, is better. received in any
popular assembly, than a superior one, delivered badly.
In no point is public sentiment 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 lite-
rary 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 ready in an interesting
manner, the works of others. They who regard this as

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a polite accomplishment merely, forget to bow many pur-
poses of business, of rational entertainment, and of reli- *
gious duty, tbe talent may be applied. Of the multitudes
who are not called to speak in public, including the whole
of one sex, and all but comparatively a few of the other,
there is no one to whom the art of reading in a graceful
and impressive manner, may not be of great value.

Besides, as the prevalent faults of public speakers
arise chiefly from early habits contracted in reading, the
correction of those faults should begin by learning to read

Reading then, like style, may be considered as of two
sorts, the correct^ and the rhetorical.

Correct reading respects merely the sense of what is
read. When performed audibly, for the benefit of others,
it is still only the same sort of process which one performs
silently, for his own benefit, when he casts his eye along
the page, to ascertain the meaning of its author. The
chief purpose of thQ correct reader is to be intelligible ;
and this requires an accurate perception of grammatical
relation in the structure of sentences ; a due regard to
accent and pauses, to strength of voice, and clearness of
utterance. This manner is generally adopted in reading
plain, unimpassioned style, such as that which we find to
a considerable extent in those Psalms of David, and Pro-
verbs of Solomon, where the sentences are short, without
emphasis. It often prevails too in the reading of narra-
tive, and of public documents m legislative and judicial
transactions. The character and purpose of a composi-
tion may be such, that it would be as preposterous to read
it with tones of emotion, as it would to announce a pro*

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position in grammar or geometry, in the language of met-
aphor. But though merely the correct manner, suits
many purposes of reading, it is dry and manimate, and is
the lowest department in the province of delivery. Still
the great majority, not to say of respectable men, but of
bookish men, go nothing beyond this in their attainments
or attempts.

Rhetorical reading has a higher object, and calls into
action higher powers. It is not applicable to a composi-
tion destitute of emotion, for it supposes /eeZtng*. It does
not barely express the thoughts of an author, but express-
es them with the force, variety, and beauty, which feel-
ing demands. And just here it is that the roost stubborn
difficulty in elocution meets us ;— a difficulty arising from
the genius of written language.

The value of the graphic art consists in its being a
medium for the acquiiiiion of knowledge, and for the
communication of it. In the former case, I refer to the
use we make of language in silent reading. The facility
with which this is done depends on our acquaintance with
the characters of which words are formed ; the meaning
of words, singly ; and the principles which govern their
combination in sentences. Our eye may glance over a
page in our own tongue, so as to perceive all its meaning,
in the same time that would be employed on a short sen-
tence of a language, which we are only beginning to learn.
But in silent reading, though the eye perceives at a look
the form and meaning of words, it cannot perceive the
meaning of sentences, without including also grammatical
relation. Hence points or pauses are indispensable in
the graphic art, as designed merely for the eye. We

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may take as an example the celebrated response of the
Oracle ;

Ibis et redibis nonqiiain peribis in bello.
The eye has no means of judging whether the meaning
is, you ihaU never return^ or you shall never perish, unless
a pause is inserted before or after nunquam^ to determine
with which verb it is gramatically connected.

So far the principles of written language go ; — they
embrace words and pauses, and here stop. But the mo-
ment we come to transform this written language into
oralyhj 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. Her« the reader be-
comes 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 sen-
timent demands. But he is trammelled with the narrow-
ness 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 difficul^.
He is more rapid perhaps, or more loud, for this admoni*-
tion, 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

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men, habits of voice, once established, cannot be changed
without great and persevering efibrts ; 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 no-
bleman of Ethiopia ; " Understandest thou what thou
readest ?"

When w6 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 depart-
ments of literature and taste.

Now, if there could at once spring up in our country
a supply of teachers, competent, as living models, to reg-
ulate the ton«s of boys, in the forming age, — nothing
more would be needed. But, to a great extent, these
teachers are to be themselves formed. And to produce
the transformation which the case demands, some attempt
seems necessary to go to the root of the evil, by incorpo-
rating 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, suf-
ficient to designate the chief points of established corres-
pondence between sentiment and voice. These princi-

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pies being well settled in the mind of the pupil, may be
spoDtaneousIy applied, where no such noarks are used.

