Richard Green Parker.

Exercises in rhetorical reading : with a series of introductory lessons, particularly designed to familiarize readers with the pauses and other marks in general use, and lead them to the practice of modulation and inflection of the voice online

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Online LibraryRichard Green ParkerExercises in rhetorical reading : with a series of introductory lessons, particularly designed to familiarize readers with the pauses and other marks in general use, and lead them to the practice of modulation and inflection of the voice → online text (page 2 of 38)
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tice, joined to extraordinary natural powers ; but as there are many
degrees of excellence in the art, the student whose aims fall short of
perfection will find himself amply rewarded for every exertion he may
think proper to make.

"To give rules for the management of the voice in reading, by which
the necessary pauses, emphasis, and tones, may be discovered and put
in practice, is not possible. After all the directions that can be offered
on these points, much will remain to be taught by the living instructer :
much will be attainable by no other means than the force of example,
influencing the imitative powers of the learner. Some rules and princi-
ples on these heads will, however, be found useful, to prevent erroneous
and vicious modes of utterance ; to give the young reader some taste
for the subject ; and to assist him in acquiring a just and accurate mode
of delivery. The observations which we have to make, for these pur-
poses, may be comprised under the following heads : Proper Loudness
of Voice; Distinctness; Slowness; Propriety of Pronunciation ; Emphasis;
Tones ; Pauses ; and Mode of Reading Verse.



" The first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless,
must be to make himself heard by all those to whom he reads. He
must endeavor to fill with his voice the space occupied by the comjxmy.
This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It
is, in a good measure, the gift of nature ; but it may receive considerable
assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch
and management of the voice. Every person has three pitches in his
voice ; the high, the middle, and the low one. The high is that which
he uses in calling aloud to some person at a distance. The low is when
be approaches to a whisper. The middle is that which he employs in
common conversation, and which he should generally use in reading to
others. For it is a great mistake, to imagine that one must take the
highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company.
This is confounding two things which are different — loudness or strength
of sound, with the key or note in which we speak. There is a variety
of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may, therefore,
render his voice louder, without altering the key ; and we shall always
be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch
of voice to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas by
setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less
compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We
shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain ; and whenever a person
speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by his
audience. Let us, therefore, give the voice full strength and swell of
sound ; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key. It should be
a constant rule never to utter a greater quantity of voice than we can
afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort.
As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will
be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease ; and we shall
always have our voice under command. But whenever we transgress
these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any manage-
ment of it. It is a useful rule too, in order to be well heard, to cast our
eye on some of the most distant persons in the company, and to con-
sider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and mechanically
utter our words with such a degree of strength as to make ourselves be
heard by the person whom we address, provided he is within the reach
of our voice. As this is the case in conversation, it will hold also in
reading to others. But let us remember, that in reading, as well as in
conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme
hurts the ear, by making the voice come upon it in rumbling, indistinct

•' By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement man-
ner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key ; and is
rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which
constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader,
and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and
disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were taught
to read in large rooms ; who were accustomed to stand at too great a
distance, when reading to their teachers ; whose instructers were very
impel feet in their hearing; or who were taught by persons who con-
sidered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader.
I'hese are circumstances which demand the serious attention of every
one to whom the education of youth is committed.




"In the next place, to being well heard and clearly understood, dis-
tinctness of articulation contributes more than mere loudness of sound.
The quantity of sound necessary to f)ll even a large space is smaller
than is commonly imagined ; and, with distinct articulation, a person
with a weak voice will make it reach further than the strongest voice
can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great
attention. He must give every sound which he utters its due propor-
tion ; and make every syllable, and even every letter, in the word which
he pronounces, be heard distinctly: without slurring, whispering, or
suppressing, any of the proper sounds.

" An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the lan-
guage, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness
of expression, that if the learners attainments are, in this respect, im-
perfect, (and many there are in this situation.) it will be incumbent on
his teacher to carry him back to these primary aniculations ; and to
suspend»his progress till he become perfectly master of them. It will
be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader,
if he cannot completely articulate every elementary sound of the lan-

"due degree of slowness.

" In order to express ourselves distinctly, moderation is requisite with
regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds
all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe,
that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious
that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of
the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every
such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the extreme of reading
too fast is much more common ; and requires the more to be guarded
against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few errors are more
difficult to be corrected. To pronounce with a proper degree of slow-
ness, and with full and clear articulation, is necessary to be studied by
all, who wish to become good readers ; and it cannot be too much
recommended to them. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity
to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses and
rests which it allows the reader more easily to make : and it enables the
reader to swell all his sounds, both with more force and more harmony.

