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 44 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 44 of 59)
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high dignitary of the Church, the equaly dogmatic declaration, that the em-
ployment of a sucesful analysis, far from leading to a proper, energetic, and
elegant use of the voice, would entirely pervert and corupt it. In the Fourth
Part of his Rhetoric, the first chapter, and fourth section, he says : ' But there
is one principle running thru all tlieir precepts,' [tlie precepts oj those who
would teach elocution by precept,) ' which being, acording to my views, radicaly
eroneous, must, if those views be corect, vitiate every system founded upon
it. The principle I mean is, that in order to acquire the best style of De-
livery, it is requisite to study analyticaly the emphases, tones, pauses, degrees
of loudnes, which give the proper efect to each passage that is well delivered ;
to frame 7-ules founded on the observation of these ; and then, in practice,
deliberately and carefuly to conform the uterance to these rules, so as to form
a comjjlete artificial system of Elocution.' ( Whether the writer had ever seen
the ^ Fhilosophi/ of the Hicvian Voice, ^ does not apcar ; and the case is the
stronger if lie had noi^ for, hud he attentively read it thru, the objection could
not have been more directly pointed at its analysis and rules.)

' That such a plan not only directs us into a circuitous and dillicult path,
towards an object which may be reached by a shorter and straightor, but also,
in most instances, completely fails of that very object, and even produces,
oftencr than not, efects the very reverse of what it designed, is a doctrine for
whicli it will be necesary to ofer some reasons,'

Now, the good Prelate's 'reasons' are employed, on the one hand, against
an analytic methodj which, from not coniprcliending, as it seems, the jiur-
posc of resolving the voice into its constitutMits, he thinks would ]>roduce an
Artificial manor of speech, and on the other, in favor of liis notion of what
he calls the Natural manner; not drawn, as it should be, from the ordination
of God and Nature, but founded on tiie folowing »«fountled remark, by Adam


This objection is grounded on some nietliod, suposcd to be free
from this analytic formality, and 'preceptive afectation j and ealed, the
' Xatuml Manner.' But this maner having no describable standard
of its own truth, propriety and taste, is vaguely refered to an
' ocult' animal instinct, under that boastful term of human vanitv,
Prerogative ' Genius : ' which, by its untrained and wayward igno-
rance, would, with an impudent claim to an inborn privilege, reject
the wise and prevailing eforts of educated art. Yet instinct even
when nominaly dignified into ' Genius,' seems to be nothing more
than the result of an organization prepared by nature to receve
the impresion of directive causes, Avhich thereupon act necesarily,
to excite the organic power, limited as it may be, and to exercise it
to its end. As this organization of instinct begins to loorh itself
into mind, the knowledge thereby acquired^ for we perceve mind,
only thru knowledgcj creates by slow degrees, another state, or
another more complicated and efective mental organization, so to
speak ; on which the objects or facts of an art act more broadly
as directive causes, to excite the no less necesary and unering pur-
poses, and practical ends of science. The practical ends of Elocu-
tion, as an elegant art, are, to denote our thots, and pasions, with
truth, propriety, and taste, and consequently without the eror
and deformity of awkwardnes, or afectation. When therefore, bv

Smithj towards the close of his reflections on 'the Imitative Arts,' already
refered-to at the end of our nineteenth section. ' Tlio in speaking, a person
may show a very agreeable tone of voice, yet if he seems to intend to show it^
if he apears to listen to the sound of his own voice, and as it were to tune it
into a pleasing modulation, he never fails to ofend, as guilty of a mostdisafree-
able afectation.'

To show the general bearing of this ' reasoning,' we here make an analogical
aplication of Adam Smith's and the Prelate's th5t to another related esthetic
art. Tho a Painter might please us in executing a well invented subject of
a picture^ yet if he seems to intend to show his skill, or to look at his own
composition, and as it were, to aprove of the principles of his art, in their
acomplishment of his design, his coloring, and shaded light, thereby to bring
his purpose to a finished efectj he never fails to ofend, as guilty of a most
disagreeable afectation.

