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 46 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 46 of 59)
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combinations, in curent discourse, or by separate and repeated
practice on their individual forms.*

* Perhaps the analogy would be too remote, to draw an example of the
elementary and synthetic method of instruction, from the gradual process of
infant speech. But I cannot, while the subject is before me, avoid a few
remarks, on what apears to be the order of that proces.

Altho we should reject every fictional date, and they are all fictional:; for
the origin of language; and every suposition of one or of many parts of the
earth as well as of the maner, in which it did begins still the sucesion in the
instinctive eforts of present infant speech is freely open to investigation.

In a Note to our section on Time, there is a pasing question^ Whether the


It is needles to oifer arguments in favor of an elementary
didactic system to those, who, from experience in ace^uiring the

abrupt elements were not prompted by sudden instinctive impulses, at that
almost inconceivable event, the beginning of speech. Since the date of our
fourth edition in eighteen hundred and fifty-live, I have read in the Introduc-
tion to Mr. Charles Eichardson's Etymological Dictionary, the clear exempli-
fication of his analyticaly tracing many of the full-formed words of cultivated
language, to roots of a primary meaning in the individual elements : and not-
withstanding the philological Ethnologist, and the writers on the Mind have
not had the curiosity or time, to learn how far our history of the voice might
assist their researches, I will still endeavor to draw their attention, by aply-
ing some of the principles of nature to the present fashionable inquiry into
the origin and language of man.

It is known, that in the ful-established system of the vocal signs, the states
of mind variously emjiloy the modes of vocality, force, time, abruptness and
intonation ; and that the first audible eforts of infant-expresion are purely
vowel sounds, under the forms of cry, scream, and of fainter vocalities called
humming and cooing; together with a varied time, force, and intonation of
these sounds, and even of their suden break into abruptnes. These vowel
signs, as well as we observe, denote the first perception of pleasure or pain or
of physical wants. So far then, these individual elements have a meaning,
and are the real and simple roots of language, in the signs of infant perception^
for we cannot give the then state of mind the name of thot or pasion. The
consonants next folow, in the progres of speech ; and still to found the origin
of language in nature, certain instinctive muscular functions prepare the vo-
cal mechanism for the production of these elements. The early act of draw-
ing nourishment strongly exercises the muscles that close and open the lips ;
and furnishes the organic means, which with the acompaniment of vocality,
or aspiration^ already prepared by instinctive efort^ produce in the former
case, the elements B, M, and V, and in the latter, F, and P. In the same
act the aplication of the tongue to the palate, and to the uper and the lower
gums, constitutes the mechanism, that with vocality, or with aspiration,
severaly forms G, K, D, T, N, R, 2%-in, and Th-an.

The next instinctive-elemental and significant sign would perhaps be the
incipient tremor on the interval of the tone or second, or wider interval, for
the expresion of infantile satisfaction ; and sobing, with the tremor on the
semitone for distres. Coughing would early give a comand over abruptnes,
and prepare for the radical stres, and distinct articulation of perfect speech.
We do not asunie that single consonants are at first, mental signs; nor after-
wards, except in the expresive asj)irations of s, and h ; and as it would bo
steping aside from the caution of j)hilosophy to supose, that in some infantile
eforts they may be so, wo leave this subject for those who think it deserves
stricter investigation. The instinctive vowels with their intonations are the
first signs of the pleasures, pains, and wants of the child : and observation
teaclies^ tliey denote these perceptions, as certainly as they can be denoted by
the full-formed words of conventional language.


sciences, have formed for themselves economical and efective plans
of study. Let all others be toldj that one, and perhaps the only-
cause why elocutionists have never employed such a system, is,
that they have overlooked the analytic means of inquiry into the
subject of vocal expresion ; and have therefore wanted both the
knowledge and nomenclature for an elementary method of instruc-
tion. Science and art have too many proofs of the suces of this
rudimental method, to alow us to supose, the same means would
not have been adopted in elocution, if they had been known to the