"propriety of pronunciation.

" After the fundamental attentions to the pitch and management of
the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness of
sjK'ech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study, is pro-
priety of pronunciation ; or, giving to every word which he utters that
sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to it ; in oppo-
sition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronunciation. This is requisite
both for reading intelligibly, and for reading with correctness and ease.
Instructions concerning this article may be best given by the living
teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not be improper
here to make. In the English language, every word which consists of
more syllables than one has one accented syllable. The accents rest
sometimes on the vowel, sometimes on the consonant. The genius of
the language requires the voice to mark that syllable by a stronger
percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest.' Now, after we have


learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an important rule, to
give every wora just the same accent in reading as in common dis-
course. Many persons err in this respect. When they read to others
and with solemnity, ihey pronounce the syllables in a different manner
from what they do at other times. They dwell upon them and protract
them ; they multiply accents on the same word, from a mistaken notion,
that it gives gravity and importance to their subject, and adds to the
energy of their delivery. Whereas this is one of the greatest faults that
can be committed in pronunciation : it makes what is called a pompous
or mouthing manner, and gives an artificial, affected air to reading, which
detracts greatly both from its agreeableness and its impression.

" Sheridan and Walker have published dictionaries for ascertaining
the true and best pronunciation of the words of our language. By
attentively consulting them, particularly 'Walker's Pronouncing Dic-
tionary,' the young reader will be much' assisted in his endeavors to
attain a correct pronunciation of the words belonging to the English


"By emphasis is meant a stronger and fuller sound of voice, by
which we distinguish some word, or words, on which we design to lay
particular stress, and to show how they affect the rest of the sentence.
Sometimes the emphatic words must be distinguished by a particular
tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress. On the right manage-
ment of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation. If no emphasis
be placed on any words, not only is discourse rendered heavy and life-
less, but the meaning is often left ambiguous. If the emphasis be
placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.

<' Emphasis may be divided into the Superior and the Inferior emphasis .
The superior emphasis determines the meaning of a sentence, with refer-
ence to something said before, presupposed by the author as genera.,
knowledge, or removes an ambiguity, where a passage may have more
senses than one. The inferior emphasis enforces, graces, and enlivens,
but does noifix, the meaning of any passage. The words to which this
latter emphasis is given are, in general, such as seem the most import-
ant in the sentence, or, on other accounts, to merit this distinction. The
following passage will serve to exemplify the superior emphasis.

' Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,' &c.

' Sing, heavenly Muse ! '

" Supposing that originally other beings besides men had disobeyed
the commands of the Almighty, and that the circumstance were well
known to us. there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the
first line ; and hence it would read thus :

' Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit,' &c.

" But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in

* This remark must now be received, in this country at le tst, with some qu-ilifica-
tion. Mr. Wnlker has lost the confidence which is established by usage, and we have
no work which professes to supply his place, so lar as pronuvciation alone is concerned.
As a guide to the sitrnification of words, and the tracing of their etymol()<£y. the Dic-
tionary of Dr. Webster is of the highest authority, and ha-i received tlie approbation of
critics in the mother country, as well as in this. Dr. Webster has spent a long life in
'he investigation of authorities, and probably no one individual has labored longer or
'ith equal success in this department of literature.


a peculiar manner more than once, the emphasis would fall on first ;
and the line be read,

* Of man's first disobedience,' &c.

" Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an
unheard-of and dreadful punishment, brought upon man in consequence
of his transgression ; on that supposition, the third line would be read,
' Brought death into the world,' &c.

" But if we were to suppose that mankind knew there was such an evil
as death in other regions, though the place they inhabited had been free
from it till their transgression, the line would run thus :
' Brought death into the world,^ &c.

"The superior emphasis finds place in the follo'wHng short sentence,
which admits of four distinct meanings, each of which is ascertained by
the emphasis only.

* Do you ride to town to-day ? '

[See Lesson XXII.]

" The following examples illustrate the nature and use of the inferior
emphasis :

" < Many persons mistake the love, for the practice of virtue.'

" ' Shall I reward his services with Falsehood ? Shall I forget him who
cannot forget me V

'" If his principles are false, no apology from himself can make them
right; if founded in truth, no censure from others can make them

" ' Though deep, yet dear ; though gentle, yet not dull ;
Strong without rage; without o^erfioicing, full.'

"'A friend exaggerates a man's virtues ; an enemy, his crimes.'

" ' The Tvise man is happy when he gains his own approbation ; the
fool, when he gains that of others.'

