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 48 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 48 of 59)
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sad, j and the sons of the desert | mourn.

The pausal sections are nearly all of equal length, and this cause,
together with the frequent ocurence of the cadence, produces the
wearisome character of its very comon language, for it does not
deserve the name of rythmus. Doctor Johnson once saidj many
men, and women, and children in Britain, could write such poems
as those ascribed to Ossian. I have too many agreeable and grate-
ful recolections of Scotland, to quarel with her partiality, if she
has any, on this point: but surely, there is not a Koscius, who can
read them. We have a vast fund for variety, in the constituents
of speech ; but we may doubt their suficiency to meet the demands
of this rhetorical rigidity, without transgresiug the rules of a just
and expresive intonation. Indeed, tlie pasage, like many othei'S by
betcr poets, cannot be read to the satisfaction of a discerning ear.

Let us compare the preceding extract, with the first few lines of
Burke's episode on the Queen of France; which in elegance, variety,
and impresivenes of mere rythmus, and exclusive of some hyper-
bok', and des(!riptive ostentation, is not surpased in the English

That both the acentual and the pausid sections may be graph-


icaly made, they are here presented under ]\Ir. Steele's notation,
omiting the symbols for the light and heavy acent. The acentual
sections are marked by upright bars, the pausal, by the numeral

I 7 It is I now I sixteen or | seventeen | years | 7 since I | saw tlie queen
of I France, 7 | then the | Dauphines, | 7 at Ver | sailles : [ 7 7 | 7 and
I surely I never | lighted on this | orb, | 7 which she | hardly | seemed
to I touch, 7 I 7 a I more de | lightful | vision. | 7 7 | 7 7 | 7 I | saw her |
I just a I bove the ho | rizon, | 7 7 | decorating and | cheering | 7 the |
elevated | sphere j 7 she | just be ( gan to | move in; | 7 7 | glitering |
7 like the | morning | star ; 1 7 7 | full of | life, 7 | 7 and | splendor, | 7 and

I j^y- I

I Oh ! I what a | revo | lution ! | 7 7 | 7 and | what a | heart 7 | must I |
I have, I 7 to con | template | 7 with j out e | motion, | that 7 | 7 ele | vation |
I 7 and I that 7 1 fall. I

The agreeable effect of this rythmus may be traced to the folow-
ing causes.

First. The alphabetic elements are varied ; and except the sim-
ilarity of sound in teen and Queen, and in the words ligJded and
deUghtfu], c/ieering and sphere, they do not press upon each other.

Second. The words have from one to four sylables ; and these
are finely alternated with each other. The acentual sections vary
from one to five sylables in extent.

Third. The Pausal sections consist of from two sylables to ten ;
and their diferent lengths are intermingled in sucesion.

Fourth. The efect is still further varied, by an ocasional coin-
cidence of the temporal acent with that of stres : and the dignity
and force of the phraseology is hightened, by the ocurrence of these
long sylabic quantities, at the several pauses, in the wordsj years,
Yersailles, orb, horizon, sphere, move, star, joy, and fall.

Fifth. The order of the rythmus has just enough regularity to
produce the smooth efect of verse, without alowing the reader to
anticipate a systematic prosodial-measure.

The only exception to be made to the comendation of this ex-
tract, is produced by the consecutive acents at its close. A cadence,
with its last two sylables strongly accented, if not designed for
some extraordinary case of expresion, or for variety in a series of
short sentences, or if its harshnes is not modified by some extended