Xot to cite instances from those graver studies which procede
by the synthetic steps of elementary principles ; and with no in-
tention to shame the 'genius' of an elocutionist and his gramar of
imitation, let us go to the Ring, and see the Science of muscular
atack and defense, an over-match for the best eforts of strength
and pasion, when undirected by gymnastic skill. The 'Fancy'
have realy made no slang-like or degrading aplication of the word.
Science, as we usefuly regard it, does no more than lay-down for
art, those general principles, and eficacious rules which sagacity
has drawn from observation and trial : and tho it may not always
enoble the subject it touches, it does keep from it, that char-
acteristic of brutal it}" j the instinctive execution of what, in its
causes and efects, is not perceved by the agent. Yes, even the
Pugilistic Art, low in purpose yet skilful as it is, has for the

There is a further adition to primary speech, -when the consonants are
acidentaly combined with vowels, into the sylabic impulse ; as in Ap and
Am, or reversely, Pa and Ma. The sense of hearing then becomes observ-
ant: imitation folows, and monosylabic language with its capacity for endles
combination into words of varied extent begins.

It may therefore seem, that by Mr. Richardson's observations, the ultimate
roots of languages are the significant elements. Under this view, the roots of
all languages must have a comon origin ; displaying the unity of nature, not
only in the prevalence of the same principles of articulation and of vocal ex-
presion, in every age and nation, as we have after close analysis, represented
itj but in the origin of that articulation, and expresion, in whatever part or
parts of the earthy or in whatever age or ages it may once or oftener, have
ocured. Should future observation confirm Mr. Richardson's view, and the
few remarks we have aded to it, it will be learned, that the five modes of the
voice, which combine to make the vast variety of mature and expresive lan-
guage;! are found in limited use, to constitute what on like principle we may
call the incipient expresion of infant wants, and pleasure or pain.


time, outstriped the philosophic eforts of Elocution ; and claimed
for its method and precepts, the justifiable name of Science. And
beleve me, Readerj the elementary training in its positions and
motions, caries not more superiority over the untaught arm, than
the definite rules of elocution, founded on a knowledge of the
constituents of the voice, will have over the best spontaneous
achievements of pasion.

Let me not be mistaken on this point. Altho I do not say, the
method of instruction here proposed, can create the esential powers
of a speakerj futurity will probably show, that some such system
alone can direct, enlarge, and perfect them. ^Passion/ says a
writer, 'knows more than art.' It may, in its own way, know
more than the Old Elocutionary art ; but the Art of Science, so to
speak, in its own way, like prudence in human afairs, sometimes
knows beter than passion. A display of the pasions in speech, is
not always adresed to persons under the sympathetic influence of
those pasions. When it is, or when at moments, the speaker can
raise that sympathy, and pasion becomes the selfish party-Tyrant
of the mind, all is right, however wrong, that pasion does. When
pasion is no longer the despot either of words or Mall, and we are
caled upon to make some proper use of its active perception, with-
out its waywardnes and partizan exceses, such comparisons arise
between our own state, on ocasions of excitement, and what we
perceve in othersj that we are obliged to call upon observation
and taste for some educational rule, of Things as they Should bej to
settle an uncertainty of opinion. Pasion as we know it, is only
the Enacting of a certain character of expresion ; and being with
none, except fools and madmen, an Outlaw of the jNIind, is still
amenable to its purposed and directive, the excited authority. We
need not go far, for the true history of what is caled the Natural
Maner in Speech, prompted by spontaneous and uneducated pasion ;
for pasion is a wise instinct of nature, but is always pervertal, if
never improvingly taut. The everyday vulgar triumphs of popu-
lar eloquence, in which the demagogue, and the sectary, load away
an audience, eager to pursue the same selfish schemes of profit, or
vanity, or fanatical delusion, are ]>roof of what this oratorical sym-
pathy is ; and what a wild and artful pasion alone can sometimes
do, without the aid of truth, or honesty or taste : for in these a;^ in


other popular relations, the more an orator influences the pasions
of others, the more those pasions make a slave of himself.

