James Rush.

The philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita online

. (page 4 of 59)
Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 4 of 59)
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jumbled into a text-book, and printed for the pecuniary benefit of
a master. The purpose, seemed to need an apology ; and it is
usually offered, under the consideration of the reduced cost of an
abridgment, compared with that of a larger volume. But when
was cheiip knowledge, more than cheap work, ever worth even half
of what was given for it? And generally speaking, if a sucesion
of cheap, puny, and insuficient books, in most branches of educa-
tion, did not everlastingly invite and delude the public, there wud
be purchasers enuf, of Avhat are now more expensive, and more
useful works, to reduce them to a convenient cost. An unfortu-
nate result of these suposed short-hand assistants to ignorance,
takuig the place of full and clear dcs(Ti{)ti()n, is that each compiler
has a special interest in his own little book, to \\\c exclusion of
others of the same kind. And this produces, as I have witncsed,
jealousies, and not a little back-biting criticism, among these several
competitors for popular favor.. One is said to have made an odd


asemblage of the old indefinite system, with the new. One to
have ellion agjiinst the Kingly-rule of Po})-
ularity, and the Majorative-Despotism of its opinion. Yet upon
this very conviction I ofered the Work to the public ; ho))ing, by
the difusion of its principles, to bring it into that old and only
4 (xli)


j)ath of truth, which begins witli a few and ends with the many ;
and, in due season, to suit the country to it.

With here and there an exception, the scofers at this Work have
been those eternal enemies to all disturbing originality, the Place-
men of Learning. Suposing however that, thro the influence of
knowledge made light and popular and cheap, the Arts are not so
far downward, as to create desjDair of sucesful eforts by a new one,
before their entire decay and future revival ; I would say to many
of those who hold the places and draw the profits of science, that
if they will but continue to sheath their opposition in their feigned
contempt, the first humble advocates of this Work may, by a grad-
ual rise to those places and profits, see their own enlarged designs
of instruction, in the course of half a century, completed.

Several teachers in the United States have adopted the system.
Dr. Barber, an English physician who had devoted himself to the
study of elocution, and who came to Philadelphia about the period
of its publicationj was the first to admit its principles, and to
defend them against the double influence of doubt and sneer, by
an explanatory and ilustrative course of lectures.* Yale College,
at New Haven, was early favorable to the system. But the Uni-
versity of Cambridge, by apointing Dr. Barber to its department
of Elocution, was the first chartered institution of science in this
country that gave an influential and responsible aprobation of the

As this system furnishes general principles for an x\rt, hereto-
fore directed by individual instinct or capricej all who would
teach that art by principles founded in nature, must sooner or
later adopt it. AVill the influential instructors of Philadelphia be
the last?

вАҐThe objections first made to the ' Philosophy of the Human
Voice,' were against its utility ; now the cry among the Learned is;
it is too dificult. Too difficult ! Why, all new things are diffi-
cult ; and if the scholastic j)retendcr knows not this, let the annals
of the Trades instruct him. Just one w^ntury has elai)8al since
that comon material of furniture. Mahogany, was first knoA\ii in

* Throo years after tho date of the ' Philosophy,' Dr. Barber published at
New Haven, 'a Gramar of Eloeution' founded on that Work, as a Text-book
to his oral instructions.


England. It is recorded that Dr. Gibbons, an eminent physician
of that period, had a brother, a West-India captain, who took
over to London some planks of this wood, as balast. The Doctor
was then building a house ; and his brother thot they might be of
sers'ice to him. But the carpenters finding the wood too hard for
their tools, it was laid aside. Soon after, a candle-box being wanted
in his family. Dr. Gibbons requested his cabinet-maker to use some
of this plank which lay in his garden. The cabinet-maker also
complained, that it was too hard. The Doctor told hinij he must
get stronger tools. AVhen however by sucesful means, the box was
made, the Doctor ordered a bureau of the same material ; the color
and polish of which were so remarkable, that he invited his friends
to view it. Among them, was the Duches of Buckingham, who
being struck with its beauty, obtained some of the wood ; and a like
piece of furniture was imediately made for Her Grace. Under
this influence, the fame of mahogany was at once established ; its
manufacture was then found to be in nowise dificult ; and its em-
ployment for both use and ornament has since become universal.

The master-buildei's of science, literature, and eloquence, declared
the 'Philosophy of the Human Voice' to be too hard for their stu-
dious energies; and threw it aside as useless. But a few humble
Cabinet-makers of learning having somehow or other, got stronger
tools, have already made the box ; are under way with the bureau ;
and are only waiting for the authoritative influence of some leader
of oratorical fashion, to produce a general belief in this simple
truismj if we wish to read well, we must first learn


Philadelphia, June 26, 1833.