quantity on an indefinite quantity, is always, to me at least, both
awkward and unmanageable.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in a summary of the constituents
of an elegant Elocution, quoted in a Note to our seventh section,
describes Rythmus, as suporting or ^sustaining the voice;' and the
metaphor is just. For a wel-marked arangeraent of the varying
stres and quantity of sylables, does sustain the voice, by keeping
it from that careles stagering of sjjeech, if I may so call it, and
from that runing of words against each other, which by crosing,
and aresting the easy step of language, confuses and thwarts the
expectation of both the ear and the mind. The Ancients, with
whom Writing was an Esthetic Art, consideredj without rythmus,
there could be no grace and dignity of style, whether in its lighter
or its graver construction : and we learn, that at the earliest period.
Poetry in embodying the mental perceptions of beauty and of
grandeur, assumed to itself a coresponding expresion, on the
flowing and graceful measure of Verse. All this rare work how-
ever, was done by those, who if they did not, from the patience
and thot with which they wrote, always beg their bread, did veiy
often little more than earn it. Too many, who now use the hasty
and profitable tongue and pen, have not time to measure for the
intelect, and ear, what they manufacture for the market. The
.regular order of Meter that can be counted on the fingers, may for
comon purposes seem to require but little instruction. The Ryth-
mus of Prose must be studied by the rules of a flowing and efective
variety, as the Ancients studied it. It is therefore, at present,
neglected : and we are not without Critics, of such indolent or
untunable ear, as to suposej we ought to write, even in tlie brief
and simple words of scientific description, with the disjointed
plaincss of common speech ; and that to satisfy a cultivated taste
and reflection, by the varied acentual force, quantity, and pause of
a well-adjusted rythmus, is to be stilted and ostentatious: as the
old Elocutionists say, that to read by the ]irinciples and rules of
analytic knowledge, is to be Theatric, and Ibrnial.

Tlie ])reccding examples of rythmus ilustrate its structure and
efccts in })rose composition of elevated character. But there is no
saying to what inferior level of popular idiom, language may de-
scend with dignified safety, when suportotl by the confident wings


of a gliding acent and quantity, and the upholding energy of pasion
and of thot.

From the pen of a person of fine rythmic perception, even a
leter of busines, with its enumeration of particulars, may flow
with graceful variety, and terminate with decisive satisfaction to
the ear ; for the Grecian principle of rythmus sustaining the voice
in discourse, aplies not more to maintaining a rhetorical dignity,
than to preserving comon language from a loose and unmeasured

It is unecesary to go into a further detail on the subject of
rythmus. Much might be said in ilustration of its powers and
beauties, as existing both in the curent of discourse and in the
conspicuous place of the pause. But we leave this to the Rheto-


Oj the Faults of Readers.

It is a prevailing opinion, that persons who speak their own
states of mind, in social intercourse, always speak properly ; and
that transfering this ' natural maner ' as it is caled, to formal read-
ing, must insure this required natural-propriety.

This rule has arisen from ignorance of the functions which
constitute the beauties and deformities of speech. Without a
knowledge of causes and efects, on these points, teachers have been
obliged to refer to the spontaneous eforts of the voice, as the only
asistant means of instruction. Seting aside here, what we might
insist on, that no one should pretend to say, what the right or
natural maner is, before he knows the principles that make it so ;
we will admitj the natural maner, or any body's maner, or rather
no manor at allj from our being acustomed to it, and having, it
may be, a felow-feeling with its faults, is less excej^tionablc than
the first atempts of the pupil in reading ; still the faults of ordi-
nary conversation are similar to those of reading, tho they are less


aparent. Perhaps the comon opinion is grounded on a belief, that
a just execution must necesarily folow a full perception of the
thot, and pasion of discourse ; for these are suposed to acompany
coloquial speech. No one can read corectly or with elegance, if he
does not both perceve and ' feel, ' as it is caled, what he uters ; but
these are not exclusively the means of suces.

There must be knowledge, derived from peeping behind the
curtain of actual vocal deformity still hanging before the just and
beautiful laws of speech ; and there must be an organic faculty,
well prepared in the school of those laws, for the representation
of thot and pasion. Were it truej this pretended natural maner
represents the proper system of vocal expresion, we would no more
require an art of elocution, than an Art of Breathing: and the
whole world, in Reading and Speaking, as in the act of respiration,
would always acomplish its purposes, with a like instinctive per-
fection. Yet far from uniformity, we find wide and inumerable
diferenccs, in what, with individuals and schools, pass for the
proprieties, as well as in what are acknowledged faults of speech.
The Elocutionist's natural maner is not therefore, the original
ordination of the voice. It would seem, that in the early and
unknown history of progresive man, he must, from the perversity
atendaut on his ignorance, have learned to Think, Speak, Act,
Govern, and to be Governed viciously, before he had learned to
think, speak, act, govern, and to be governed wisely and Avell.
Man's wJiole executive purposes are directed by his thots and
pasionsj the same agents that direct his speech : and, far as history,
and well-grounded conclusions inform us, the just designs of
Nature, in his moral, religious, political, and vocal condition, M'cre
found to be already crosed, or perverted, when he first began to
look into her laws, and to turn an eye of philosophic inquiry and
comparison, on himself.