It has been one of the objects of our Work to answer ' reasoning ' by fact :
and tho we here notice the Prelate's adopted, and unsifted faith and notions,
the serious argument against them, whicii we do not require, others will heri'-
after draw, for their satisfaction, from the demonstrative answer of Observa-
tion and Time.


analytic knowledge of the constituents of an artj principles, or
clasificatious of its facts, for some efective purpose are framed,
these principles become, as it were, the scientific instinct of the new
and more complicated organization of the mind, in its state of
acquired knowledge : just as in its own way, the original and more
simple organization of nature, exercises its limited and merely
animal instinct. And as this instinct, or call it ' genius, ' of the
Old Elocution produces what the objectors to the use of Analytic
Rules, asume to be the propriety and grace of its ' Natural Manner; '
so the regeneration of the mind, as we describe it, to a new life of
acumulated knowledge, has necesarily a tendency, in its scientific
instinct, towards the natural maner of a more comprehensive,
refined, and efective Elocution. It is then the limited animal
instinct of the Old School, and its ignorance of the wide resources
of the scientific instinct of the New with its analytic, more exact,
and exalted natural manerj that does realy produce in itself the
formality, and the theatric afectation, wliich it deprecates and
blindly charges on a beter system. For it must be borne in mind,
that the important vocal Mode of Intonation, outlawed as it is
from all inquiry, has with its power of expresion, been heretofore
employed, whether by those who adopt, or who reject the rulesj for
there is little diference in the event of their failuresj only with the
intonative, and limited resources of the brute.*

It has been the oversight and misfortune of the Old school of
Imitation, that even Math the striking analogies of Rhetoric,

* This charge of a Theatric manor on any pompous or afootod speaker, is
one of the inumerable instances of the inconsistent and miidled human mind.
The world of Taste goes to the Theater to hear the jmrest stylo of Elocution,
and thinks it so, or it would not continue its aprobation. Dignitaries of the
Church and their plebean folowcrs, who do not go to this Wicked Place, would
dej)reciate the character of an elegant amusement they dare not, with worldly
motives, enjoys and therefore condemn it. From some of their metapliysical
notions, or from Shakspeare's caricature of a particular ' robustious fellow
tearing a pasion to ragsj ' they speak of any ostentatious maner, whether in
school-boys, or the Pulpit, as theatric. And acording to the objector in
the present casoj instruction on the principles of vocal Time and Intonation
must necesarily produce this Tiieatric afectation. I cannot, by the scale of
our analysis, positively decide on tlu* Archbishop's cxomplilicafion of his
' reasoning and argument,' from n(!ver having had the oportunity of hearing
him read.


Music, Painting and the Landscape, severaly founded on the re-
lations of these Arts, to capacities and principles in the human
mindj they never perceved, tho they obscurely used without j^er-
ceving, the equaly elegant, and for human purposes, the more
esential relations of the modes and forms of the voice, to the
mental states of thot and pasion ; and therefore remained deaf to
the cries of sister-principles of propriety and taste, craving to
be admited into the Esthetic family, as the New-born art of

From what is here said, we may ofer three remarks on this ob-
jection to the use of Rules in the Art of Readmg. First. An
atempt to teach by rules, under a partial knowledge of the con-
stituents of speech, could never in the old school, except by
chance, have been elegantly right; and must have been often for-
maly and afectedly wrong. Second. It was from the want of the
Universal Rules of Speech, drawn from a full analysis of its con-
stituents, that led the old school, to concludej there could be none.
And it was this want, that led its folowers, in groping after an in-
definable excelence, whether natural or artificial, to fall into their
inherent constraint and afectation ; the real causes of which they
had not a suficient light of analysis and rule, to enable them to
avoid. Third. The efect of our proposed system of analysis and
principles for teaching the art of reading, and for insuring its
freedom from formality and afectation, will be the same in every
other art, whether useful or esthetic. In all, it is necesary to know
what is to be done, and what means are to be thotfuly employed,
to do it well ; to practice its rules, at first perhaps awkwardly, in
closely and slowly thinking of their aplicationj and by this frequent
repetition, to enable the act, so far to wean itself from the di-
rective purpose, as to become an eficacious habit; and finaly, to
use a full knowledge of the art, with almost the unperceved
power of what we have metaphoricaly caled a scientific instinct.
The purely acquired human art of Swiming, unasLsted by in-
stinct, tho learned with tedious efortj directed by earnest thotj
and only mastered at last by careful atention to every imitative
and embarasing motionj is afterwards, from that atention fading
into habit, suc^sfully employed in danger j with the thot only of
the shore to be reached, and the life to be saved : and in like nianer,