The analysis of the human voice contained in the following
essay, was undertaken a few years ago, exclusively as a subject of
physiological inquiry. Upon ascertaining some interesting facts,
in the uses of speech, I was induced to pursue the 'investigation ;
and subsequently atempt a methodical description of the various
vocal phenomena^ thereby to include the subject within the limits
of science, and assist the purposes of oratorical instruction.

By every scheme of the cyclopedia, the subject of the voice is-
alotted to the physiologist ; yet upon its most important functionj
speech and its expresion, he has strangely neglected his part by
borowing much of his suposed knowledge from the wild notions
of rhetoricians, and the intermedling authority of gramarians. It
is time at last, for physiology seriously to take up its task,*

* In the fifth edition of this Work, I submited to the Reader, the first im-
printing, and practical use of a Double Coma, as a symbol of Punctuation.
The want of a point, for a significant pause between that of a coma and a semi-
colon, must have been perceved by exact and thotful writers, in descriptive'
and explanatory composition. For brevity, and easy rythmus in enumerating,
the points, it may, from the Greek 6lc, tioice, be called Dicoma, The principal,
purposes for which I employ it arcj First ; as prefatory to an ilustrative in-
stance ; or a question, or the statement of a question ; or a condition ; to indi-
cate by the symbol, some notable meaning, shud the mind for the moment
askj what is to follow. Second; for cases when the gramar is prone to run.
on, and perspicuitj' requires a special suspension j beyond a point of longer
rest than that of the coma. Third ; for subdivided short or long periodic sen-
tencesj with or without other pointsj to chock the haste of gramatical partsj
if disposed to run together; thereby drawing atention to the individuality of
members^ to releve the whole from intricacy. Fourth; to bound parenthetic
clauses, and in taking the place of the Dash j which is always a formles linear
blemish on the compact ncatnes of printj to cary over the meaning and gramar^
thro the space between the Fifth; as a direction to a fulowing jirop-
osition ; showing; the punctuativc means for suplying the j)lacc of the demon-
strative thai, when this pronoun precedes the word, there, or this, or they, or



In entering on this inquiry, I resolved to have no reference to
former writersj until the habit of discriminating the facts of the
voice should be so far confirmed, as to obviate the danger of adopt-
ing unquestioned erors, which the strongest efort of independence
often finds it so dificult to avoid. Even a faint recolection of
school instruction was not without its forbiding interference, in my
first atempt to discover, by the ear alone, the hidden proceses of

After obtaining an outline of the work of Nature in the voice,
suficient to enable me to avail myself of the useful truth of other
observers, and to guard against their mistakesj I consulted every
acessible treatise on the subject, particularly the European com-
pilations of the day, the authors of which have oportunities for
learned research, not enjoyed in this country. Finding, on a fair
comparison^ the folowing description of the voice represents its
phenomena more exteasively and definitely than any known sys-
tem, I was induced to give it the durable form of Print. Many
erors may be found in it ; but if the general history, and the ana-
lytic development are not drawn from nature, and do not prompt
others to cary the inquiry further, and into practical detail, I
shall much regret the time wasted in the publication.

It becomes me however, to remark, that as the greater part of
this Work has not been made-up from the quoted, or controverted,
or accomodated opinions of authors, I shall totally disregard any
decision upon its merits, that is not the result of a scrutinizing
comparison of its descriptions, with the j)henomena of Nature

The art of speaking- well, has in most civilized countries been

their, or itself repeated, or any other word of striking similarity in sound,
which might ofend the ear. Sixth ; to separate, without aresting tlie bearing
of the verb, a sucesion of members^ as objects of a previous action^ or as the
agents of a prospective efectj which may mentaly indicate a less pause than a
semicolon, and greater than a coma between tliem. Seventh ; the aplication
of this point, under some of the preceding heads, is so indeterminate that the
coma, not the semicolon, may be used with its meaning.

All these cases and perhaps more, are exemplified throhout this Volume.
iBut punctuation partakes in a degree, of the whiins of the human mind; and
'On this subject rc;iders and writers will in many j)articulars, have cacli a whim
of his own. Shud however, this now point be considered worthy of adoption,
others may give more precise rules for its aplication.


fv cliorisliwl mark of tlistinction between the elevated and the
Inimble conditions of life ; and has been imediately coneeted
with some of the greater pnrposes of justice, religion, instruc-
tion, and taste. It may therefore apear extraordinary, that the
Avorld, with all its works of philosophy, should have been satisfied
by an instinctive exercise of the art, and by ocasional examples
of its suposed perfectionj without an endeavor to found an ana-
lytic system of instruction, productive of multiplied instances
of succes. Due reflection however, will convince us, that even
this extended purpose of the art of spciiking has been one cause
of the neglect. It has been a popular art ; and works for present
})opularity are too often the comonplace product of a comon-
place ambition. The renowned of the bar, the senate, the pulpit,
and the stage, aplauded into self-confidence by the undiscerning
multittide, canot acknowledge the necesity of improvement ; for
the rewards that await the art of gratifying the general ear, are
in no less a degree encouraging to the faults of the voicx^, than
the aprobation of the milion is subversive of the rigid discipline
of the mind.