We look for no more, from a well devised practical system of
elocution, than Ave are every day receving from established arts.
All men speak and 'reason,' in the comon way, for these acts
are as natural as pasion ; but the arts of gramar, rhetoric, and
thinking teach us to do these things in the best raaner, or rather,
doing them in the best maner is signified by the name of these

The subject of elementary instruction may be otherwise re-
garded. The human muscles are, at the daily call of exercise,
obedient to the will. There is scarcely a boy of physical activity
or enterprise, who on seeing a circus-rider, does not desire, in
some way to imitate him; to catch and keep the center of gravity
thru the varieties of balance and motion. Yet this will not pre-
vent failure in his first atempts, however close the conection be-
tween his will and his muscles may be. For without trial, he
knows imperfectly what is to be done; and even with that knowl-
edge, is unable, without long practice, to efect it. Many persons,
with both thot and pasion, have a free comand of the voice, on the
comon ocasions of life, who yet uterly fail, when they atempt to
imitate the varied power of the habitual speaker. When the
voice is prepared by elementary practice^ thots and pasions find
the confirmed and pliant means, ready to efect a satisfactory and
elegant acomplishment of their purposes.

The organs of speech are capable of a certain range of exertion;
and to fulfil all the demands of a finished elocution, they should
be caried to the extent of that capability. Actors with both
strong and delicate perceptions, and who earnestly expres them in
speech, are always aproximating toward this power in the voice ;
and with no more than the asistance of a habitual exercise which
enlarges their instinct, do in time, acquire a comand over the forms
and degrees of pitch, and stres, and time; without the Actor
himself being at all aware of the how, and the what, of his vocal
atainments, or having perhaps, one inteligent, or inteligible per-
ception of the ways, means, and efects of their aplication. The
elementary method of instruction here proposed, being founded on
the analysis of speechj at once points out to the Actor what is to


be desired and atained ; and how every vocal purpose of thot, and
pasion should be fulfiled.

It was not until long after the invention of the Bow for the
gliding touch of chorded instruments, that its use was subjected
to acurate atention. A few belonging to that class of mankind
who thru precise and enlarged observation, with its steady aim,
find out for themselves, the best way to efect their object, may
have exhibited rare instances of skill in its management. As soon
however as the celebrated Tartini had made an analysis of their
dexterity, the master was able to point out to the pupil the mus-
cular sleight of wrist and arm which its handling requires ; their
combined and sucesive motions; together with that full perception
of the will as it seems, present in the muscle, which insures unde-
viating steadines in every sweep, and gives the power of a sort of
voluntary spasm for the purpose of a momentary touch. When
these points were ascertained, instruction began to adopt the econ-
omy of elementary rules ; and confidence, rapidit}', precision,
smooth nes, and variety of execution, became comon acomplish-
ments in the art of Bowing.

When an atempt is made to teach an art, without comencing
with its simple elements, combinations of elements pass with the
pupil for the elements themselves, and holding them to be almost
infinite, he abandons his hopeles task. An education by the
method we here recomend, reverses this disheartening duty. It
reduces the seeming infinity to computable numbers ; and I have
suposedj one of the first coments on the foregoing analysis, may
refer to the unexpected simplicity of means, employed to produce
the unbounded permutations of speech. Nay, this esay itself
will fare beter than other similar eforts in science, if some of the
perishing criticism of the day should not find suficient motive
with itself, for overlooking the dificulty, of penetrating the mys-
terious thicket of speech, and of tracing its interwoven branches to
their palpable roots, by being told how few and how acessible they

In our proposed method of instruction, we have in view tlie
strictest j)r()priety, and the highest finish of the voice. An ordi-
nary and even vicious use of Spcecii, as we all know, may serve
for Buying and Selling, either in the common course of Trade, or


in Election-Frauds, and Legislative Bribery. When the powers
and beauties of the voice are the subject of reflection and taste, it
is necesary to employ the most comprehensive and precise means
for its cultivation. It would be posible, even without regard to
the alphabet, to teach a savage to read, by directing him, word
by word, to folow a master. And it has been proposed to teach
elocution, by a similar process of imitative instruction. But the
atentive Reader must now know with me, and others may know
anions: themselves hereafter, that the analvsis of words into their
alphabetic elements, and the rudimental method of teaching insti-
tuted thereupon, do not give more facility, in the discriminations
of the eye on a written page, than the means here proposed will
aford to the student of elocution, who wishes to excel in all the
useful and elegant purposes of speech. The master having now at
comand a knowledge of the vocal constituentsj which already fore-
tels, and by future aplication will furnish a precise and universal
system of music in speechj let him adopt that elementary method
of instruction which has made another music familiar to the minds
of children, and spread its refined and heart-felt pleasure thruout
the civilized world.

