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William Shepherd.

Systematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 44)
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what was the first point in Oratory ? answered. Pronuncia-
tion : being asked what was the second ? replied. Pronuncia-
tion ; and what was the third ? Pronunciation : shewing there-
by, that, in his judgment, the whole art of oratory consisted in
this.

Cicero divided Oratory ioto five, parts: (1.) Invention,
by which we are to provide ourselves with suitable and suffi-
cient materials for a discourse. (2.) Disposition, by whicli
the subject was divided into parts, according to the most na-
tural order, and which included the proper distribution and
arrangement of their ideas. (3.) Elocution, which consisted
in suiting words to the ideas, and which constituted the style



W ELOCUTION. 213

of the subject. (4.) Memory, or a faculty of clearly discern-
ing and retaining our ideas, and of calling to mind the most
proper words by which to express them. (5.) Pronuncia-
tion, or the art of managing the voice and gesture in speak-
ing. The great design of pronunciation, to which this chap-
ter of our work is devoted, is to make the sentiments appear
to come from the heart, in order that they may excite the
attention and interest of those who listen to them.

Previously to the laying down rules for a good pronuncia-
tion, we shall mention some faults, into which young persons
are apt to fall.

' The faults of -a bad or defective pronunciation are, (1.)
when the voice is too loud, which is as inconvenient to the
speaker, as it is disagreeable to the hearers. (2.) Another
fault -equally bad is when the voice is too low. Every
person's voice should fill the place in which he speaks.
The art of governing the voice consists very much in avoid-
ing these two extremes. As a general rule we should care-
fully preserve the Key, that is, the command of the voice,
and at the same time adapt 'the elevation and strength of it to
the number of the persons we speak to ; and the nature of the
place we speak in. (3.) Another fault in pronunciation is a
thick, hasty, and inarticulate voice^ This is sometimes occa-
sioned by a defect in the organs of speech, but more fre-
quently by inattention and bad habits. In the former case
more may be required than m9fe personal exertion : the aid
of a professional person should be sought, to direct to the use
of proper methods for overcoming the defect. But if the
fault originates in mere bad habit, then nothing more is
wanting than constant efforts, till the defect is cured. It is
recorded of Demosthenes, who- became the greatest orator
the world ever produced, that he had, in the outset of life,
three natural impediments in pronunciation, all of which he
conquered by invincible labour and perseverance : one was a
weakness of voice, which he cured by frequently declaiming
on the sea-shore, amidst the noise of the waves. Another



214 BELLES LETTRES.

was a shortness of breath, which he corrected by repeating
speeches as he walked up a hill. The third was llie fault of
a thick way of speaking, of which he broke himself by de-
claiming with pebbles in his mouth. (4.) Speaking too quick
and too slow are likewise faults in' pronunciation. By speak-
ing too rapidly, the hearer loses the benefit of half he listens
to, and by a too slow utterance the speaker becomes tedious,
which can only be compensated by the importance and excel-
lence of the sentiments delivered. (5.) There are other faults
to be avoided, such as are produced by a flat, dull, uniform
tone of voice, without emphasis or cadence, or any regard to
the sense or subject of what is read; and likewise reading
with a tone.

Having pomted out the faults that shew themselves in a bad
delivery, we shall proceed to point out in what manner an
orator ought to excel. It is evident that the prime objects of
every public speaker should he,Jirst, to speak so as to be fully
and easily understood by his hearers'; and, next, to express
himself with such grace and energy as to please and move
them.

In order to be fully and easily understood, independently of
a proper degree of loudness of voice, the requisites are, distinct
articulation, slowness and propriety of pronunciation. A
speaker must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occu-
pied by the assembly, which depends on the proper pitch and
management of the voice. Jtl is not necessary that the highest
pitch of the voice should be used in order to be well heard.
To assert the contrary of this, is to confound twq things ma-
terially different, viz. loudness, or strength of sound, with the
key or note on which we speak. The voice may be rendered
louder without altering the key ; and a speaker will always be
able to give most body, most persevering force or sound, to
that pitch of voice, to which in conversation he is accustomed.
But if he begin on the highest pitch of his voice, be will
fatigue himself, and speak w ith pain, which must excite uneasy
sensations in the audience. To be well heard, a speaker, >)e-



ELOCUTION. 21^

fore he begins,- should fix his eye on some of the most distant
persons in the assembly, and consider himself as speaking to
them, because we naturally and mechanically express our
words with such a degree of strength, as to be heard by the
person or persons to whom we address ourselves, provided he
or they be situated within the reach of our voice. This will
be the case in public speaking, as well as in common con-
versation.

