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ergy to the movements of the body, has a correspondent effect on the movements of the voice. Earnestness in common conversation assumes a higher note, as it proceeds, though the person addressed is at no greater distance than before.
A practical corollary from these suggestions is, that the public speaker should avoid a high pitch, at the beginning of his discourse, lest he rise, with the increase of interest, to a painful and unmanageable elevation. Through disregard of this caution, some preachers, of warm temperament, sacrifice all command of their voice, as they become animated, and rather scream than speak. Blair lays it down as a useful rule, in order to be well heard, -"To fix our eye on some of the most distant persons in the assembly, and to consider ourselves as speaking to them." But to apply this rule to the outset of a discourse, would probably lead nine out of ten, among unpractised speakers, to err by adopting too high a pitch. Walker, on the other hand, advises to commence," as though addressing the persons who are nearest to us." This might lead to an opposite extreme; and the safest general course perhaps, is to adapt the pitch to hearers at a medium distance.
Hearers are apt to be impatient, if a speaker compels them to listen; though they more readily tolerate this fault at the beginning, than in any other part of a discourse. The preacher is certainly without excuse who utters his text in so low a voice as not to be understood, and the special necessity for avoiding this, is probably a sufficient reason for the good old practice of naming the text twice. But for a few sentences of the exordium, where the sen
timent commonly requires composure and simplicity, it is better to be scarcely audible, than to shun this inconvenience by running into vociferation. The proper means of avoiding both extremes, is to learn the distinction between force and elevation; and to acquire the power of swelling the voice on a low note. This introduces our next topic of consideration.
This term I use not in the restricted sense of grammarians and prosodists, but as including both the fulness of tone, and the time, in which words and sentences are uttered. With this explanation I hope I may be permitted to use the term in a sense somewhat peculiar, without touching the endless discussion it has awakened in another department.
In theory, perhaps every one can easily understand, that a sound may be either loud or soft, on the same note. The only difference, for example, betwixt the sound produced by a heavy stroke and a gentle one, on the same bell, is in the quantity or momentum. This distinction as applied to music, is perfectly familiar to all acquainted with that art. As applied to elocution, however, it is not so easily made; for it is a common thing for speakers to confound high sounds with loud, and low with soft. Hence we often hear it remarked of one, that he speaks in a low voice, when the meaning is, a feeble one; and perhaps if he were told that he is not loud enough, he would instantly raise his key, instead of merely increasing his quantity on the same note. But skill in modulation
requires, that these distinctions should be practically understood. And if any one, who has given no attention to this point, thinks it too easy to demand attention, he may be better satisfied by a single experiment. Let him take this line of Shakspeare,
O, you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome !
and read it first in a voice barely audible. Then let him read it again and again, on the same pitch, doubling his quantity or impulse of sound, at each repetition, and he will find that it requires great care and management to do this, without raising his voice to a higher note.
As it is a prime requisite in a public speaker, that he be heard with ease and pleasure, the importance of his being able to swell his voice to a loud and full sound, without raising his pitch, must be apparent. As a general rule, that voice is loud enough, which perfectly fills the place where we speak; or, in other words, which perfectly reaches the hearers, with a reserve of strength to enforce a passage, in which sentiment demands peculiar en
The inconvenience of a feeble voice in a public speaker is great. He will either fail to be heard at all, or will be heard with so much difficulty, that his auditors are subjected to the drudgery of a laborious listening to spell out his meaning.
Besides, there are circumstances, of no uncommon occurrence, by which this inconvenience is specially aggravated. Among these may be mentioned the injudicious structure of buildings, the chief design of which is adaptation to public speaking, such as legislative and judicial
halls, and Christian churches. The purpose of these buildings is sometimes nearly frustrated by immoderate size; by extreme height of the ceiling; and in churches particularly, by the multiplication of ill-formed arches, so constructed as to return a strong broken echo,-by the bad arrangement of galleries, and the sounding-board, adjusted close to the speaker's head.
Sometimes too, even the secular orator, and much oftener the preacher, is called to speak in the open air; or on the other extreme, to speak in a private apartment, so crowded as hardly to admit of free respiration. In such cases the common disadvantages of a feeble voice are much increased.
If the inquiry be made, on what does strength of voice depend?-1 answer,
First, it depends primarily on perfect organs of speech. As it is important for the professed speaker to know something of these wonderful organs, with the preservation and use of which he is so much concerned, a brief enumeration of them may be proper here.
Of these, the lungs have the first place. Mere vigor in this organ, is not of course attended with vocal power, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Other things being equal, he who has the best conformation of chest, and the most forcible action of lungs, will have the strongest voice. Fishes, and those insects that have no lungs, have no voice.
Next is the trachea, that elastic tube, by which air passes to and from the lungs; to the length of which in some birds, is ascribed the uncommon power of their voice. At the upper end of this, is the larynx, a cartillaginous box,
of the most delicate, vibratory power, so suspended by muscles as to be easily elevated or depressed. The glottis is a small aperture, (at the top of the larynx,) by the dilatation or contraction of which, sound becomes more acute or more grave. To secure this aperture from injury, while food passes over it to the stomach, it is closed by a perfect valve, called the epiglottis.
These are organs of sound, but not of speech, without the aid of others adapted to articulation,-namely, the tongue, the palate, the nostrils, the lips and teeth. My limits do not allow me to examine minutely the wonderful adaptation of these latter organs to their end, nor the mode of their action in forming articulate sounds. Such an examination is unnecessary to one who has patience to make it himself, and to others, it would be useless.
Secondly, next to the importance of good organs, in giving strength of voice, is the proper exercise of these organs. The habit of speaking gave to the utterance of Garrick so wonderful an energy, that even his under key was distinctly audible to ten thousand people. In the same way the French missionary Bridaine brought his vocal powers to such strength, as to be easily heard by ten thousand persons, in the open air; and twice this number of listening auditors were sometimes addressed by Whitefield. The capacity of the lungs to bear the effort of speaking with a full impulse, depends much on their being accustomed to it. If I were to give directions to the student, as to the means of strengthening his voice by exercise, they would be such as these.
(1) Whenever you use your voice on common occasions, use as much voice, as propriety will permit. The