the purity, propriety, energy and elegance of rhetorical composi-
tionj which slowly perceved, and only thoroly learned, by close
atention to their particulars and to the rules that should govern
them, as our unfriendly Prelate must have known by self-expe-
riencej are afterwards, without a perception of those particulars,
aplied in public oratory to the broad purposes of a well instructed
and sucesful eloquence.

I have often been led to consider the oposite characters of
propriety in the style of Composition, and of impropriety in the
Vocal habits of speakers. Our Western World is overrun by
itinerant lecturers, and ubiquitous speech-makers of every sort;
the same in class with the Older Sophistsj but without their care-
ful Rhetoric, and the candid Avarning of their Name : yet however
humble their subject-mater and their taste, the most insignificant
and iliterate so to call them, are often as conected in their words
and sentences as the orator of higher j^ower and scholarship;
while in their respective intonations, and other modes of the voice,
they are sometimes both-alike, often no more than negatively
agreeable and corect, and generaly, in various degrees indistinct,
afected, monotonous, outrageous, or false, to a cultivated ear.

Two causes at least may be asigned for this diference. Onej
that the crowd of the world is too often satisfied with a careles
maner in its aifairs ; and as the greater part of what is caled
Oratory, compared with the permanent words and works of ^^"is-
dom, relates only to the events and opinions of the dayj it is
looked upon as unecesary to waste atention on tlie voice ; especialy
under the belief, that Nature spontaneously directs what is here
required. This is exemplified by the many instances of deformed
elocution, among the renowned dialectic speakers of the Senate,
the Pulpit, and the Bar ; with whom the vocal j)art of education,
being considered as not csential, the Orator in his ambitious con-
tentions, and delusions, thinks or finds, he does not need its asist-
ancc. Hence with a Slavery-agitator in the American Congress,
and an Abolition-preacher about tlie streets, there is equaly an
ignorant disregard to the proper, and certainly to the elegant uses
of the voice.

The other cause shows why speakers are equaly corect, or nearly
so, in the gramatical character of their discourse. For having by


truth or sophistry, to convince or to persuade their liearers, it
must be with a conected order of discourse, however defective or
false the intonation. To render their language comprehensible,
they are obliged in childhood to learn the right perceptions of
Avords; afterwards to acquire by book or imitation the proprieties of
gramar, with the meaning of phrases and punctuation ; and finaly
to folow examples of a ])roper arangement of words and sentences.
In this case the speaker is compeled to acknowledge his ignorance
and his obligation to learn. And as neither the Speaker nor the
Audience perceve a diference between the right and the wrong in
the voicej ignorance with both being their defense against knowl-
edgej neither thinks it necesaiy to learn, and the speaker, like our
Learned Prelate, regards the power of properly using his voice as
a natural gift, which would be forfeited by the interference of
systematic instruction.

We can here perceve the causes why respectively, Parliamentary
Burkesj and itinerant Fanatics with other Demagogues, folow the
same rules of gramar and composition in their style ; and folow
no rule at all, in the corupted instinct of their intonation.

This is our view of some of the objections, made against an
attempt to teach the Esthetic uses of the voice, by systematic and
comunicable principles. We will not confer importance on them
by special refutation. In so doing, we should only record some
vain opinions of this age, which a future one need not know. At
the present time, let us not be concerned if the history of the voice
contained in this esay, and the Plan of instruction founded upon
it, should be ' either stumbling-block or foolishnes,' to the groping
school of mystagogues and imitators.*

* In aclition to the iniposibility of influencing those, who in the present
age pass for Philosophers and Thinking men, and who asert that Elocution
cannot be tat by analysis and rule; it is no less hopeles to persuade those
to learn, who, not quite so impenetrable as the former, only maintain j it would
give no return for the trouble. "Why should we labor, they ask, to acquire an
art which when needed will be no more than the spontaneous result of thot
and pasion ; or why improve that which some visionary and interested re-
former tells us, is not well done already ?