In order to be well and clearly understood, distinctness of-
articulation is of much more importance than mere loudness
of sound. A good articulation consists in giving a clear and
full utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The
nature of the sounds, therefore, ought to be well understood;
and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those
faults in articulation, which, though sometimes ascribed to a
defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence
of inattention. Some persons find it difficult to articulate the
letter /, others, the simple sounds expressed by r, s, th, and
sh ; but the instance of defective articulation which is most
common, and requires the most particular notice, is the omis-
sion of the aspirate A, an omission, which materially affects
the energy of pronunciation ; the expression of emotions
and passions, often depending, in a great measure, upon the
vehemence with which the aspirate is uttered. Other defects
in articulation, consist in a confused and cluttering pronuncia-
tion of words.- The best methods of overcoming this habit,
are, to read aloud passages chosen for the purpose, particu-
larly such as abound with long and unusual words, or in
which many short syllables come together; and to read at
certain stated times, much slower than the sense and a just
mode of sjjeaking would require. Persons, who have not
studied the art of elocution, often have a habit of uttering their
words so rapidly, that the exercise now recommended, ought
generally to be made use of for a considerable time, at least till
they can read distinctly and deliberately. The speaker must
give every sound which he utters its due proportion, and make



216 BELLES LETTRES.

every syllable, and even every letter, be Heard distinctly.
Such a pronunciation adds weight and dignity to language:
it assists the voice by the pauses and rests which it enables
the speaker to make, and he thus acquires a command over
himself \\ hich is essential to good oratory.

In our language, every word of more syllables than one,
has, at least, one accented syllable, which should always be
marked by a stronger and more forcible utterance than the
rest. This variety of sound serves to distinguish, from each
other, the words of which a sentence is composed. According
to Mason, whose " Essay on Elocution" is the foundation of
almost all that has been since written on the subject, when
"we distinguish any particular syllable in a word with a force
of voice, it is called accent; when we thus distinguish any
particular w ord in a sentence, it is called emphasis, and the
word so distinguished, the emphatical word. The emphatical
words in a sentence, are those which carry a weight or im-
portance in themselves, or those on which the sense of the
rest depends ; and these must always be distinguished by a
fuller and stronger sound of voice, wherever they are found,
w hether in the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence ; thus :



-Rem, facias Rem



Recte, si possis, si uon, quocdnqne modo Rem.

Get place and wealth, if possible, with grace ;
If not, by any means, get wealth and pl^ce.

In these lines, the emphatical words are accented, and, in
general, the sense will point out which they are. Sometimes,
however, sentences are to be met with so full and compre-
hensive, that almost every word is emphatical ; such is the
expostulation in the prophecy of Ezekiel : " Why will ye die !"
in which every word is emphatical, and according to the par-
ticular word on which the emphasis is laid, a different sense
is expressed. Some sentences are equivocal, that is, they
contain in them more senses than one ; and which the intended



ELOCUTION. . 217

meaning is, .can only be known by observing on' what Svord
the emphasis is laid. The following sentence is given as an
instance : " Shall you ride to town to-day ?" The question is
capable of being taken in four different senses, according as
the emphasis is laid. If it be on the word you, the answer
may be, ** No, but I shall send the servant." If on the word
ride, tlie answer might be, " No, but I propose to walk."
If on the word tozen, the question is varied, and the answer
may be, " No, I shall ride into the country :" and if the em-
phasis be laid on the words tO'day, the answer may be, " No,
but I shall to-morrow." Such may be the importartce of
laying a right emphasis.

To acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the
chief rule is, that the speaker study to acquire a just concep-
tion of the force and spirit of those sentiments which he is
about to deliver. Although it is of importance to a speaker to
find out and distinguish the emphatical words, yet he must
be cautious against multiplying them too much. They only
become striking when used with prudence and reserve. If
they recur very frequently, they soon fail to excite the atten-
tion of an audience.

We may farther observe, that the different passions of the
mind, are to be expressed by a different modulation of the
voice : love, by a soft, smooth, languishing note ; anger,
by a strong, vehement, and hasty speech ; joy, by a quick,
sweet, and clear sound ; sorrow, by a low, interrupted pro-
nunciation ; fear, by a dejected, tremulous, hesitating tone ;
courage, by. a full, bold, and rather loud address. ' In distinct
orations, the exordium should be delivered in a lower voice ;
Xhe, narration should be distinct ; the reasoning, or argumen-
tative part, clear and slow ; and the peroration, strong, for-
cible, and animated.

The variation of emphasis must not only distinguish the
various passions just enumerated, but must be carried to the
several forms or figwes of speech in which they are expressed.
In prosopopaia, the voice must be changed from one's own



218 BELLES LETTRES.

to that of him who is supposed to be introduced. In the
antithesis, one contrary must be pronounced rather louder
than the other. In a climax, the voice should always rise
with it. In dialogues, it should be altered with the parts.
In repetitions, it should be loudest in the second place.

Cadence is opposite to emphasis, but not less important in
just elocution. The latter, as we have seen, elevates the
voice ; by ther former, the voice gradually falls, and, if rightly
managed, it is extremely musical. Besides a cadence of
voice, there is, in all correct writers, a cadence of style : that
is, when the sense is nearly completed, the remaining words
gradually glide away among themselves. If an author's lan-
guage be elegant, the cadence of his style will naturally direct
the cadence of the voice. Cadence generally takes place at
the end of a. sentence, unless it closes with an emphatical
word. Every parenthesis is to be pronounced in cadence,
that is, with a lower and a quicker voice than ordinary, that
it may not take off the attention too much from the sense of
the period which it interrupts. Apostrophes and prosopopoeias
are to be pronounced in emphasis.

Next to emphasis, pauses demand attention : these are of
two kinds, (1) emphatical pauses; and (2) such as mark the
distinctions of sense. An emphatical pause is made after
something has been said of importance, to fix the hearer's
attention ; and, sometimes, a subject of interest is preceded
by a pause of this nature. In pauses, as with regard to em-
phases, care- must be taken that they are not too often re-
peated. For since they excite particular attention, and raise
expectation, if this be not fully answered, they will occasion
disappointment and disgust. But the chief use of pauses is
to mark the divisions of the sense, and, at the same time, to
permit the speaker to draw his bfeath ; and the just and
graceful management of such pauses, is one of the most
delicate and difficult points to be accomplished in elocution.

To obtain a proper command of the breath, a speaker
should be careful to provide a supply of it fully adequate for



ELOCUTION. 219

what he i& about to utter. It is a mistake to imagine that the
breath is only to be drawn in at the end of a period, when'
the voice is allowed to fall. It may, with a proper degree of
attention, be easily inspired at the intervals of a sentence,
when the voice suffers only a momentary suspension, and
hence a sufficient supply may be obtained for carrying on the
longest without improper interruptions.

Pauses, in public discourse, must be formed upon the
manner in which we naturally express ourselves in common,
sensible conversation, and not from the punctuation usually
found in books, which is arbitrary, and frequently capricious
and false. To make pauses graceful and expressive, they must
not only fall in the right places, but be accompanied by a
proper tone of voice, by which the nature of the pauses is
intimated, much more than by the length.