The self-prompted eforts of speech do exhibit in some instances,
pro])rieties of emphasis and intonation ; but these proprieties, like
every purposed act without its rule, being but the ocasional result
of a narow design, cannot have a generality necesary lor a direc-
tive syst(Mn of elocution ; and will be very far from satisfactory to
the car of a refined and educated taste.

There may likewise be a wide diferenee, between the capability


of a voice in its coloquial use, and of tlie same voice wlien exerted
in a formal atempt to read, Mr. Rice, in his ' Introduction to
the Art of Reading,' refei's to a person, who had been known to
speak with great energy and propriety, as it was presumed, those
very words, which, being shown to him in writing or print, he
was able, only after repeated endeavors, to pronounce in the pre-
cise ' tone ' and maner in which he had previously utered them.
Suposing he did speah with propriety, which the art has never
yet furnished the proper means for knowing^ there seems, in the
case, to have been no want of a thdtive and pasionative state of
mind, nor of flexibility in the voice; and it must have been
among those exceptions, in which the natural laws of expresion
prevail. But when discourse, denoting either of these states, is
read, even by its author, the ocupation of the eye distracts his
atention from his state of mindj or permits it to be fully per-
ceved, only when directed to a single point. If the meaning is to
be gathered from several words, or a whole sentence, the necesary
foreruning and retrospection of the eye, render the proper manage-
ment of the voice impracticable to those who have not, by long
exercise in the art of reading, acquired a facility in catching tlie
thot and pasion of discourse, and an almost involuntary habit of
conecting with them, the proper form of vocal expresion. If this
is true of one who reads what he has before spoken wellj more
remarkably must it aply, in reading without preparation the dis-
course of another.

Whatever may be the cause of the dificulty of reading-wellj
faults of all degrees and kinds do prevail in the art. Having
therefore prepared the Avay for a history of these faults, by de-
scribing what apears to be a precise and elegant use of the con-
stituents of speech, I shall point out the most comon deviations
from the principles, on which I have presumed to found our
system of Propriety and Taste.

If we undertake to measure an art by its rules, and it is foolish
to atempt it without them, we must cary with our censure, some
knowledge of the ways and means of its perfection. Erors are
in all cases, contrasts to truth; and in elocution, they are only
the misemployment of those vocal constituents, which in their
proper forms and uses, produce both the instinctive and conven-


tional method of just and elegant speech : for some of the finest
colors of the art, even when well and truly laid-on, are diped
from the same sources as its faults. Whoever, with pretensions
to taste, declares his perception of blemishes in an art, without
having at the same time, some rule for its beaut}', speaks as the
dupe of authority, or with ignorance both of his subject and of
himself. Let us then try to perform these inseparable duties, by
giving the outline of a just and elegant elocution, with a particular
account of its faults.

While investigating the phenomena, and regarding the uses of
sj^eech, I have always kept in view the purest and most elevated
designs of taste. It will be little more than recapitulation there-
fore to sayj the faultles reader should have at comand the various
forms of vocality from the full laryngeal bass of the orotund, to
the lighter and lip-issuing sound of daily conversation. He should
give distinctly that pronunciation of single elements and their
agregates, both as to quantity and acent, which acords with the
habitual perceptions of his audience. His plain melody should be
diatonic, and varied in radical pitch beyond discoverable monotony.
His simple concrete should be equable in the rise, and diminution
of its vanish. His tremor should be under ful] comand for oca-
sions of grief and exultation. Knowledge and taste must have
fixed the places of emphasis, and its various forms and degrees
have aforded the means for a varied and expresive aplication of
them. He should be able to prolong his voice on ever}' extent
of quantity in the wave, and in every concrete interval of the
rising and the faling scale. He must have learned to put ofif
from the dignified ocasions of reading, everything like that cant-
ing or afected intonation, which the artful courtesies and sacri-
ficing servilities of life too often confirm into habit ; and to avoid
in his interogatives the keenues and exceses of the vulgar tongue.
He should have for this, as for every other Esthetic Art, a deli-
cate sense of the Sublime, the Graceful, and the Ridiculous. A
quick perception of the last is absolutely necesary, to guard the
exalted works of taste, from an acidental ocurence of its causes.

