« AnteriorContinuar »
restriction here intended must be applied by common
(2) Read aloud, as a stated exercise. [See 3. p. 31.) This was a daily practice of the first statesmen and generals of Rome, even in the midst of campaigns, and public emergencies; and it was by such a habit of reading and declamation in private, that the sons of these men were trained to a bold and commanding oratory. An erect, and commonly a standing posture, in such exercises, gives the fullest expansion to the chest and lungs.
(3) In public speaking, avoid all improper efforts of the lungs. These arise chiefly from speaking on too high a key, a fault noticed above; from extreme anxiety to accommodate delivery to hearers who are partially deaf; and from attempts to go through a long discourse, with such a degree of hoarseness as greatly augments the labor of the lungs.
Thirdly, to preserve the lungs, and give strength to the vocal powers, it is necessary to avoid those habits by which public speakers are often injured ;—such as,
(1) Bad attitudes of study, especially of writing, which cramp
the chest and obstruct the vital functions. (2) Late preparations, by which the effort of public delivery immediately succeeds the exhaustion of intense and long continued study.
(3) Full meals immediately before, and stimulating drinks immediately before or after speaking.
(4) Inhaling cold air by conversation, and sudden change of temperature, when the lungs are heated by speaking.
There is one general precaution, I may add, that
comprises and in some measure supersedes all others on this subject, namely, that strength of the vocal powers is to be promoted only by sustaining the general vigor of the constitution. The fatal prevalence of pulmonary disease, among literary men, especially ministers of the gospel, is commonly ascribed to their peculiar labors in public speaking. But with much more reason might it be ascribed, chiefly, to their habits as men of study. The general intelligence and spirit of the age render high acquisitions and efforts indispensable, in order to distinguished usefulness. Years of preparatory study, devoted to intense reading and thought, often impair the tone of health, so that the superaddition of professional exertions soon finishes the work of prostration. The young preacher, of ardent feelings, is eminently in danger of falling an early victim to the combined influence of these causes. Besides the weekly composition of sermons, a labor that has no parallel in any other profession, an accumulation of pastoral duties, new, and vast in importance, press him down from day to day, till he sinks, under this load of duties, into the grave; or drags on the precarious existence of an invalid, with broken lungs, and emaciated frame.
Now the case is summed up in a few words. The public speaker needs a powerful voice. The quantity of voice which he can employ, at least, can employ with safety, depends on his strength of lungs; and this again depends on a sound state of general health. If he neglects this, all other precautions will be useless.*
* The foregoing suggestions on strength of voice, are only an outline of the more particular and extended illustration given to this part of the subject in my Lectures on Delivery.
So much for this part of rhetorical modulation, in which a just quantity requires, that the impulse or momentum of voice be accommodated to sentiment, from the whisper of the fire-side, designed only for one hearer, to the thunder of Bridaine, addressing his ten thousand.
But besides strong and feeble tones, as belonging to quantity, it includes also a proper regard to time. This respects single words, clauses, and sentences. No variety of tones could produce the thrilling effects of music, if every note were a semibreve. So in elocution, if every word and syllable were uttered with the same length, the uniformity would be as intolerable as the worst monotony. This is illustrated in the line, which Pope framed purposely, to represent a heavy movement;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.
The quantity demanded on each of these monosyllabic words, renders fluency in pronunciation quite impracticable. On the other hand, in a line of poetry, which has a regular return of accent on every second or third syllable, we find a metrical pronunciation, so spontaneously adopted, as often to require much caution, not to sacrifice sense to harmony. Some, I am aware, maintain the theory that prose, in order to be well delivered, must be reduced, mentally at least, into feet. But he must be little less than a magician, who can break into the measure of prosody such a sentence as this ; 6 The Trinity is a mystery which we unhesitatiogly believe the truth of, and with humility adore the depth of."
The easy flow of delivery requires that particles, and subordinate syllables, should be touched as lightly, as is
consistent with distinctness; while both sentiment and harmony demand, that the voice should throw an increase of quantity upon important words, by resting on them, or by swell and protraction of sound, or both. Thus while pitch relates only to the variety of notes, as high or low, that of quantity is twofold ; namely, the variety of impulse, as loud or soft, and the variety of time, as quick or slou. The martial music of the drum bas no change of notes, as to tune, being dependent wholly on quantity; and therefore has much less vivacity than the fife, which combines the varieties of tune, and impulse, as well as time. The amount of all these remarks is, that he whose voice habitually prolongs short syllables, and such words as and, from, to, the, &c. must be a heavy speaker.
But time in elocution, has a larger application than that which respects words and clauses, I mean that which respects the general rate of delivery. In this case, it is not practicable, as in music, nor perhaps desirable, to establish a fixed standard, to which every reader or speaker shall conform. The habits of different men may differ considerably in rate of utterance, without being chargeable with fault. But I refer rather to the difference which emotion will produce, in the rate of the same individual. I have said before, that those passions which quicken or retard a man's step in walking, will produce a similar effect on his voice in speaking. Narration is equable and flowing ; vehemence, firm and accelerated ; anger and joy, rapid. Whereas dignity, authority, sublimity, awe,
-assume deeper tones, and a slower movement. Accordingly we sometimes hear a good reader or speaker, when there is some sudden turn of thought, check himself in the full current of utterance, and give indescribable power to a sentence, or part of a sentence, by dropping his voice, and adopting a slow, full pronunciation.
Sect. 5.--RHETORICAL Pause.
This has a very intimate relation to the subject of the foregoing section. As quantity in music, may consist partly of rests, so it is in elocution. A suspension of the voice, of proper length, and at proper intervals, is so indispensable, that, without this, sentiment cannot be expressed impressively, nor even intelligibly, by oral language. In delivery indeed, these suspensions of sound are accompanied by other and surer marks of their significance, than mere time; as the whole doctrine of vocal inflections implies. They are combined with appropriate notes of the voice, which declare at the instant, whether the sense is to be continued in the same sentence ;--when the sentence is declarative, and when interrogative; when it is finished ; and in general, whether it expresses simple thought, or thought modified by emotion. Accordingly, rhetorical punctuation has a few marks of its own, as the point of interrogation, and of admiration, the parenthesis, and the hyphen, all of which denote no grammatical relation, and have no established length. And there is no good reason, if such marks are used at all, why they should not be rendered more adequate to their purpose.
The interrogative mark, for example, is used to denote, not length of pause, but appropriate modification of voice, at the end of a question. But it happens that this one mark, as now used, represents two things, that are