« AnteriorContinuar »
ty public speakers, successively,) should spare no pains to overcome it, as a deadly foe to vivacity and effect in delivery.
The measures primarily to be adopted in regard to these habits, will be suggested here, while others that have an important bearing on the subject will come into view in the following sections.
To find an adequate remedy for any of the above defects in modulation, we must enter into the elementary principles of delivery. As the meaning of what we read or speak, is supposed continually to vary, that elocution which best conforms to sense, will possess the greatest variety.
1. The most indispensable attainment then, towards the cure of bad habits in managing the voice, is the spirit of emphasis. Suppose a student of elocution to bave a scholastic tone, or some other of the faults mentioned above ;-teach him emphasis, and you have taken the most direct way to remove the defect. It is difficult to give a particular illustration of my meaning, except by the living voice; but the experiment is worthy of a trial, to see if the faulty manner cannot be represented to the eye. Read the following passage from the Spectator ;* recollecting, at the beginning of each sentence, to strike the words in the largest type, with a high and full voice, gradually sinking away in pitch and quantity, as the type diminishes, to the close.
# No. 411.
OUR SIGHT IS THE MOST PERFECT, AND MOST DELIGHTFUL, OF ALL OUR SENSES. IT FILLS THE MIND WITH THE LARGEST VARIETY OF IDEAS, CONVERSES WITH ITS OBJECTS AT THE GREATEST DISTANCE, AND CONTINUES
LONGEST IN ACTION WITHOUT BEING TIR ED OR SATIATED WITH
ITS PROPER ENJOYMENTS.
THE SENSE OF FEELING CAN IN
IDEAS THAT ENTER AT
DEED GIVE US A NOTION OF EXTENSION, SHAPE, AND ALL OTHER
THE EYE, EXCEPT COLOURS, AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS VERY MUCH CONFINED IN ITS OPERATIONS
TO THE NUMBER, BULK, AND DISTANCE OF ITS PARTICULAR OB
If Rhetoric had a term, something like the diminuendo of musicians, it might help to designate the fault here represented, consisting in the habit of striking sentences with a high and strong note, for a few words, and then falling away into a feeble close.
If you succeed in understanding the above illustration, then vary the trial on the same example, with a view to another fault, the periodic stress and tone.
Take care to speak the words printed in small capitals with a note sensibly higher and stronger than the rest, dropping the voice immediately after these elevated words, into an undulating tone, on the following syllables,—thus; Our sight is the most perfect, and most delightful of all our
It fills the mind with the largest VARIETY of ideas, converses with its objects at the GREATEST distance, and continues the longe in action without being TIRED or satiated with its proper enjoyments. The sense of feeling can indeed GIVE vs a notion of extension, shape, and all other ideas that ENTER at the eye ex.
cept colours. At the same time, it is very much CONFINED in its operations, to the number, BULK and distance of its particular objects.*
It is necessary now to give this same passage once more, so distinguishing the chief words, by the Italic character, as to exhibit the true pronunciation. Our sight is the most perfect and most delightful of all our sen
It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas ; converses with its objects at the greatest dìstance ; and continues the longest in action, without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments. The sense of fèeling can indeed give us a notion of exténsion, shape, and all other ideas that enter at the eye, except colours. At the same time it is very much confined in its operations, to the númber, búlk, and distance of its particular objects.
Only two or three of the words as here marked require intensive emphasis, and that not of the highest kind; and yet the student will perceive that a discriminating stress on the words thus marked, will regulate the voice, of course, as to all the rest ; and so render a scholastic tone impossible.
* Walker's ear, though in cases of emphatic inflection, very discriminating, seems in other cases to have been perverted by his theory of harmonic inflection, as appears from his manner of pronoun.cing the following couplet, which nearly coincides with the tone I am condemning:
A bràve man struggling in the storms of fáte,
And greatly fálling, with a falling state. I am aware that it is difficult to represent this scholastic tone by any description to the eye. One who is acquainted with music may readily analyse any unseemly tone, by examining the intervals of the notes above and below the key note of the sentence, in the few syllables to which the tone is confined. This analysis would give a precision to his knowledge of the subject, that would be valuable in practice. The hint may be sufficient to those who have skill and patience for such inquiries ; and to others, any ex tended explanations would be useless.
But as no word in the foregoing passage is strongly emphatic, my meaning may be more evident from an example or two, where a discriminating stress on a single word, determines the manner in which the following words are to be spoken.
Take this couplet from Pope, and read it first with the metrical accent and tone, thus ;
What the weak head, with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never failing vice of fools. Now let it be observed that in these lines there is really but one emphatic word, namely pride. If we mark this with the strong emphasis, and the falling inflection, the following words will of necessity be spoken as they should be, dropping a note or two below the key note of the sentence,* and proceeding nearly on a monotone to the end ;—thus ;- .
What the weak head, with strongest bias rules,
Another example may help to render this more intelligible.
the author of the public calám
Or must we des
thē aüthor of the pūblic cālāmities?
By key note, I mean the prevailing note, that which you hear when a man reads aloud in another room, while you cannot distinguish any words that he utters.
In pronouncing these examples, which I trust need not be farther explained, some trifling diversities might doubtless be observed in different readers of equal taste. But if the proper sound is given to the emphatic words, all the rest must be spoken essentially as here described. It follows that the most direct means of curing artificial tones, is to acquire a correct emphasis. But,
2. In order to this, another attainment seems indispensable, namely, some good degree of discrimination as to vocal tones and inflections. This has been more than once adverted to in the foregoing pages; but it is introduced here as inseparably connected with a just modulation. That correct emphasis, which is the best remedy for perverted habits of voice, is not always a spontaneous attendant on good sense and emotion. Its efficacy is often frustrated by the strength of those habits which it might overcome, if there were sufficient knowledge of the subject to apply the remedy,
There is something of the ludicrous in the attempt to imitate unseemly tones in speaking; and those who are unpractised in it, generally feel reluctant to make the attempt at first, especially in the presence of others. For the same reason they are reluctant to have their own faulty manner in reading a sentence imitated, or to repeat again and again their own attempts to correct it. And some who can imitate a sound, immediately after hearing it from another voice, suppose this to be the only way in which it can be done. But let a thousand persons, who understand the English language, repeat the familiar question, “Do you expect to gó, or stày?"--And will not every one of the thousand give the same turn of voice on