It may perhaps be considered presumptuous, to propose rules of
taste and criticism in tlie Art of s[)eaking. JJefore the analytic
development of speech, this could not have been done ; and the


atempt -would have been equaly the act of ignorance, and foly, the
very causes of presumption. We have now ascertained the con-
stituents of vocal expresion, sufficiently at least, to advance some
steps towards a system ; and it seemed to be no undue antici])ation
of what must hereafter form a great purpose in the schools of elo-
cution, to have pointed-out a use of these constituents, that may
satisfy the cultivated ear.

If however, any ascribed presumption should require apology,
or justification, let me here say a word on the system I have oferedj
and on the maner and means of its production.

In embracing the oportunity of investigating the subject of the
human voice, which others equaly, and perhaps beter qualified
had sufered to pass-by, I brought to the inquiry some instinctive
facility of ear, and some acquired knowledge of the science and
practice of music. On taking-up the subject of the concrete
movement, where the Ancients had left itj and thereupon tracing
an identity between certain constituent functions of speech, and of
musicj the train of investigation soon led to a discovery, that the
individual vocal constituents of speech, like those of music, are
comparatively few. This at once unfolded the cause of the mys-
tery ; for the delusions of that mystery were the result of a belief
either in the inscrutable character of the constituents of intonation,
or in the unresolvable complexity of their agrcgates; and this
unquestioned belief had deafened all perception of their individu-
ality. On resolving these complicated agrcgates into distinguish-
able species and individualsj it brought their asignable number and
forms within the discriminative power of observation. The greatest
dificulty was now overcome ; for by an unobscured percei)tion of
the disentangled individual, it was easy to make out the relation-
ship between a state of mind, and its vocal sign. With this
knowledge, obtained by my own experimental ilustration, I turned
to the uncorupted vocal instincts of children and of sub-animalsj
to observe the particular constituents of pasionate ex})rcsion ;
and then to comon life, as well as to the eminent elocution of
the Stagej to compare the ordained constituents of both thot and
pasion with their conventional usages in speech. The power of
tracing the individual constituents, and of recognizing their single
and combined efects, brot me to the belief, that the system here


proposed has its Origin and its Confirmation in Xature ; and is
therefore well adapted, by its analysis, to gratify the lover of truthj
and by the practical uses founded upon it, to contribute to the
pleasures of an enlightened taste.

In developing this system of Eficient causation, I was led to
perceve a wise conformity of the vocal means, to the expresive
ends of speecli ; and to remark therein, at least the consistency of
the system, if I did not dare to draw from the suposition of its
Final causes, any confirmative evidence of its truth. In our pre-
ceding history, a broad and important distinction is made between
the vocal functions, representing simple thot, and those expresive
of pasion. To one division, we aloted the second and its plain
diatonic melody. To the other, the semitone, with the wider in-
tervals and waves : manifest diferences in the vocal means, being
definitely acomodated to manifest diferences betw^een the thotive
and pasionative states of mind. On the ground of this aprojDri-
ation of diferent means to a diferent end, it is conclusive, that the
rule of rules, nowhere, and never forgoten by Nature^ this Rule
of Fitnesj being unknown, or disregarded, or only rarely perceved
in the use of intonation, must be constantly violated by speakers :
that a current melody of thirds, or fifths, or wider waves, must
counteract the Final Cause of Nature, in alotting a diferent vocal
expresion respectively to pasion and to thot; confound lier intended
contradistinctions ; prevent the repose of the ear on the unim-
pasioned diatonic; and wear out its excitability to the emphatic
power of wider intervals, when required for ocasional purposes of
vivid expresion.