This question is so broadly answered by the record of facts in this volume,
that I shall here merely ilustrate its eroneous suposition, by comparing our
humble subject of Elocution with the transcending subject of Government :


The preceding history furnishes materials, for raising elocution
to the condition of a Regular Art, if not of a Science ; and we
must look to the comparisons, and conclusions of taste, for precepts

the principles of which, equaly with those of speech, everj' one thinks he
comprehends by intuition.

Unlike as these subjects may seem when thus presented together, they have
thro ages, each in its own misguided eforts, shown the same proportion of
grave pretensions, of unfounded or ill-aplied facts, of erudite discusions, of
indefinite precept, of contradictory practice, and of deplorable failure in its
boasted promises. Each has had a thousand diferent and contending schools;
more than thousands of examples of individual authority ; with schools, and
authorities variously overthrowing one another, and neither able to furnish a
general principle, or instance, for universal aprobation : no Speaker, whether
by his ' Genius ' or his 'Imitation ' able to answer the acurate demands of the
mind and ear: no sovereign Despot or Democratic sovereign, able to satisfy
the wishes and the wants of the subject or the citizen ; and each from a simi-
lar cause. One has no uniform rule of expresion, drawn from nature, f'>r di-
recting his speech ; the other no uniform or consistent rule of Law, Morality,
or Keligion, to control his conduct. The speaker, ignorant of what is proper
or elegant in the voice, falls into his 'natural manner,' and disputes himself
into enmity with the ' natural manner ' of another ; the Governed, not finding
what is wise and just, falls into the selfishnes of his pasions, and brings his
diference with others to a civil war. The Statesman narows-down the great
problem, on the causes and cure of the anti-social vices of pride, vanity, ava-
rice, ignorance and ambition, to the futile question of the comparative wisdom
and the rights of the Many, and of the Few : just as the Elocutionist has nar-
owed the great purpose of the vocal means in nature, by a paltry clasification
of the disciples of the Art, into those of 'Genius' and ' Imitation.'

But, in artful transformation, the Few in government thru pride and wealth,
asume the power of the Many : and the Many, by falsehood and fraud, asume
the cuning of the Few. The many in government, are then made to beleve,
that man is incapable of any other perception, than that of being a slave to
the Prime management of a Eoyal Minister, or to the Prime Knavery of a
self-serving Demagogue. The Many in Elocution are made to beleve, they
can speak-well, only by the ' Inspiration of Identitj',' or the ' natural maner '
of the School. And bad readers, under the restrictive authority of the Old
Elocution ; and miserable suferers, under make shift Monarchies and Repub-
lics, are alike led to comfort themselves, respectively in their bad taste, and
unhapines, by these similar questions of pasive submision: Why should we
raise the ire of the Old School, with trying to read by the new analysis ? and
why should we disturb a Government by tr3-ing to reform it? when the Mas-
ters of vocal instruction and Imperial and Mass-meeting legislators, themselves
so incorigible, cannot admit, that the art of Speech in one case, and "f luimnn
hapiness in the other, is not as perfect under the present order of things, as
the purposes of knowledge and taste, and the rights of man can ever posibly
require ?


to direct the use of these materials. Our history -will not only
aford the means for reducing the arbitrary fashion of the voice,
to something like that method and rule, to which the other fine
arts have been already brought, among their educated and reflect-
ing votariesj but it opens a new field on the subject of instruc-
tion. All arts when reduced to their elements, have been reconi-
posed into systematic order for teaching by the Primary School
of those elements ; and it now becomes us to try what time may
be saved, what old views may be cleared from obscurity, and what
wider knowledge obtained, by a rudimental plan in describing the
several modes of the voice, conveying the mental states of thot
and pasion.