In reading or reciting verses, there is more difficulty in
making the pauses with propriety. There are two kinds of
pauses, one at the end of the line, and the other in the middle
of it. Rhyme always rendere the former sensible, and obliges
one to observe it in pronunciation. In blank verse it is ^ess
perceivable ; and when there is no suspension in the sense, it
has been doubted whether, in reading it, any regard should
be paid to the close of a line : and it is certain, that the close
of the line, where there is no pause in the meaning, should
be marked only by such a slight suspension of sound, as may
distinguish the passage from one line to another, without in-
juring the sense. The pause within the line, usually falls
after the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllables, and when
it coincides with the division of sense, the line is read
with the utmost ease, as ' in the following lines of Pope's
Messiah:

Ye nymj^hs of Solyma ! begin the song ;

To heavenly themes, sublimer strains belong.

But if it happen that words, which have such an intimate
connexion as not to admit even of a momentary separation.



220 BELLES LETT RES.

be divided from each other by this pause in the middle of the
verse, there will be a conflict between the sense and the
sound, which renders it difficult to read the lines with grace.
In such cases, the sound must be sacrificed to sense : the
following instance is taken from Milton :



A . What in me is dark,

Illumine : what is low, raise and support.



The sense shews that the pause must be after the word
illumine, that is, after the third syllable ; but if the melody
were only to be regaided, there should be no pause till
after the fourth or sixth syllable. In the following line
of Pope,

I lit, with sad civility I. read.

the sense allows no other pause than after the second syllable,
which is the only one to be observed, though a well dis-
ciplined ear would point out the pause as occurring after the
word sad.

Above all things, in elocution, we must follow nature, that
is, otur own natural dispositions and affections ; hence a man
will deliver his own compositions with more propriety and
more animation, than he can those of another person : to
heighten the effect of the pronunciation, the natural warmth
of the m'md should be permitted to have its course. We must
study the most natural w ay of expressing ourselves, as to the
tone of voice, which is different from emphasis, cadence, and
pauses. This is best learnt by observation on the common
forms of conversation, where all is free, natural, and easy ;
and when we are only intent on making ourselves understood,
and conveying our ideas, in a strong, plain, and lively man-
ner, with the most natural language, elocution and action.
The nearer our pronunciation in public, comes to the freedom
and ease of that which we use in common discourse, pro-
vided we maintain the dignity of the subject, and preserve a



ELOCUTION. 221

propriety of expression, the more just, naturalj and agreeable
it will be.

The orator must attain a certain degree of confidence, "in
order that he may be collected and composed : for this pur-
pose he should not only be entirely master of the subject on
which he delivers himself, but he must be conscious that his
matter merits the attention of his audience. He should en-
deavour to be wholly engaged in what he has to say, and if
the sight of any of his hearers discompose him, he should cau-
tiously keep his eyes from that part of the assembly in which
they are. *

We are now led to make some observations on gesture or
action. The best rule is to recftmmend attention to the looks
and gestures in which earnestness, indignation, compassion,
or any other emotion, discovers itself to most advantage in the
common intercourse of men, and these may be the model for
imitation. A public speaker must, however, adopt that
manner which is most natural to himself. His motions and
gestures should exhibit that kind of expression which nature
has dictated, for, unless this be the case, no study can pre-
vent their appearing stiff and ungraceful. The study of action
consists chiefly in guarding against awkward and disagreeable
motidtis, and in learning to perform such as are natural to the
speaker in the most graceful manner.

The parts of the body that are principally employed in ora-
tories action, are the head, theyce,*the eyes, the hands,
and, in fact, the whole upper part of the body. The head
should be, for the most part, erect, turning gently, some-
times on one side, and sometimes on the other, that the
voice may be heard by the whole audience, and that a
seeming attention may be paid to the several parts of it.
Every passion uttered by the tongue should be painted in the
face, and there is frequently more eloquence in a look, than
any words can express. By this, an audience may be awed,
incensed, softened, grieved, &c. according as it catches the