" The superior emphsisis, in reading as in speaking, must be deter-
mined entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike ; but
as to the inferior emphasis, taste alone seems to have the right of fixing
its situation and quantity.

" Among the number of persons who have had proper opportunities
of learning to read, in the best manner it is now taught, very few could
be selected, who, in a given instance, would use the inferior emphasis
alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed, use scarcely
any degree of it ; and others do not scruple to carry it far beyond any-
thing to be found in common discourse; and even sometimes throw it
upon words so very trifling in themselves, that it is evidently done with
no other view than to give a greater variety to the modulation.* Not-
withstanding this diversity of practice, there are certainly proper bounda-
ries, within which this emphasis must be restrained, in order to make it
meet the approbation of sound judgment and correct taste. It will,
doubtless, have different degrees of exertion, according to the greater or

* By modulation is meant, that pleasing variety of voice which is perceived in utter-
ing a sentence, and which in its nature is perlecily distinct from empha-sis, and the
tones of cinolion and passion. The young reader should be careful to render his modu-
lation correct and easy : and, for this purpose, should form it upon the model of the uxoal
judicious a. id accunia sixvikers.



less degree of importance of the words upon which it operates ; and
there may be very properly some variety in the use of it : but its appli-
cation is not arbitrary, depending on the caprice of readers.

" As emphasis often falls on words in different parts of the same sen-
tence, so it is frequently required to be continued, with a little variation,
on two, and sometimes more words together. The following sentences
exemplify both the parts of this position : ' If you seek to make one
rich, study not to increase his stores, but to diminish his desires? 'The
Mexican figures, or picture-writing, represent things, not words : they
exhibit images to the eye, not ideas to the understanding."

'' Some sentences are so full and comprehensive, that almost every
word is emphatical : as, ' Ye hills and dales, ye rivers, woods, and
plains ! ' or, as that pathetic expostulation in the prophecy of Ezekiel,
' Why will ye die ! '

" Emphasis, besides its other offices, is the great regulator of quantity.
Though the quantity of our syllables is fixed, in words separately pro-
nounced, yet it is mutable when these words are arranged in sentences ;
the long being changed into short, the short into long, according to the
importance of the word with regard to meaning. Emphasis also, in
particular cases, alters the seat of the accent. This is demonstrable
from the following examples. ' He shall wjcrease, but I shall (decrease.'
' There is a difference between giving and /orgiving.' ' In this species
of composition, plausxbiliiy is much more essential than probability.'
In these examples, the emphasis requires the accent to be placed on
syllables to which it does not commonly belong.

''In order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the
great rule to be given is, that the reader study to attain a just conception
of the force and spirit of the sentiments which he is to pronounce. For
to lay the emphasis with exact propriety is a constant exercise of good
p^ense and attention. It is far from being an inconsiderable attainment.
It is one of the most decisive trials of a true and just taste ; and must
arise from feeling delicately ourselves, and from judging accurately of
what is fittest to strike the feeUngs of others.

" There is one error, against which it is particularly proper to caution
the learner ; namely, that of multiplying emphatical words too much,
and using the emphasis indiscriminately. It is only by a prudent
reserve and distinction in the use of them, that we can give them any
weight. If they recur too often ; if a reader attempts to render every
thing he expresses of high importance, by a multitude of strong em-
phases, we soon learn to pay little regard to them. To crowd every
sentence with emphatical words, is like crowding all the pages of a book
with Italic characters ; which, as to the effect, is just the same as to use
no such distinctions at all.


" Tones are different both from emphasis and pauses ; consisting m
the notes or variations of sound which we employ in the expression of
our sentiments. Emphasis affects particular words and phrases, with a
degree of tone or inflection of voice ; but tones, peculiarly so called,
affect sentences, paragraphs, and sometimes even the whole of a dis-

" To show the use and necessity of tones, we need only observe, that
the mind, in communicating its ideas, is in a constant state of activity,
emotion, or agitation, from the difierent effeets whieh those ideas pro-


duce in the speaker. Now the end of such communication being not
merely to lay open the ideas, but also the different feelings which they
excite in him that utters them, there must be other signs than words to
manifest those feelings ; as words uttered in a monotonous manner can
represent only a similar state of mind, perfectly free from all activity
and emotion. As the communication of these internal feelings was of
much more consequence in our social intercourse than the mere con-
veyance of ideas, the Author of our being did not, as in that convey-
ance, leave the invention of the language of emotion to man, but
impressed it himself upon our nature, in the same manner as he has
done with regard to the rest of the animal world ; all of which express
their feelings by various tones. Ours, indeed, from the superior rank
that we hold, are in a high degree more comprehensive ; as there is not
an act of the mind, an exertion of the fancy, or an emotion of the heart,
which has not its peculiar tone or note of the voice, by which it is to be
expressed ; and which is suited exactly to the degree of internal feeling.
It is chiefly in the proper use of these tones, that the Ufe, spirit, beauty,
and harmony of delivery consist.

