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Good Reading includes that mastery of the elements of language and elocution, which teachers and scholars so rarely attain. Articulation and pronunciation must be not only distinct and accurate, but expressive. This last excellence cannot be attained by merely enunciating meaningless sounds and syllables. Too many such mechanical exercises kill the instinctive use and recognition of expressive tones which the child brings to school, and in the end completely divorce his elocution from the spirit and sense to which it should be inseparably wedded, and which alone can inspire natural expression. The child feels and thinks before he talks. Nature, in her teaching, begins with the idea, and in her repeated efforts to express the idea more perfectly, perfects the elementary parts of language and elocution. Let us enlist Nature into our service by following her teachings. Let even the earliest lesson in reading be enlivened by the aid of some idea familiar and interesting to the child. He knows the thing, the idea, “man,” or “sun,” he has spoken the word a thousand times, and he is pleased to learn that the mysterious art of reading is only conscious talking, — that he is but analyzing, and sounding, and naming the unknown parts of a familiar whole. But especially with the advanced classes, (which are
expected to use the following work on elocution,) would the author commend this practical method of improving the parts, with the immediate purpose of giving better expression to the whole, — of practising and perfecting the execution of the dead elements of elocution, in the life-giving light of inspiring ideas.
“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds."
This analogy in Nature between tones and sentiments is the central source from which the author has drawn the simple principles and hints which are given to aid teachers in their laudable efforts to cultivate in the school-room, and thus everywhere, a more natural and expressive elocution.
The art, embracing the expression of the whole range of human thoughts and feelings, from the earliest lispings of the child to the most impassioned and finished utterance of a Garrick or Siddons, covers too wide a field, and reaches too high a point in human culture, it is evident, to be all compressed into these few introductory pages; nor would the highest refinements of the art be practicable in the school-room if they could be here given. Yet, such initial steps have been taken, and clearly marked out in the right direction toward the highest art, it is hoped, as will tempt many to go on further in this interesting study of nature and art, till they see for themselves to what “ rich ends” our “most poor matters point.”
ELOCUTION is the vocAL EXPRESSION of IDEAS with the speaking tones, as distinguished from the singing.
Good ELOCUTION, in reading or speaking, is the expression of ideas with their appropriate or natural speaking tones of the voice.
But how can we, intelligently, even attempt to give correct vocal expression to what is not first CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD and APPRECIATED ?
Hence arises at the very outset, as a prerequisite to any possible excellence in elocution, the necessity of a THOROUGH ANALYSIS and STUDY of the ideas or the thoughts and feelings to be read.
Let, then, each lesson in reading begin with this preparatory work of “ Logical Analysis.”
METHOD OF ANALYSIS. In any other art, if we wish to conceive and express things clearly, we inquire, first, for the genus, or the GENERAL KIND ; secondly, for the SPECIES, or the INDIVIDUALS, under that kind.
If, for example, we were asked to paint a group of animals or flowers, –
1. We should ascertain what kind of animals or flowers is meant, — the horse, or the lion; the rose, or the lily.
2. We should determine the peculiarities of the individuals.
3. We should feel obliged to learn something of the general colors we are to paint with, their various shades, and how to blend these into expressive lights and shades. Then only should we feel prepared to take the first step successfully in the art of painting.
Let us, in the kindred art of elocution, adopt the same natural method and order of inquiry.
Let us determine,
1. We must determine the kind or general spirit, that we may know what general or standard force, and time, &c., of voice we should read with. There must be some standard to guide us, or we cannot tell how much emphasis to give to any idea. “ Read the emphatic words louder," says the teacher. Louder than what? “ Louder than the unemphatic words.” But how loud are they, the unemphatic words? This question must be answered first, or we have no standard to go by; and the answer to this question is determined always by the general spirit of the piece. If that is unemotional, the standard force required is moderate ; if bold, the standard force is bold, or loud ; if subdued or pathetic, the standard force is subdued, or soft.
2. We must determine the important individual ideas, that wc may know what words need extra force or emphasis.
3. We must determine the relativc importance of these ideas, that we may know how much emphatic force we must give to each respectively, so as to bring out in our reading, clearly, the exact and full meaning of the author.
But it may be objected that this method of catching the spirit of the author, first, is too difficult for the school-room, because there are so many emotions not easily distinguished or remenbered. Yet, since this natural order of inquiry, if it can be made practicable, will make all our after progress so much more intelligent and rapid, and since the chief charm of all the best pieces for expressive reading, lies in the emotional part, let us see if we cannot sufficiently simplify these difficulties, by grouping nearly all the emotions into a few representative