But as this subject is to be resumed under the head
of inflections, I drop it here, with a remark or to in

Be it remembered then, that all directions as to man*
agement of the voice, must be reg{u*ded as subsidiary to
expression of feelingj 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 exempliflcation of mere rules,
where feeling is absent.'* The benefit of analysis and
precept is, to aid the teacher in making the pupil con-
scious of his own faults, as a prerequisite to their correc-
tion. The object is to unfetter the soul, and set it free to
act. In doing this, a notation for the eye, designed to reg-
ulate 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 elemen*
tary modifications of voice in speaking are few, and easily

I t ■ I ■ ■■ !■ I II

* Enowlef .

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understood ; and to mark tbero, so * far as distinctioo is
useful, does uot require ^ tenth part of the rules, which
some have thought necessary.

The intelleotual and moral qualities indispensable to
form an orator, are brought into view in the following
pages, no farther than they modify delivery. The parts of
external oratory, as voice, look, and gesture, are only in-
struments by which the soul acts ; — when the inspiration
of soul is absent, these instruments cannot produce elo*
quence. A treatise on delivery then, must presuppose
tlie existence of genius, mental discipline, and elevation
of moral sentiment ;— though a distinct consideration of
these belongs to bhetoric, as a branch of intellectual and
Christian philosophy.

The parts of delivery, to be considered in their order,
are, — articulation, inflection, accent and empha-
sis, MODULATION and action.

I premise here, once for all, that I employ terms ac-
cording to the best modern use^with as little as possible
of technical abstractness. Elocution, which anciently em-
braced style, and the whole art of rhetoric, now signifies
manner of delivery, whether of our own thoughts or those
of others. Pronunciation, which anciently signified the
whole of delivery, is how equivalent to orthoepy, or the
proper utterance of single words. It were easy, by a
critical disquisition, to trace out the etymological affinities
of all these' terms, and to teach the pupil a distinction be-
tween an orator, and an eloquent man, between articula-
tion, and distinct enunciation of words &c ; but instead of
the scientific air adopted in some works on elocution, it
seems to me that the better, because the simpler course, is

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to use words as they wiU be most readily understood by
men of reading and taste.

In this view I have chosen to make the head of Mod-
ulation so generic, as to include pitch, quantity, rate, rhe-
torical pause, transition, expression, and representation.



Moia loqoi.-

-Ghraiis dedit ore rotaodo

Ssct. 1. Importance of a good articulation.

On whatever subject, and for whatever purpose, a
man speaks to his fellow* men, they will never listen to
him with interest, unless they can hear what he says ; and
that without ethrt. If his utterance is rapid and indis*
tinct, po weight of his sentiments, no strength or smooth-
ness of voice, no excellence of modulation, emphasis, or
cadence, will enable him to speak so as to be heard with
pleasure. For his own sake too, the public speaker
should feel the importance of a clear articulation. With-
out this, the necessary apprehension that his voice may
not reach distant hearers, will lead to elevation of pitch,
and increase of quantity; till he gradually forms a habit
of VDciieration, at the expense of all interesting variety, if
not, (as in too many cases it has turned out,) with the

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sacrifice of lungs and life* Every one who is accustom-
ed to converse with partially deaf persons, knows how
much more easily they hear a moderate voice with clear
articulation, than one that is loud, but rapid and indis-
tinct. In addressing a public assembly the same advan-
tage attends a voice of inferior strength, which marks the
proper distinction of letters and syllables.

For these reasons the ancients regarded articulation as
the first requisite in delivery ; — without which indeed, all
other acquisitions ai:e vain. On this account, Cicero says,*
the Catuli were esteemed the best speakers of the Latin
languages ; their tones being sweet, and their syllables ut-
tered without effi>'rt, in a voice neither feeble nor clamor-
ous. So fastidious was the Roman ear, even among the
uneducated, that the same orator says, ^^ in repetition of
a verse, the whole theatre was in an uproar, if there hap-
pened to be one syllable too many or too few. Not that
the crowd had any notion of numbiers ; nor coqld they
tell what it was which gave the ofi^nce, nor in what re*
spect it was a fault." It was not because the fire of ge-
nius was wanting in the youthful orator of Athens, that his
audience repeatedly met his first eSbrts in speaking, with
his^s ; but it was on account of bis feeble, hurried, stam-
mering utterance. To correct these faults, it was that be
betook himself to speaking amid the sound of dashing
waves, the efifort of walking up hill, and the inconvenience
of holding pebbles in bis mouth ; that he might acquire a
body to his voice, and a habit of distinct and deliberate