To begin this elementary, and only sucesful method of teaching
the otherwise unteachable esthetic art of speechj let the master and
his pupil, or his whole school, meet at first, without their little text-
books ; the master having already tlie great Book of Nature by
heart. Let the master then exemplify the five constituent modes
of the voice ; the formation of the musical scale, with the expla-
nation of its divisions and uses ; the four scales of speech ; the
concrete and discrete pitch in all its forms ; the graceful gliding
of the vanish, with the efect of the second and of other intervals.
Let him make the pupil sensible of the diference of these inter-
vals by separate and by contrasted uterance ; of the peculiarities of
a rising and of a faling movement ; of the waves ; of the diatonic,
and the chromatic melodies ; of the cadences ; and of the streses ;
making the lesons an exemplification of every constituent function
of speech. Let the pupil practice all this v/hen he retires ; and
on returning, let it not be to hear his master read, and vainly try
to imitate himj but to repeat his elementary task, thro all the
available modes, forms, and varieties of the voice. When he is


completely familiar with these rudiments, then and not before, let
him begin to read.

Should high acomplishment in elocution be an object of am-
bition, the system of instruction ofered in this section, may until
a better method is proposed, furnish the easiest and shortest means
for suces.

With all these rules however, the best contrived scheme will be
of little avail, without the utmost zeal and perseverance on the
part of the learner. It is an impressive saying by an elegant
'genius' of the Augustan age, who drew his maxim from the
Greek Tragedy, and ilustrated it by his own life and fame, that
* nothing is given to mortals without indefatigable labor ;' meaningj
that works of surpasing merit, and suposed to procede from a pe-
culiar endowment by Heaven, are in reality, the product of hard
and unremiting industry.

It is pitiable to witnes the hopes and conceits of ambition, when
unasisted by its required exertions. The art of reading-well is an
acomplishmentj all desire to possess, many think they have already,
and a few undertake to acquire. These, beleving their power is
altogether in their ' Genius,' are, after a few lessons from an Elo-
cutionist, disapointed at not becoming themselves at once masters
of the art; and with the restles vanity of their belief, abandon
the study, for some new subject of trial and failure. Such cases
of infirmity result in part from the wavering character of the
human Tribe ; but chiefly, from defects in the usual course of
instruction. Go to some, may we say all of our Colleges and
Universities, and observe how the art of speaking, is not taught
there. See a boy of but fifteen years, with no want of youthful
difidence, and not without a craving desire to learnj sent upon a
Stage, pale and choking with aprehension; being forced into an
atempt to do that, without instruction, which he came purposely
to learn; and furnishing amusement to his classmates, by a pardon-
able awkwardnes, that should be punished, in the person of his
pretending but neglectful preceptor, with little less tlian scourg-
ing. Then visit a Conservatorio of nnisic; observe there, the
elementary outset, tlie orderly task, the masterly discii)line, the
unwearied superintendence, and the incesant toil to reach the utmost
acomj)lishment in the Singing-Voice; and afterwards do not be


surprised that the pulpit, the senate, the bar, and the cliair of
medical profesorship, are filed Avith such abominable drawlcrs,
mouthers, mumblers, cluterers, squeakers, chanters, and mongers
in monotony : nor that the schools of Singing are constantly send-
ing abroad those great instances of vocal wonder, Avho triumph
along the crowded resorts of the world; who contribute to the
halls of fashion and wealth, their most refined source of gratifica-
tion ; who sometimes quel the pride of rank, by a momentary
sensation of envy ; and who draw forth the admiration, and receve
the crowning aplause of the Prince and the Stage.*

* It is remarkable of the Science of the Voice, that the sucessful cultiva-
tion of the department of Song, thru the close and beautiful analysis of mel-
ody, and harmony, should never have extended the ambiticgi of its inquiry
and suces, into the more important, and equaly esthetic department of speech.