222 BELLES LETTRES.

fire of the speaker's passion from his countenance. The eyes
should be carried from one part of the audience to another,
with a ihodesi and decent respect, which will tend to recal
and fix their attention, and animate' the speaker in his de-
livery. In the motions made with the hands, consists the
principal part of gesture in speaking. The right hand should
be more employed tlian the left, but very warm and animated
emotions require the exercise of them both together. But
whether a speaker gesticulates with one or with both hands,
it is an important rule, that all his motions should be easy
and unrestrained. Perpendicular movements, in a straight
line up and down, which Shakespeare calls, " Sawing the
air with the hand,"^ are to be avoided. Oblique motions are
the most pleasing and graceful. Sudden and rapid motions
are rarely to be used. The posture of the bodi/ should be
usually erect ; not perpetually changing, nor always motion-
less. It should accompany the motion of the hands, head,
and eyes, where they are directed to any particular part of
the audience. A sawing motion of the whole body is
not only very ungraceful, but tends to send the audience
to sleep. ^

Every speaker should guard against all affectation, and the
servile imitation of another person: his manner, as w .11 as
his discourse, should be his own. Whatever is native, though
attended with defects, is likely to please, because it shows
the man, and has the appearance of coming from the heart.
To attain an extremely correct and graceful method of de-
livery, is not generally to be expected, but to acquire a for-
cible and persuasive manner, is within the power of almost
any person who attempts to plead at the bar, or speak from
the pulpit.

The following hints and rules, taken from Dr. Knox's
Treatise on Liberal Education, may be found useful, not
only to instructors of the young, but to others who are en-
deavouring to improve themselves in the art of elocution.



ELOCUTION. 223

When a boy is so far advanced in the classics, as to be able
to afford time and attention to other objects, he should enter
on the art of speaking. Once a week, or oftener, he should
rehearse, in \he hearing of all the boys in the school, seated
as auditors, some celebrated passage from JDemosthenes,
Plato, Homer, Cicero, Livy, Virgil, Milton, Shakespeare,
Pope, or Addison. These original writers, or others of the
same class, whose characters are established, are recom-
mended, as being fully sufficient to form the taste, as well as
to furnish matter for the practice of elocution in all its va-
rieties : and it may be observed, that the learning by heart
the most beautiful passages of the finest authors, is a very
great collateral advantage attending the study of the art of
speaking.

Tlie first object is to habituate the scholar to speak slowly
and distinctly, for boys are apt to fall into a careless and pre-
cipitate manner of articulating their words, and till this fault
is removed, no improvenient can be made in elegance or
expression. A distinct enunciation in speaking, resembles
perspicuity in writing. Without it, there can be no graceful
elocution; as, without perspicuity, there can be no -beauty
of style. It may be necessary that many weeks, and even
months, should be employed in obtaining this primary and
important point, a slow and distinct utterance. This, how-
ever, is, of itself, a valuable attainment. An excellent
method of introducing it, is the motion of an instructor's hand,
resembling the beating of time in music, and directing the
pauses of the learner, and the slower or quicker progress of
his pronunciation. It is, likewise, very useful to insist,
during the exercise, that every syllable, but especially the
last, shall clearly, and almost separately, strike the ear, but
without dwelling upon it; otherwise the slow and distinct
manner will degenerate into the heavy and the sluggish.
During this process, all monotony, and all disagreeable tones
are to be carefully corrected.

When a slow and distinct utterance is obtained, and the



224 BELLES LETTRES.

disagreeable tones corrected, the graces of elocution will
claim the pupil's attention. Modesty is one of the most be-
coming graces of a young person. When he speaks in public,
it is one of the finest rhetorical ornaments that can be used.
Th best writers on the subject of rhetoric, have prescribed
the appearance of modesty even in men : but it must not be
the result of affectation. The classical manner, as it may be
denominated, must be found in every place attached to ancient
learning ; for there, if that kind of learning beproperly un-
derstood, and its beauties felt, taste will prevail, and where
that is the case, no mode of speaking can be encouraged which
would not please an Attic audience.

Dr. Knox does not approve of young people making much
use of action, because it is unbecoming if it be awkward, and
it must be awkward if the subject spoken be not evidently felt
by the speaker. " I have," says the Doctor, " been present
on many public occasions when boys have spoken, and I have
never yet observed above one or two who used action without
exposing themselves to the derision of the audience." He is
also averse from the practice of acting plays, and still more,
from lads and young people attending spouting clubs and
debating societies ; and having rejected the forward and decla-
matory style, he explains what he means by the classical : that



Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 44)