* De Offioiii, liib. I,

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It has been well «aid, that a good articulation is to the
ear, what a fair haod-writing, or a fair type is to the eye.
Who has not felt the perplexity of supplying a wordj torn
away by the seal of a letter; or a dozen syllables of a
book, in as many lines, cut off by the carelessness of a
binder ? The same inconvenience is felt from a similar
omission in spoken languages ; with this additional disad-
vantage, that we are not at liberty to stop and spell out
the meaning by construction. I have heard a preacher
with a good voice, in addressing his hearers with the ex-
hortation, " repent, and return to the Lord," — utter dis-
tinctly but three syllables, namely, peni^ — turn, — Lord,
Who would excuse the printer, that shouM mutilate this
sentence in the same manner ? When a man reads Latin
or Greek, we expect him to utter nouns, pronouns, and
even particles, so that their several syllables, especially
those denoting grammatical inflections, may be heard
distinctly. Let one noun in a sentence be spoken so that
theelr cannot perceive whether it is in the nominative,
or accusative, or vocative, or ablative ; or one verb, so as
toieave it uncertain to what mood or tense it belongs, and
the sense of the whole sentence is ruined.

But in the English language, abounding as it does
with particles, harsh syllables, and compound words, both
the necessity and the difficulty of a perfect utterance are
greater still. Our thousands of prefix and suffix syllables,
auxiliaries, and little words which mark grammatical con-
nexion, render bad articulation a fatal defect in delivery.
One example may illustrate my meaning. A man of in-
distinct utterance reads this sentence ; ^^ The magistrates
ought to prove a declaration so publicly made." When

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I perceive that his habit is to strike only the accented syl-
lable clearly, sliding over others, I do not know whether
it is meant that they ought to plrove the declaration, or to
approve it, or reprove it, — ^for in either case he would
speak only the syllable prove. Nor do I know, whether
the magistrates ought to do it, or the magistrate sought to
do it.

A respectable modem writer on delivery says ; " In
just articulation, the words are not to be hurried over ;
nor precipitated syllable over syllable; nor as it were
melted together into a mass of confusion. They should
be neither abridged nor prolonged ; nor swallowed, nor
forced ; they sliould not be trailed, nor drawled, nor let
to slip out carelessly, so as to drop unfinished. They are
to be delivered out from the lips as b^utiful coins newly
issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed,
perfectly finished, neatly struck by the proper organs,
distinct, in due succession, and of due weight."*

Sect. 2. Causes of defective articulation.

This arises from bad organs, or bad habits, or sounds
of difficult utterance.

Every one knows how the loss of a tooth, or a contu-
sion on the lip, affects the formation of oral sounds.
When there is an essential fault in ihe structure of the
mouth ; when the tongue is disproportionate in length or
width, or sluggish in its movements ; or the palate is too
high or too low; or the teeth badly set or decayed, art
may diminish, but cannot fully remove the difficulty. •

In nine cases out of ten, however, imperfect articula-

*Aii8tin's Chironomia.

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UOD comes not so much from bad organs as from the
abuse of good ones. Sheridan says ; " In several north-
ern counties of England, there are scarce any of the in-
habitants who can pronounce the letter R at all. Yet it
would be strange to suppose that all those people should
have been so unfortunately distinguished from other na-
tives of this island, as to be born with any peculiar defect
in their organs, when this matter is so plainly to be ac-
counted for upon the principles of imitation and habit.''
Though provincialisms are fewer in this country than in
most others, a similar incapacity is witnessed, in families
or districts more or less extensive, to speak certain letters
or syllables, which are elsewhere spoken with perfect ease.
The same fact extends to different nations. There are
some sounds of the English language, as the nice distinc-
tion between d and t, and between the two aspirated
sounds of ih, that adult natives of France and Germany
caitnot learn to pronounce. Some sounds in their langua-
ges are equally difficult to us ; but thi§ implies no original
difference of vocal organs. And surely no defect in these
need be supposed, to account for stubborn imperfections
in the utterance of those who from infancy have been un-
der the influence of vulgar example.

Besides the mischief that comes from early imitation,
the animal and intellectual temperament doubtless has
some connexion with this subject. A sluggish action of
the mind imparts a correspondent character to the action
of the vocal organs, and makes speech only a succession
of indolent, half-formed sounds, more resembling the mut-
tering of a dream, than the clear articulation, which we
ought to expect in one who knows what he is saying.

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kwfnooLMTimi* S§

Excess of yjwtLCity, on the ether bandy or oxcess of sen-
sibHity, often produces a bastf, confused utterance. Del-
icacy speaks in a timid, feeble voice ; and the fauh of
indistinctness is often aggravated in a bashful child, by the
indrscreet cbidings of his teacher, designed to push bim
into greater speed in spelling out bis early lessons ^ while
he bas little familiarity with the form and sound, and lesi
with the meaning of words.