Physiologists have described and clased the organic positions
that produce the alphabetic elements. This has been done by
the rule, and with the succes of philosophy. On other points
their atempts have not been so satisfactory. In describing the
function of Pitch, or the rise and fall of the voice, which we here
call Intonation, they have not designated by some known or in-
vented scale, the forms and degrees of such movements; and
furnished the required and definite detail in this department of
speech. They have rather given their atention to the folowing
inquiries : Whether the organs of the voice have the structure of
a wind, or of a stringed instrument; how the falsete is madej and
whether acutenes and gravity arc formed by variations in the
aperture of the glotis, or in the tension of its chords. In their
experiments, they removed the orginis from men and other ani-
mals, and produced something like a living voice, by artificialy
blowing through them. They ciirefuly inspected th(! cartilages
and muscles of the larynx, to discx)ver thereby the imcdiate
cause of intonation, yet altogether overlooked the audible forms
and degrees of that intonation. In short, they tried to sec sound.


and to touch it with the disecting-knife ; and all this, without
reaching any positive conclusion, or describing more of the audible
eject of the anatomical structure, than was known two thoasand
years ago.

The Greek and Roman rhetoricians, and imters on music,
recorded their knowledge of the fimctions of the voice. They
distinguished its diferent Kinds, by the termsj harsh, smooth,
sharp, clear, hoarse, full, slender, flo^ving, flexible, shril, and
austere. They knew the Time of the voice, and had a view to
what they called its Quantity in pronunciation. They gave to
Force or Stres, under its form of acent and emphasis, apropriate
places in speech. They observed the variation of acute and grave
in sound ; and were the first to make an exact and beautiful analy-
sis on this subject. They discovered two forms of transition be-
tween acutenes and gravity ; one that ascends or descends, by a
continuous movement or slide : the other, by an interupted move-
ment or skip from place to place, in ascent and descent. They
also perceved j the former is employed in Speech ; the later, on
musical instruments. Tho, from carying the inquiry no further,
they suposed, but eroneously as we shall learn hereafter, that one
was soley apropriated to speech ; the other soley to instruments.

The ancients however, show no acquaintance with the subdi-
visions, definite degrees, and particular aplications, of those two
general forms of pitchj for the discriminative purposes of oratori-
cal use : and if we may judge, from an atempt by Dionysius of
Halicarnassus to point out the diference between singing and
speech, and from some other descriptions, totaly ireconcilable with
the proprieties of modern, and as we shall learn hereafter, of
natural and ordained intonation^ we must beleve they made on
this point, only a limited analysis ; that the uses of pitch, or of
the 'tones' of the voice, as they are caled, were conducted alto-
gether by imitation ; and that the means of instruction were not
reduced to any precise or available directions of art.

No one can read that discourse on the management of the
voice, in Quinctilian's elaborate chapter on Action, without alowing
to the ancients a power of pcrceving many of the beauties and
blemishes of s])ecch. Yet among the numerous indications of tlieir
practical familiarity with the art of public speakingj we find no


clear description of its coiLstituente, nor any definite instruction.
The abundant detail thruhout liLs work more tlian once leads the
Author to an apology for its minutcncs ; and therefore precludes
the suposition that he designedly overlooked any well known
means, by which the various uses of the voice mit be represented
with available precision.

It is suposcd, the ancient rhetoricians designated the pitch of vocal
sounds by the term, Acent. They made three kinds of acentsj the
acute, the grave, and the circumflex; signifying, severaly, the rise,
the fall, and a continuation of these into a turn of the voice. The
existence in Greek manuscripts, of certain acentual symbols, repre-
senting these movements, which however were not aplied till about
the seventh century, aforded the only data, for modern inquiry into
the forms of Greek intonation ; and created a learned disputej that
wa.s continued, without one satisfactory result, from the time of the
Younger Vossius, to the recent days of Foster, and Gaily.

If Greek Scholars had employed other means than wasteful
w^rangling with each other, for ascertaining the purpose of acentual
marks, it wud long ago have been determined, whether they direct
to any practical knowledge of Greek uterance, or are only a sub-
ject for useles contention. Had the tongue and the ear, the ritful
Masters in this school, been consulted, these symbols wud at once
have been regarded as vague and meager representations of the full
and measurable resources of the voice.

The disputants found that degree of obscurity in the acount of
ancient acent, which encourages the profitles labors, and alternate
triumphs of party ; which subjects opinion to all the chicanery of
sectarian argument ; and shuts out the conclusive inquiries of in-
dependent observation. In the distracting fashion of the old
dialectic art, and of its modern use, they ' discoursed about truth
until they forgot to discover it:' and while they exhibit a distresing
waste of time, and temper, by continualy seeking in the flickering
indications of unfinished records, the light which would steadily
have arisen on their observation, they hold out to the future his-

Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 4 of 59)