Having, after a long and active search, colected quite a library of good,
bad, and indiflerent works on elocution ; and, with the exception of Mr. Steele,
Mr. Odel, and Mr. "Walker, finding them all, both ancient and modern, to be
composed of the same comon materials of the art, aranged and detailed with
a varied ability : I had some curiosity to know the practical method of emi-
nent Vocal Institutions. During my residence in Paris, thru the winter of
eighteen hundred and forty-five вАФ six, I sought by every due efort, to obtain
from direct, and personal observation, a knowledge of the instructive Course
of Declamation employed in the Conservatorio, I learned however, from a
friend of some influence in this matter, that by a general rule, admision could
not be obtained.

Upon information derived from a Vocalist, at that time under tuition, for
his apearance in the Opera:; who described to me, the directive, and examplary
means of the master, the imitative practice of the pupil, and the detailed
rotine of the task:; I was led to conclude^ they had no knowledge, out of the
comon way, on the construction, and intonative meaning, either of Declama-
tion or Kecitative ; nor one spark of a Philosophy of Speech, to throw the
least light of explanation upon them : and tho the exclusion of visitors, might
be no deprivation to the studious observer^ the duties of the Institution would
by this precaution, be saved from the vexatious intrusion of the tens of thou-
sands idle, restles, and ennui'd Sojourners in the great Metropolis.

That the French, like the rest of the world, have not the least perception of
a system of the voice, founded on the ordination of nature, and denoting the
diferent states of mind in thot and pasion, must apear from their Histrionic
Elocution. If the Glory, Wisdom and Taste of France, strangely concen-
tered, as it is self asumed to be in Paris, should ever acknowledge the posi-
bility of there being any imperfection in its state; and cease to think, it has
already reached 'the highest degree of civilization ; ' it will perhaps, perceve
the peculiar and bombastic system of its intonation ; and then atempt to
corect it, by some other means, than that of the rule of its own exagerated



Of the Rythmus of Speech.

In the section on Time, some alusion was made to the subject of
Rythmiis. I there described the circumstances under which stress
and time, or as they are otherwise caled, acent and quantity, pro-
duce by their alternations the agreeable impresions of verse. I

and habitual expresion. The English, phlegmatic as they are suposed to he,
are prone to ergploy an over-proportion of vivid constituents in that curent
which should be a plain diatonic melody. But the French, far exceding them
in this use of the wider intervals and waves, do not employ the diatonic
melody, or only ocasionaly, in their oratorical and dramatic speech.

We have learned how rarely the plain and dignified forms of the second
and its waves are heard even on the English stage ; and that, without an ad-
justed intermingling of the expresive and the inexpresive constituents of
speech, no Actor can atain tragic distinction, or long maintain it, with an
audience of educated perception and taste. In this improper use of wider
intervals and waves, the English, from the construction of their Language,
have less apology than the French, for the exceses of their intonation. It is
well known, that the acentual character of the English language consists in a
forcible stres on certain sylables, with a feeble stres on othersj the later being
more numerous ; and the diference in degree of the streses being so fixed and
remarkable, as to furnish a rythmus of acent or quantity for the construction
of its Blank-verse ; which serves the further purpose of roleving the monotony
of its rhj'me, by the variety of a strong and atractive acent, sucesively faling
on a different syhibic sound, and by the cesural pause, in the course of the

With the French language the case is diferent. It has a perceptible varia-
tion, in the force of its acents, and the duration of its quantities; but not
suficienlly marked, nor of such a systematic character, as to make an available
prosodial meter. The French Epic and Dramatic lines, for they cannot be
caled prosodial measures, properly consist each of twelve sylables ; tho they
have sometimes ten or eleven. Among them is ocasionaly found, a sucesion

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 46 of 59)