The way is now prepared to notice some of those dif-
ficulties in articulation, which arise from the sounds to be

The first and chief difficulty lies in the fact that ar^
culation connsis essential/y in the consonant sounds^ and
that many of these are difficult of utterance. My limits
do not allow me to illustrate this by a minute analysis of
the elements of speech. It is evident to the slightest ob-
servation that the open vowels are uttered with ease and
strength. On these, public criers swell their notes to so
great a compass. On these too, the loudest notes of mu-
sic are formed. Hence the great skill which is requisite
to distinct articulation in music ; for the stream of voice,
which flows so easily on the vowels and half vowels, b in-
terrupted by the occurrence of a harsh consonant ; and
not only the sound, but the breath, is entirely stopf^ed by
a mute. In singing, for example, any syllable which ends
with pf% rf, or ^, all the sound must be uttered off the
preceding vowel ; for when the organs come (o (he prop*^
er position for speaking the mute, the voice instantly
ceases. Let any experienced singer, carefully (ry the
e xp e ri me nt ef speaking, in tlie notes of « alow tooe, tiiestf


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2S ^ AHncm.4noir«

With MroMt loDfiDgf of Um mincl,
My God, to thee I look.

Each syllable should be spokeo by itself, with a pause
after it. In this way it will appear that where the sylla-
ble ends with a consooant, especially a mute, the stream
of sound is emitted on the preceding vowel, but is broken
off when the consonant is finished. This is the case with
the syllables mindf God^ look ; the moment the organs
come into a position to speak d or Ar, they are shut, sp as
to stop both sound apd breath. But in the syllables my,
fo, ihee^ /,-^the closing vowel sounds are perfectly formed
at once, and may be continued indetfinitely, without any
change of the organs. The common mode of singing, in-
deed, is but a mere succession of musical notes, or open
vowel sounds, varying in pitch, with little attempt to arti-
culate the consonant sounds. This explains what has
sometimes be^n thought a mystery, that stammering per-
son3 6od }itde difficulty in reading poetry, and none in
singing \* whereas they stop at once in speaking, when
they come to certain consonants. Any one who would
practically understand this subject, should recollect that
the distinction between human speech, and the inarticu-
late sounds of brutes, lies not in the vowels, but in the
CQUtOfianU ; and tha^ in a defective utterance of these,
bad articulation primarily consists.

0[7^[Tbe reader is apprised that the marginal numbers
beginning at this place, direct to correspondent numbers in
the Exercises. To avoid confusion in the body of the
work, but few exaniples for illustration are inserted. Any

* Thii 18 pftfUy owniof dao to a delihorate, motrlcal movuMAt.

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principle that reqdres special attention and practice, is
marked with figures on the left hand, and the same fig-
Hires in the Exercises point to examples which should be
practised with a view to the more perfect understanding
of the principle.]

1.] A second difficulty arises from the immediaie <ttc-
ce$$ion of the same or similar $ound$. The poet who un-
derstood the principles of euphony in language belter than
any other English writer, has exemplified this in translat-
ing a line of Homer respecting the stone of Sisyphus,
where the recurrence of the aspirates and vowels is de-
signed to represent difficulty.

- Up the Aigh Aill he Aeavet a Aoge round stone.
In another case he purposely produces a heavy movement,
by the collision of open vowels ;

Tho* tffl the etr tbe ^pen voweli tire.

Every scholar knows that the Greeks adopted many
changes in the combinatidn of syllables to render their
language euphonic, by avoiding such collisions.''^

But a greater difficulty still is occasioned by the im-
mediate recurrence of the same consonant sound, without
the intervention of a vowel or a pause. The followbg
are examples; "For ChrisiV take." "The hosts #/il)
itood.'' "The battle las/t trill.*' The illustration will be
more intelligible from examples in which bad articulation
affects the i

Waftee and deeerte ;^Waete eeDd deeerte.
To obtain either ;— To obtain neither.

*On thii aeconnt they wrote ndrr ihyor for vdrrm ileycv; aip
Qv for ^^6 iA i Mfy^ ^ ^ ^Y^ i Mttnup ttiuf for idSmu alt^ &,c.

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Online LibraryEbenezer PorterAnalysis of the principles of rhetorical delivery as applied in reading and ... → online text (page 2 of 30)