" The limits of this introduction do not admit of examples to illustrate
the variety of tones belonging to the diflerent passions and emotions.
We shall, however, select one, which is extracted from the beautiful
lamentation of David over Saul and Jonathan ; and which will in some
degree elucidate what has been said on this subject.

" ' The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places ; how are the
mighty fallen ! Tell it not in Gath ; publish it not in the streets of
Askelon ; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice ; lest the daugh-
ters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there
be no dew nor rain upon you, nor fields of offerings ; for there the shield
of the mighty was vilely cast away ; the shield of Saul, as though he
had not been anointed with oil.' The first of these divisions expresses
sorrow and lamentation ; therefore the note is low. The next contains
a spirited command, and should be pronounced much higher. The other
sentence, in which he makes a pathetic address to the mountains where
his friends had been slain, must be expressed in a note quite different
from the two former ; not so low as the first, nor so high as the second,
but in a manly, firm, yet plaintive tone.

" The correct and natural language of the emotions is not so difficult
to be attained as most readers seem to imagine. If we enter into the
spirit of the author's sentiments, as well as into the meaning of his
words, we shall not fail to deliver the words in properly varied tones.
For there are few people who speak English without a provincial note,
that have not an accurate use of tones, when they utter their sentiments
in earnest discourse. And the reason that they have not the same use
of them in reading aloud the sentiments of others may be traced to the
very defective and erroneous method in which the art of reading is
taught ; whereby all the various, natural, expressive tones of speech are
suppressed, and a few artificial, unmeaning reading notes are substi-
tuted for them.

" But when we recommend to readers an attention to the tone and
lang lage of emotions, we must be understood to do it with proper lim-
itation. Moderation is necessary in this point, as in other things. For
when the reading becomes strictly imitative, it assumes a theatrical
manner, and must be highly improper, as well as give offence to the
hearers, because it is inconsistent with that deli«acy and modesty which


are indispensable on such occasions. The speaker who delivers his own
emotions must be supposed to be more vivid and animated than would
be proper in the person who relates them at second hand.

" We shall conclude this section with the following rule for the tones
that indicate the passions and emotions : ' In reading, let all your tones
of expression be borrowed from those of common speech, but, in some
degree, more faintly characterized. Let those tones which signify any
disagreeable passion of the mind be still more faint than those which
indicate agreeable emotions : and on all occasions preserve yourselves
from being so far affected with the subject as to be unable to proceed
through it with that easy and masterly manner which has its good
effects in this, as well as in every other art.'


" Pauses or rests, in reading or speaking, are a total cessation of the
voice, during a perceptible, and, in many cases, a measurable space of
time. Pauses are equally necessary to the speaker and the hearer. To
the speaker, that he may take breath, without which he cannot proceed
far in delivery ; and that he may, by these temporary rests, relieve the
organs of speech, which otherwise would be soon tired by continued
action ; to the hearer, that the ear also may be relieved from the fatigue
which it would otherwise endure from a continuity of sound ; and that
the understanding may have sufficient time to mark the distinction of
sentences, and their several members.

" There are two kinds of pauses : first, emphatical pauses ; and next,
such as mark the distinctions of sense. An emphatical pause is gener-
ally made after something has been said of peculiar moment, and on
which we desire to fix the hearer's attention. Sometimes, before such a
thing is said, we usher it in with a pause of this nature. Such pauses
have the same effect as a strong emphasis ; and are subject to the same
rules, especially to the caution of not repeating them too frequently.
For as they excite uncommon attention, and of course raise expectation,
if the importance of the matter be not fully answerable to such expect-
ation, they occasion disappointment and disgust.

" But the most frequent and principal use of pauses is to mark the
divisions of the sense, and at the same time to allow the reader to draw
his breath ; and the proper and delicate adjustment of such pauses is
one of the most nice and difficult articles of delivery. In all reading,

Online LibraryRichard Green ParkerExercises in rhetorical reading : with a series of introductory lessons, particularly designed to familiarize readers with the pauses and other marks in general use, and lead them to the practice of modulation and inflection of the voice → online text (page 2 of 38)