Language was long ago resolved into its alphabetic elements,
and its Parts of speech. "Wherever that analysis is known, the
art of gramar is with the best suces, conducted upon this method.
If then the thotive and expresive uses of the voice should be tat
by a similar analysis, the advantage would be no less, than from
the alphahetic and gramatical resolution. In this way Ave teach
a child its leters and their union into words : surely then, there is
no cause why a clear perception of the varieties of stres, of time,
and of intonation, and the power of knowingly employing them
in curent uterance, should not be acquired in a similar elementary

The art of reading-well consists in having all the constituents
of speech, both alphabetic and expresive, under complete comand ;
to be by Nature's directive instinct, properly aplied, for the im-
I^resive and elegant representation of every state of the mind. I
shall not however in this section, consider the modes of the voice
as expresive of thot or pasion : but shall describe the means for
providing the manageable material of speech, whenever the pur-
poses of the mind may require its use.

If I were a teacher of elocution, I Avould frame a didactic sys-
tem of elementary exercises, similar to that which taut me, what-
ever the well-read critic may find to be new, in this volume ; and
would asign my pupil a task under the following heads :

Of Practice on the Alphabetic Elements. Notwithstanding we
are all taut the alphabet, we are not taut the true elements of
speech : I would therefore require the pupil, to exercise his voice


on the elements, as they are sounded in a strict analysis of words.
In the present school-system of the alphabet, many vowels have
no peculiar symbol, and nearly all the consonants when separately
pronounced, are heard as sylables, not as elements. If h and k
and /, be sounded as respectively heard in 6-ay, and Z;-ing, and
Z-ovej or, if we jDause after these several initial sounds have es-
caped the organs, we have the real element, instead of the com-
pounds he, kay, and ell, as they are universaly taut : and the like
is true of all the consonants.

Let the first lesson consist of a separate, an exact, and a re-
peated pronunciation of each of the thirty-five elements, thereby
to insure a true and easy execution of their un mingled sounds :
the pupil being careful to pronounce, not the alphabetic sylable
of the school, but the pure and indivisible vocal element ; however
unusual and uncouth that sound may in some cases, be to his ear.
It may be askedj if a careful pronunciation of words, in which
these elements, combined with others, must still be heard, would
not give the necesary exactnes and facility ? I beleve it would
not. When the elements are pronounced singly, they may receve
an undivided energy of the organic efort, and therewith a clearnes
of sound, and a definite outline, that make a fine preparative for
distinct and forcible pronunciation in the compounds of speech.
And perhaps no one who has neglected this elementary practice,
is able to efect the vocality of b, d, and g, with the force, fulnes,
and duration, required on ocasions, for the higher powers and
graces of elocution. The eficacy of this separate practice, in
giving a comand over the alphabetic sounds, is most remarkable
in the r.

The element r is a modification of the vocality of the subtonics,
and denotes two diferent articulations. One is made by a quiet
aplication of the tongue to the roof of the mouth ; the other by
its quick percusion against that part. The r produced by the
first organic position, (lifers very little from the short tonic c-rr,
and may be caled the Quiet r. That made by percusion, the
Percussive r. The later has a distinctnes of character and a body
of sound, not posesed by the former^ and if the metaphor can be
apreciated, the [)arts concerned in its formation seem to have a
firmer grasp of the breath. Yet this Percusivc r, even with its


vigor, and satisfactory fulnes, will be agreeable only when it con-
sists of one, or at most, two or three strokes and rebounds of the
tongue : for should it be a continued vibration, the efect will be
ofensively harsh, if not expresly designed for a ruf or energetic
uterance ; but even this should be avoided. The perfect r, for
the purposes of distinct and impresive speech, shud consist of a
single slap and retraction : and it can be made in this maner, by
diligent practice, on the solitary element.

Besides the dificulty of acquiring strength and acuracy in this
se^Darate pronunciation^ certain combinations of the r, with other
elements can be efected in an agreeable maner, only by asiduity.
A subtonic or atonic that employs the tongue in one position, will
not readily unite with an element, requiring a quick remove of the
tongue to another part of the mouthj even when the element is
produced, as in the quiet r, by a simjile presure of the tongue ;
but the dificulty of transition is much increased, by the velocity
necesary for the percusive r. Let us for instance, take the syla-
bic step from d to r, in the word dread. As the formation of d
requires the tip of the tongue to be aplied to the uper fore-teethj

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 44 of 59)