There is another consideration, to justify the establishment of a
system of some kind, if it should not plead for the one which is
ofered here. When the several voices of thot and of pasion are
individualy distinguishable, the precision of their use must be-
come an object of atention and criticism with an audience ; and
under an admited rule, their employment will be more uniform,
and therefore more clear and imprcsive. If we vary and confound
the aj)ropriatc meaning of the vocal signs, even when they are
joined with conventional language, we may come in time to de-
stroy, and nuist always weaken, the ciuiracter and force of those
signs. If we constantly whine in the chromatic mek)dy, or cry




out empliaticaly in the wider intervals and Avavcs, to no purpose
of complaint or surprise, we shall in vain seek for sympathy, when
the wolf of expresion in reality seizes upon us.

In looking for a Rule of excelence in the art of elocution, we
are always refered, as in the other fine arts, to Nature. But Na-
ture with her laws concealed from the whole mass of Mvstao-offues
and Imitators, is when shut-out from the light of analysis, an un-
asignable patern ; and seems here, as in so many other cases, to be
no more than the omniform parent of sectarian opinion ; and like
the changeable features of Liberty with the patriot, of Experience
with the physician. Right with the moralist, and of Orthodoxy
with the bigotj shows as many faces as there are self-deceving
tongues that take her name in vain. If nature, the deformed in-
stinct of human nature, I mean, is to be the rule, it can be only
by the individual instances of excelence she produces : if her ex-
celencies are seatered over the species, it is Art that must ordain
this canon, by colecting them into one faultles example. And
where is the instance in this corupted nature, worthy of imitation ?
Is it to be found in the drawl of the slothful ? In the snapish
stres of the petulant ? The short quantity and precipitate time of
the frivolous ? In the contmued diatonic of the saturnine ? Or
the eternal whine of the unhappy ? Is it in the canting drift of
the pasion-masking hypocrite ; or in the voice of those morbid
superlatives which live upon exageration ? Shall we look for it
in the daily-changing and mincing afectations of the Fashionable-
Foolish ; or in the thousand contrarieties of National acent, quan-
tity, and intonation, yet each in pride and ignorance, self-aright ?
Shall we find this nature's paragon, in the chaterings of the great
market of life, that hurries over its melody, denies itself the repose
of the cadence, and in uproar after rank and power, and biding
for its bargains of ofice or notoriety, strains itself to its hoarsest
note ?

These are the individual instances of vocal deformity presented
by Nature, with sacrilege so called, and daily sufered to pass Avith-
out remark, because we are engaged at the moment with other
purposesj and which we perccve only Avhen the voice itself as a
subject of taste, is the exclusive object of reflective and discrimi-
nating atention.


Altho a Compensating Nature, still holding her regards over
the wayward erors of the human voice, may not, under its cor-
uptions, deign to show us a single instance of the fitnes and beauty
of her lawsj she has, as an indiciition of her means for perfecting
the vocal powers of the individual, difused thruout the species, all
the constituents of that perfection. A description of the true char-
acter and wise design of these constituents, and the gathering-in of
their scatered proprieties and beauties, furnish the full and choicest
pattern of Imitable-Nature ; which, reduced to an orderly system
of precept and example, must hereafter constitute the proper and
elegant Art of Elocution.

The Canon, so called, of statuary in Greece, which represented
no singly-existing form, but which was said to contain within the
Rule of its Design, all the master-principles of the Artj was the
deliberate work of Observation, Time, and careful Experiment
on the Eye, in the very method of reflective and discriminating
Selection, we here claim for Elocution ; and was finished at last,
by Polycletus, only after previous ages of sucesive improvement.
If an individual of nature might be taken as a model in the arts,
we should not at this late day be so often obliged to listen to bad
readers ; nor to hear such clashing opinions, upon those who pass
for the best. The productions of taste would have forerun a
present needed cultivation; and in reverse of the tedious growth
of centuries, would like those goodly trees in the garden of Eden,
have been ripe at their planting.

The masters in Elocution, not perceving, that Speaking-well is
One, in the beautiful Sisterhood of the Esthetic Arts, and not
drawing from a comon fund of colcctcd principles, the precepts
that might be aplicable to their ownj have sometimes varied their
old and imperfect rule of teaching by Imitation, to something like
the system of nature, as they think, by requiring their pupil, not
to imitate another, but figuratively as it were, to imitate himself.
Supose yourself, says the Master, to be delivering the meaning of

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 48 of 59)